By Larry Fyffe
In the following song lyrics, Bob Dylan pays a direct tribute to pre-Beat, stand-up comedian and recording artist Richard ‘Lord’ Buckley:
Hey Mr. Tambourine, play a song for me In the jingle-jangle morning, I'll come following you
(Bob Dylan: Mr. Tambourine Man)
The allusion is to Buckley’s parody of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”:
In came a long angular spook He looked like seventeen gas-lighter stove pipes Come together with jingle-jangle bells all over
(Lord Buckley: Scrooge)
Below, another tribute to the comedian by the singer/songwriter:
Go to him, he calls you, you can't refuse When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose
(Bob Dylan: Like A Rolling Stone)
The re-arranged line comes from:
To know what it means to have nothing You must have - nothing
(Lord Buckley: The Gasser)
Many of Dylan’s songs (ie, ‘Desolation Row’) are full of Buckley’s absurdist characters who are unbound from time. Lord Buckley be the master of the low burlesque routine whereby some subject or work of art that’s held in high regard is driven into the ground by the use of comically inappropriate language.
Lord Buckley takes on the persona of a preacher dlivering a sermon about Jesus of Nazareth, the son of a carpenter:
But I'm gonna put a cat on you Was the coolest, grooviest, swinginest, wailinest Strumminest, swinginest cat that ever stomped on this green sphere And they called dis here cat - Da Nazz He was a carpenter kitty
(Lord Buckley: The Nazz)
Dylan makes burlesque of a sermon concerning an Old Testament patriarch:
Oh, God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son" Abe said, "Man, you must be puttin' me on" God say, "No"; Abe say, "What?" God say, "You can do what you want, Abe But the next time you see me comin', you better run"
(Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited)
Who among us would question that the two works quoted direcly above are low burlesque in nature.
But what about the lyrics below?:
I was blinded by the devil Born already ruined Stone-cold dead As I stepped out of the womb By His grace I have been touched By His word I have been healed By His hand I have been delivered By His spirit I have been sealed
(Bob Dylan: Saved ~ Dylan/Drummond)
The hyperbolic language and proudful boasting in the song lyrics give the careful listener pause for thought. The written words of the Holy Bible are subdued in comparison:
Not everyone that saith unto me, "Lord, Lord" Shall enter into the kingdom of heaven But he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven
The salvation by ‘faith’ alone or with ‘works’ debate comes to mind. It’s difficult to tell whether Bob Dylan is the jokerman or the thief; only that he certainly doesn’t want to be nailed by a parking meter:
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?
Perhaps Dylan is talking about himself.
I can’t think for you; you’ll have to decide.
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