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Dylan's 'Thin Man'

June 02, 1991

It would be nit-picky to complain about the order and choice of songs placed on Robert Hilburn's list of 50 Dylan songs ("Bob Dylan: A Legend Turns 50," May 19). As my wife says, that's why God created tutti-frutti ice cream.

But, hold onto our hat, because here comes a major revelation: "Ballad of a Thin Man" (No. 11 on Hilburn's list) is not the social document he makes it out to be. The song is, in fact, about a homosexual orgy:

You walk into the room

With your pencil in your hand

You see somebody naked and you say ,

"Who is that man?" . . . The sword swallower he comes up to you and then he kneels

He crosses himself and then he clicks his high heels. . . . You raise up your head

And you ask, "Is this where it is?"

And somebody points to you and says, "It's his"

And you say, "What's mine?"

And somebody else says, "Where what is. . . . Give me some milk or else go home."

\f7 The song really is about a poor man becoming aware of his latent homosexuality. I'm sure Dylan gets a big kick out of reading the reams of incorrect print devoted to the song.

If I'm not mistaken, John Lennon and the Beatles' "Yer Blues" alludes to "Dylan's Mr. Jones." If Albert Goldman is to be believed, the line was written at a time when Lennon was himself anguished over his own homosexual feelings.

JOEL ENGEL

Topanga

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