What does Ballad of a Thin Man mean?

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Bob Dylan: Ballad of a Thin Man Meaning


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Ballad of a Thin Man Lyrics

You walk into the room
With your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say, "Who is that man?"
You try so hard
But you don't understand
Just what you will say
When you get home

Because something is happening here
But you...

  1. LuannD
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    Mar 23rd 2010 report

    I have to agree with Anonymous, March 22, 2009. I remember this song when it was first released on the Highway 61 album. Guaranteed, if there is only 1 song you remember from that album, it is Ballad of a Thin Man. From the first hearing, I knew Dylan was talking about reporters and journalists trying to get to the "real meaning" of his songs. He played quite a game with them by his answers to their questions. Ballad of a Thin Man was the famous Dylan smirk to these people.

  2. jabril8
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    Mar 15th 2010 report

    After changing from acoustic to electric guitar on his tour of England, Dylan received so much grief from media and fans alike. However, one reporter went too far and realy upset Dylan. This song is his reply to this reporter. The reporter accused Dylan of misleading and not caring about his fans. The lyrics say that the reporter doesnt really no anything about Dylan, neither does the fans. Dylan is showing them his soul (as portrayed by the naked man), yet, they still cant understand him (like the freaks in the song). So basically he is saying to the reporter: you think you know me, but you have no idea.

  3. sourav
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    Nov 21st 2009 report

    This song was during the English tour where Dylan was given a lot of grief for switching to electric and this reporter whose name I can't remember was the worst of all. This was Dylan's answer to him. This tour forms the old Otto Preminger movie Don't look back.
    Sourav in India

  4. anonymous
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    Mar 22nd 2009 report

    This song is about a reporter from the times magazine who no matter what you tell them they will make up their own words.

  5. anonymous
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    Feb 25th 2009 report

    the real meaning of this song is what i goin on around the world. it says he goes into harlem with his windows sealed

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  6. Commissioner
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    Nov 2nd 2008 report

    You walk into the room
    with your pencil in your hand
    you see somebody naked and you ask
    who is that man
    you try so hard but you don't understand
    just what you'll say when you get home
    cause something is happening and you don't know what it is
    do you, Mr. Jones....

    My interpretation of this first verse is that Dylan is
    somehow, in a metaphorical way, describing the dilemma
    a returned Jesus would face.

    you walk into the room (Jesus returns)
    with your pencil in your hand (pencil here is a metaphor
    for penis which in itself, in this context, is a metaphor
    for what Jesus has in his hand...something like Sonny (James Caan) telling Clemenza that the gun should be hidden
    in the bathroom by someone reliable or Michael (Al Pacino)
    will walk out of the bathroom with just his penis in his hand. (Godfather)....

    you see somebody naked...Jesus sees Himself, metaphorically naked, without the metahorical gun as in that Godfather
    He questions who he is (don't we all?)

    Mr. Jones is therefore a reference to Jesus

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