28 November 2007

Bob Dylan's "Mr Jones" has died

You walk into the room
With your pencil in your hand
You see somebody naked
And you say, "Who is that, man?"
You try so hard
But you don't understand
Just what you'll say when you get home
Because something is happening here but you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

"Mister Jones" was Jeffrey Owen Jones, a film professor at the Rochester Institute Of Technology. He has been regularly identified as the subject of "Ballad Of A Thin Man" from Dylan's peerless "Highway 61 Revisited" album.

Jones was 63 and died of lung cancer at the beginning of November.

According to the widely held theory, Jones inspired the song after interviewing Dylan while he was an intern at Time magazine. The pair spoke at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, just ahead of the singer's legendary performance where he went electric. Judas!

Years after the song appeared, Jones told Rolling Stone he was actually honoured to have been written about by Dylan.

"I was thrilled - in the tainted way I suppose a felon is thrilled to see his name in the newspaper," he wrote. "I was awed too that Dylan had so accurately read my mind. I resented the caricature but had to admit that there was something happening there at Newport in the summer of 1965, and I didn't know what it was."
Since his immortalisation in song, Jones worked in Uruguay and Spain writing and directing films. He then returned to America where he became a teacher and lecturer, and also worked for CBS producing several award-winning educational films.

His sister Pamela Jones said, "Dylan didn't paint a vignette of my brother that one would necessarily be proud of. But I think my brother was in the middle of history-making."

Although it is widely thought that Jones inspired the song, there have been other candidates for the protagonist, including a British journalist named Max Jones, who Dylan has mentioned himself.

with portions from The NME

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