Bob Dylan for President! | Opinion | Salt Lake City Weekly

Bob Dylan for President! 

He just might write a song about it. In fact, he did.

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Just kidding. He wouldn't accept.

But he just might write a song about it. In fact, he did. It's called "Jokerman." It's a six-minute ballad and the lead song on Dylan's 1984 album, Infidels.

To me, "Jokerman" is exactly about the 2016 presidential election. It's about awards and those who would seek them, and be awarded them; those who covet them. It's about leaders and would-be leaders. It's about what is, and the conflict within and without. It's about hope, fools, oppression and dangerous men.

And women.

I know a little about Bob Dylan and "Jokerman" as I was a broadcast producer on the song's video. During the '80s, I worked for the famous advertising man, art director, iconic mass media communicator and author, George Lois. I was at the right place at the right time and lucky enough to be involved in this adventure.

Dylan and Lois were longtime friends when CBS Records was encouraging Dylan to make more music videos for the newly created MTV. Lois' ad agency had the MTV account ("I Want My MTV!"), and Dylan went to Lois to make the video. He knew Lois had an ad agency and that he made television commercials. He knew Lois could produce music videos, as well.

The pair first met back in 1975 at a benefit concert at Madison Square Garden to protest and to call for the release of professional boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter who was falsely imprisoned following the murder of a white man in 1966. Carter's incarceration was cited as being based on "racism, not reason." Lois was on his defense committee and served as an organizer for the benefit concert.

In 1985, Carter was released on a petition of habeas corpus, but not before spending nearly 20 years in prison.

Dylan wrote his famous song "Hurricane" in direct response to this American episode of justice and injustice, and racial prejudice and vindication.

Whether Dylan comes out of the woods to acknowledge his much-discussed Nobel Prize in Literature, or even accepts it, is of no consequence. The Nobel Committee, bless them, is about 30 years too late—but thank you very much. We all already know the genius of this prolific American musician and poet.

Last week as we all watched the final presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The experience of this election process for the past six months is ringing in our ears and pressing heavy on our national conscience.

Sheer entertainment value aside—which is really more like watching a trainwreck—I can't help from aligning all this, and the whole global situation and deplorable state of world affairs, with the "Jokerman" lyrics.

At one of the first meetings at Lois' ad agency, we asked Dylan what the song meant, to get a better perspective on what creative approach to take with the music video. I can't remember his exact words, but he either indicated he didn't know, or he wouldn't say. Of course we all had our own ideas. I wanted to paste the famous demonic Joker smile on various photos of Dylan—a really dumb idea. One art director wanted to use a deck of cards motif with the Joker featured. Nah. Another producer wanted to film the video out at Coney Island and use the famous Steeplechase Park Joker face as background. Not bad, but no.

Lois, of course, had the best idea and this is what you see in the video. Works of art through the ages: paintings, sculptures, statues, vintage and contemporary iconic photographs, video clips and animated graphics all edited to the tempo of the music with the lyrics superimposed over the visuals. For the chorus part, we filmed Dylan live and very close-up, lip-syncing the words.

The video aired on MTV to rave reviews. It was the cover story in Rolling Stone. VHS copies were sent to high school art and music departments around the country with a list of the artwork included.

It turns out "Jokerman" wasn't your standard purple smoke-and-mirrors music video. It was actually educational.

Just listen to the lyrics and watch the video, and you can see what I mean by applying this to our timeless and continually severe world situation; our current election and state of the country, the individuals who would be king. How the past is repeated as if we never learned from our mistakes; the issues we and our leaders will be facing more now than ever before: nuclear war, global warming, race, oppression, injustice. It's all kind of raw and depressing but very much true, in a very entertaining and reasonable way.

You won't be able to get the music out of your head. It's wonderful. Memorable. Mnemonic.

You can make your own specific interpretations, but I'm sure you will agree the piece is relative to everything you know and feel in our contemporary world. It even relates metaphorically to the concept and reality of the Nobel Prize if you listen closely.

However, knowing what little I do know about Dylan, I know he will acknowledge, accept and show some form of respect—even if in protest for whatever reason—because I have observed him to be a gentleman; one that's polite, well-mannered and courteous.

So, with honor and distinction, the Nobel Prize in literature goes to Mr. Robert Allen Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan. Good for him.

Oh, and no doubt, we'll get our "Jokerman" for president. It will be either one or the other, female candidate notwithstanding.

I hope Dylan writes specifically about this election and America. If not, this classic Dylan song still manages to tell the story.

Kushma is a Logan-based communication consultant. Send feedback to:

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