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 the 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.

Lyrics submitted by twitty

Jokerman song meanings
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  • +2
    General CommentThis song is about Ronald Reagan.

    1. It was written shortly after Reagan became President in 1981 (released in 1983).
    2. Reagan won the election largely because his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, was unable to free the American hostages in Iran. Curiously, the hostages were freed *on the day* Reagan was inaugurated, as if Reagan had illegally cut some deal with the Iranians. Iran, formerly known as Persia, is *famously* known as the land of the nightingale. Google it. Reagan is "dancing to nightingale tune". This line is heart of the chorus of the song. Why link the Jokerman to the nightingale and repeat it over an over? Dylan chooses his symbols for a reason. Espcecially a symbol in a chorus. It's not just some random imagery. If you can't explain why the Jokerman is dancing to the nightingale tune, you can't explain the song.
    3. Reagan had a favorite, beloved, horse called "El Alemain". It was a white horse. This is a well-known fact about Reagan. Google it. You'll find pics of Reagan on the horse. This matches perfectly with one of the few clues in the song: "In the smoke of the twilight on a milk-white steed".
    4. Reagan, in his prime, was a handsome, buff stud. Literally movie star good looks. Fits well with "Michelangelo indeed could have carved out your features", one of the other clues in the song. Take a look at Michelangeo's statue of David. The Jokerman is no pencil neck geek.
    5. As mnonm points out, the climax of the music video is a picture of Reagan as the Jokerman!
    labooon May 20, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General Comment"He'll put the priest in his pocket, put the blade to the heat" is not talking about Jesus but the Antichrist. To have someone in your pocket is to be bribing them; the "blade to the heat" is to brand his followers with the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16-17) and he does it with the connivance of the religious authorities.
    GDCon March 29, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentTalmudic Judaism, plain and simple.
    rojoeaon February 15, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentHe is always singing about himself, that's the beauty of it. Even though he doesn't like to admit it.
    cavernon February 03, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love Dylan and this is one of my all-time favourite songs. Here's my take on it. The defining traits of the jokerman are that he is a night-dweller; he's a mocker; he's arrogant and narcissistic; he's an idolator and he will come to a bad end. All his mockery will cease when he at last has to face the consequences of his choices.

    This was written when all Dylan's songs had astonishingly insightful Biblical connections. How are these for starters? Psalm 1:1 "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked... nor sit in the seat of scoffers!" The jokerman is the wordly-wise scoffer, mocking everything that is holy. He thinks this will bring him freedom but doesn't see that freedom only comes from finding and walking in the truth (John 8:31-32).

    The idol with the iron head and glowing eyes refers to the ancient Cannanite fertility rites where they sacrificed their own children (Ezekiel 20:31).

    And Romans 13:12 - "The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light". The jokerman, however, loves the night, rushing in where even angels and fools won't go.

    The only changes he thinks he needs are external but, like a snake, the shed skin only reveals the same snake and that will never satisfy his internal persecutor - his own conscience (Romans 2:14-15)

    He can please all the crowds, taking every politically correct view, not worrying about society becoming like Sodom & Gomorrah (Luke 17:28-30) because "nobody there would want to marry your sister"!

    "The fiery furnace and rich man without any name" comes from Luke 16:19-31), wrning the jokerman that all his fame and riches will mean nothing in the after-life.

    The references to Leviticus, Deuteronomy, the law of the jungle and the sea as his "only teachers" reveal his ruthless, survival of the fittest, self-obsession so that he thinks he's truly heroic and worthy of adulation.

    He doesn't see that the whole, vulnerable world that we are is actually being approached from only two angles - the sniper (Satan) and the preacher (anyone with the message of Jesus). In this vicious spiritual warfare, we will be caught in any falsehood that we tolerate.

    The woman is Babylon the harlot (Revelation, chap 17-18), who gives birth to the final Antichrist - when the jokerman sees this final act, he'll see the outcome of his mockery and know he's lost his soul.

    So who's the jokerman?
    GDCon August 12, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThere are definitely some spiritual themes here:
    "born with a snake in both of your fists" is a reference to Hercules, whom Hera tried to kill when he was an infant by putting snakes into his sleeping area. She was Jealous of Alcmene who bore Zeus the child. He strangles the snakes because he is so strong. But indirectly the reference could be to Jesus, because like Hercules he is the son of God (Zeus) and mortal woman (Mary/Alcmene). "Standing on the waters casting your bread" is a biblical reference:
    (Eccl 1-1 NIV) "Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again." The jist of this I take to mean as sort of "you reap what you so" karmic thing.

    "You're a king among nations, you're a stranger at home" could also be a reference to Jesus being worshiped from afar by the three wise men who saw him as the king of kings, as opposed to the Jews who knew him as the son of Joseph of Nazareth.

    "the Book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy" are the laws of the jews. He is establishing who Jesus (the jokerman) is.
    davepyneon August 24, 2007   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationHere is the interpretation of Jokerman. It is what it is....
    violentsneezeron March 31, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think it's about reverend Martin Luther King j.r. "Freedom just around the corner for you" represents Kings fight for freedom for blacks. "manipulator of crowds, you're a dream twister" might be about his famous i have a dream speech. "Friend of the martyr, a friend to the woman of shame" represents his relations to people fighting for freedom too. "Books of levictus and Deuteronomy" and "Hell put the priests in his pocket" might be talking about his role as a reverend. "Resting in the fields, far from turbulent space" might be talking about his five day March from Selma Alabama to Montgomery, where he slept in fields overnight. "Nightsticks and water cannons, tear gas, padlocks Molotov cocktails and rocks behind every curtain" is about the violent responses state troopers had in Selma to his protests and marches. "False-hearted judges dying in the webs that they spin" is about how juries dealing with blacks were all white. "Oh joker man, you know what he wants. Oh jokerman, you don't show any respons" is about how sometimes King couldn't do something people wanted him to do, or how they are mad he did something else.
    johnclewley0on January 20, 2015   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI've heard it said that this song is about Jesus. The Infedels album this song appears on was released immediatly after Dylan's so called "Born Again" albums, but it is beleived that at this point he had become sorta reaquinted with his Jewish heritage. I think the title "Jokerman" expresses Dylan's belief that Jesus was a false messiah. Or maybe it isn't Jesus........but I think it is certainly about a false messiah or prophet!
    Giddy Crotchflyon April 04, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI've also heard that Dylan might have been singing about himself.
    Pahison January 24, 2005   Link

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