Jesus is the one: Bob Dylan off the rails

by Tony Attwood

According to reports on one web site Bob Dylan wrote this song in Oslo, Norway, while touring in 1981. He then performed it eight times while touring… and each time, he used entirely new lyrics. So there are eight different alternate sets of lyrics for this song.

None of them is definitive, none of them appears on the official Bob Dylan site, and quite frankly none of them appear to me to be worth remembering or noting.  Indeed if it were not for the fact that I set myself the task of working through all the Dylan songs I could find and doing a review of each one, I wouldn’t have bothered playing this through to the end.

The song is written around one chord – which of course restricts what one can do with the melody, and requires an exciting rhythm and above all, absolutely above all, interesting lyrics.  But this song has none of these.  It is as if by simply telling us something is so, it becomes so.   And indeed it does if one believes it, but not if one doesn’t.  Bob is therefore simply singing to the converted and making very little effort in the process.

I have found some of Dylan’s religious songs to be truly marvellous creations and reported as much here, and even noted that if I were of a mind to be converted there is a song of Bob’s that would convert me.   But this simply sends me screaming in the opposite direction.  For the song that has the opposite effect (if you are interested) see here.

Jesus is the one!
Jesus is the one!

It ain’t Mr. Truman
It ain’t Mr. Blue
It ain’t Mr. President
Mister Me or Mister You.

Jesus is the one!
Jesus is the one!

Well, you’re looking over yonder
But what do you see
That does not mean that
They’re comin’ for you, they’re comin’ for me.

Jesus is the one!
Jesus is the one!

Well, it ain’t Mr. Reagan
That can raise a bed
It ain’t Mr. Rockefeller
That can raise the dead.

Jesus is the one!
Jesus is the one!

It ain’t Mr. Vallee
It ain’t a fortune star
It ain’t Mr. Roosevelt
That can heal your broken heart.

Jesus is the one!

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  1. “I said, ‘You know they refused Jesus too'”/
    He said, ‘You’re not him….” (115thDream)

    Dylan can be quite cute ( not too cute was I?), even in seemingly simple lyrics, he’s doube-edged, ie I’m not so-and- so….Jesus is the one that they make me out to be; I’m the one they’re coming after.

    Lightning strikes the courthouse: the moral of this story is that one should not be where one does not belong- it ain’t me you’re looking for, Dylan shouts, as the drifter escapes.

  2. There’s also a slightly different interpretation that issues from this song ( and others) without much of a stretch in regards to Dylan or his persona.

    Suggesting Jesus is the ‘one’ fits into a straight-line Christian view, but the Dylan/persona can be seen as wearing the mask of the Denying Peter of Bibilical notority, who’s down by the door.

    “….they that stood by said again to Peter/
    Surely, thou art one of them/

    But he began to curse and swearing/
    Saying, ‘I know not this man of whom ye speak'”
    (Mark 14: 70/71)

    Either way, Dylan, or his persona, is not going to be the one who sheds his blood.

  3. I was in Drammenshallen 9th July 1981 and the song I remember is this. A declaration. Shouting out tge truth that so few do understand. Jesus is the One! Yeeeaaah! Amen.

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