Jokerman is a song by Bob Dylan from his 1983 album "Infidels." The lyrics of the song are open to interpretation, as is often the case with Dylan's work. Jokerman is known for its poetic and cryptic nature, and various theories exist about its meaning.
One interpretation suggests that the song explores themes of power, deception, and spirituality. Some speculate that the Jokerman character represents a deceptive or manipulative figure, while others see it as a metaphor for the tricks and illusions of the world. The song's lyrics also touch upon religious imagery and allusions, suggesting a broader commentary on faith, morality, and the complexities of the human condition.
Dylan's songs are often multifaceted and can be interpreted in different ways. Dylan himself has rarely provided explicit explanations for his lyrics, preferring to let listeners engage with the music and derive their own meanings.
The lyrics contain rich imagery. Here are some specific lines that have been associated with themes of power, deception, and spirituality:
"Standing on the water, casting your bread" This line suggests a figure with a powerful presence, possibly alluding to biblical imagery such as Jesus walking on water. The act of casting bread can symbolize a form of deception or manipulation, offering something of apparent value but with hidden intentions.
"In the kingdom of the blind, what do you own?" This line implies a critique of power structures and societal blindness. It questions the true ownership and significance of material possessions in a world where spiritual insight may be lacking.
"With his business-like anger and his bloodhound eyes" These lyrics portray the "Jokerman" as a figure driven by anger and possessing a sharp, perceptive gaze. It suggests someone who is cunning and adept at manipulating others.
"You're a man of the mountains, you can walk on the clouds" This line combines elements of spirituality and power, describing the "Jokerman" as someone with an elevated status who can transcend earthly limitations.
Interpretations vary, but some possible explanations include:
- The song as a commentary on deceptive leaders or figures of authority, critiquing their methods and questioning the true nature of power.
- A reflection on the complexities of faith and spirituality, exploring the tension between genuine devotion and superficial religiosity.
- A broader examination of human nature and the duality of individuals, highlighting the capacity for both good and evil within us all.
Listeners are encouraged to engage with the song and derive their own meanings based on personal experiences and perspectives.
Click on this article's title above to listen. Here are the lyrics:
Standing on the waters casting your bread While the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing Distant ships sailing into the mist You were born with a snake in both of your fists while a hurricane was blowing Freedom just around the corner for you But with truth so far off, what good will it do? Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune Bird fly high by the light of the moon Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman So swiftly the sun sets in the sky You rise up and say goodbye to no one Fools rush in where angels fear to tread Both of their futures, so full of dread, you don't show one Shedding off one more layer of skin Keeping one step ahead of the persecutor within Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune Bird fly high by the light of the moon Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman You're a man of the mountains, you can walk on the clouds Manipulator of crowds, you're a dream twister You're going to Sodom and Gomorrah But what do you care? Ain't nobody there would want to marry your sister Friend to the martyr, a friend to the woman of shame You look into the fiery furnace, see the rich man without any name Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune Bird fly high by the light of the moon Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman Well, the Book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy The law of the jungle and the sea are your only teachers In the smoke of the twilight on a milk-white steed Michelangelo indeed could've carved out your features Resting in the fields, far from the turbulent space Half asleep near the stars with a small dog licking your face Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune Bird fly high by the light of the moon Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman Well, the rifleman's stalking the sick and the lame Preacherman seeks the same, who'll get there first is uncertain Nightsticks and water cannons, tear gas, padlocks Molotov cocktails and rocks behind every curtain False-hearted judges dying in the webs that they spin Only a matter of time 'til night comes steppin' in Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune Bird fly high by the light of the moon Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman It's a shadowy world, skies are slippery gray A woman just gave birth to a prince today and dressed him in scarlet He'll put the priest in his pocket, put the blade to the heat Take the motherless children off the street and place them at the feet of a harlot Oh, Jokerman, you know what he wants Oh, Jokerman, you don't show any response Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune Bird fly high by the light of the moon Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman