A bullet from the back of a bush
Took Medgar Evers' blood
A finger fired the trigger to his name
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man's brain
But he can't be blamed
He's only a pawn in their game

A South politician preaches to the poor white man
"You got more than the blacks, don't complain
You're better than them, you been born with white skin," they explain
And the Negro's name
Is used, it is plain
For the politician's gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game

The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man's used in the hands of them all like a tool
He's taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
'Bout the shape that he's in
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game

From the poverty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks
And the hoofbeats pound in his brain
And he's taught how to walk in a pack
Shoot in the back
With his fist in a clinch
To hang and to lynch
To hide 'neath the hood
To kill with no pain
Like a dog on a chain
He ain't got no name
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game

Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught
They lowered him down as a king
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
He'll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain
Only a pawn in their game

Lyrics submitted by Jack, edited by Mellow_Harsher

Only a Pawn in Their Game Lyrics as written by Bob Dylan

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Only a Pawn in Their Game song meanings
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  • +4
    General CommentThis song is great, and shows how the government uses everybody as pawns in order for themselves to gain. The poor white man thinks he is better off, but in reality its only the authority that prospers. It's a lose-lose situation for everybody not in power.
    MrMojoRisin5552on May 03, 2002   Link
  • +4
    General CommentWithout talking about Medgar Evers, the KKK, I'll talk about this song! The song is really about all the pain and hatred people felt towards Byron Beckwith, the a**hole who killed him. People wanted to rip his head off! BUT Dylan was saying, Byron was just a pawn in the middle of something bigger. Dylan was trying to say... look... the politicians and governors and sheriffs all get paid to deal with the outcry of upset citizens over things like higher taxes and unemployment, but as long as they can blame somebody else for our problems (ie: in this case, the blacks), people will never put their hatred towards the places where it belongs, authority, and authority escapes cleanly and continues to hurt us. It prevents authority from doing their job, they aren't held accountable. Dylan talks about how people are taught to shot and hate and blame others for their problems, as long as they don't blame the person whose teaching them their ways, for they may be the "real" problem for what they don't have.
    ckad79on March 17, 2007   Link
  • +3
    General Commentone of my favorite songs on one of my favorite albums. Medgar Evars was the president of the NAACP when he was assasinated. It was only a few hours before a pawn pulled the trigger on Medgar Evars that President Kennedy delivered an Anti-Racism speech. In that speech, Kennedy Preached that how can our country be a country of freedom and equality if its freedom and equality for everyone, except for the blacks. It's amazing, isn't it? How easy it is, to be selfish, to be evil, to be lazy, to support hatred, to be ignorant. It's much too easy.
    Blackjack Daveyon August 12, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThe song refers to the murder of Medgar Evers, who was the Mississippi leader of the NAACP. He was killed by a poor white man. I kknow the song is about a spefic story but it makes me think of solders as pawns in the game of LIFE played by the worlds leaders.
    SomethingCleveron January 19, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song contains some of the most brilliant social commentary I've ever heard. **Everyone** loses from racism, be they African-American, White, Asian-American or Latino...that is, everyone but the elites who control the power structure of this country. Racism is a tool used to divide workers and perpetuate the exploitative domination of the ruling class. Props to you, Bob Dylan.
    stone3on September 05, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentread ghosts of mississippi. then you'll get a better idea of who medgar evers was. its a lot better than the movie.
    5isa4letterwordon July 18, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is really sad, it seems from the point of view of the assasinator that he is just trying to better his life, and killing medgar evers is justified by the politicians. because the naacp is detrimental to the south politicans.
    Medgar becomes a martyr and the killer is forgotten and no one wins in the end.
    twilight2007on June 24, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentRobert Zimmerman was born under a fast star, Mercury, and if u find the black & white video of this song, He tells the upset & scorned crowd that as he sees it, in three verses, the murderer was a poor white man, and a pawn in the game of wealthy and manipulative groups who use and need individuals to perform & provide for their needs, wants, and labor agenda. a pawn is often used to distract and delay and destroy organisation of labor groups and consensual togetherness of laborers as this may lead to revolution; The Turning of the Wheel, Zimmerman reveals true guts and agility delivering this song, at such a young age, before a large crowd of angry & upset individuals , and sings this song which neither side really wants to hear, for it Rings with boldness, applause as he quietly scedaddles offstage. That is a big apple under the name Dylan.
    mca5517aon June 21, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOnly a pawn. Forever a pawn. They can kiss that shit goodbye.
    MaryMaryQuiteContraryon October 01, 2011   Link
  • -1
    General CommentThe phrase "only a pawn in their game" is not saying that the poor white man is only a pawn in the government's larger scheme, as is often reflected in the above posts.
    It's a sarcastic comment on a documentary that the John Birch society put out in the 60's, saying that the civil rights movement and black justice were only a covert attempt to promote Communism in America. The documentary portrays the black movement as a socialist mentality to use 'equal rights' to implant communism as a substitute for the 'democratic freedom' of consumerist 'me-first' america.
    Thus, in the first verse for example, Dylan is NOT saying that the assassin is not to blame, rather, he is saying it in a sarcastic tone: "oh no, the assisin is not to blame, he is only a pawn in the larger game using the blacks to get a communist goverment." Dylan even says in the last line that Evers himself was a pawn in the game of the movement - to bring pity to the civil rights movement, and in doing so, the communist movement underneath it.
    Dylan's lyrics do not point to who is behind the movement to communism, whether the blacks themselves, or the government itself (although in verse two he says that the Negro's name is used it is plain For the politician's gain). He only points out, sarcastically, that the "poor white man" is suffering the blows of this movement to take away his rights. All the white, poor or not, benefited from the powerful hand of politics during that time.
    Dylan never thought that the white man was 'poor' or unfortunate, as is also noted in his song Oxford Town. His line "But the poor white man's used in the hands of them all like a tool" is sarcastic comment on how the politicians are trying to instill a larger movement under which even the 'poor' white man becomes a pawn.
    He becomes more forthcoming in his lines: "the laws are with him To protect his white skin To keep up his hate..." Even the poor white man becomes rich in hatred.
    Dylan spoke on several occasions about the John Birch Society, sarcastically, as is examplified in "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues".
    sp12342on April 08, 2010   Link

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