An ex-JW's interpretation on "All Along the Watchtower" by Bob Dylan

by intropist 9 Replies latest jw friends

  • intropist

    Made by Bob Dylan and far-famed with the fantastic guitar playing of Jimmy Hendrix, "All Along the Watchtower" has been leaving great signatures in the Pop history.

    I want to have a chance to drop my own interpretation. Reading the below, you may need to take into consideration the fact that I'm not a native speaker in English.

    [All Along the Watchtower] written by Bob Dyan - Full lyrics

    • "There must be some way out of here," said the joker to the thief,
    • "There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief.
    • Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
    • None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.
    • No reason to get excited, the thief, he kindly spoke,
    • There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke.
    • But you and i, we've been through that, and this is not our fate,
    • So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.
    • All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
    • While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.
    • Outside in the distance a wildcat did growl,
    • Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.

    I always think that a great piece of art could be greater by appreciators' recreating interpretation of readers, listeners and viewers.

    I've found that lots of interpretations have been tried by various appreciators from English or Non-English world. I read some interpretations or critics of Ivy League's English literature professors but could not find same results in one accord.

    As great film directors avoid questions on their movies' meaning, as I research, Dylan thankfully didn't mention any comment on the meaning of his song.

    Let us start with a supposition that Dylan was related with JW in any way, such as he studied WT or he had friends, relatives or anyone involved in JW.

    I'd like to divide the poetic lyrics into 3 stanzas.

    [the 1st stanza]

    • "There must be some way out of here," said the joker to the thief,
    • "There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief.
    • Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
    • None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.

    ; In the 1st stanza, the joker is talking to the thief. Overall expressions are negative. The joker is a naive JW who recognize the situation but not know how to deal with it. The thief is a worldly JW who has led a double life but has not fixed the next step.

    ; Both of them are "IN" because they're talking about "OUT". Without any relief, the joker cannot help but grumble about all the confusion from JW life. Yes they are in the JW organization.

    ; Wine and earth symbolize Mental and Physical resource each. Their free wills based on intelligence were weakened from brainwashing and their bodies were withered from overwhelming duties. We know who are businessmen in the HQ and who are plowmen in the congregations : Governing Body and Elderly one.

    ; People in this organization are eager to seize a better position in the JW hegemony line while they don't know what ultimate value their struggles have. cf) In the novel of "Hope for the flowers", the two caterpillars tried to get to the top with no knowledge of it.

    Today, I've translated so far here.

    I will continue the rest of it, if anyone likes to read more.


    Ray Ryu

    Seoul, Korea


    The original Korean text is at

  • slimboyfat

    I don't think this song has anything to do with JWs. The use of the the word Watchtower is a coincidence. Unless there's any evidence for a link?

    Conceptually Hotal California is a better fit, although neither is that "about" JWs, except in the eye of the beholder, as far as I know

  • intropist

    To slimboyfat,

    OK... OK...

    As I mentioned, I'm enjoying it in my way with the supposition.

  • slimboyfat
  • intropist

    To slimboyfat,

    I don't like to claim true things but love to rebuild meanings from the standpoint of semiosis. As you refer to coincidence, the story was really well rebuilt with the above supposition coincidentally or fundamentaly ^^. That's why I invested some time into it.

    Thanks for the link.

  • Vidiot

    I've always thought the song's title and content was just a serendipitous coincidence.

    Never stopped me from liking it, though.

    Composer Bear McCreary recorded a really cool cover for season 3 of the Battlestar Galactica reboot:

  • Londo111

    It should be: Elders, they drink my wine

  • intropist

    To Londo111,

    I guess you treated them too much... ^^

    We'd better save our wine.

  • BluesBrother

    I once read that he took the title from his Bible (Jewish) reading of the book of Isaiah , from which the Watchtower symbol comes as well , coincidentally.

    I had some fun with it at one time by re writing the words in a dubby way. I cannot remember it all now, but it started

    " There must be some way out of here, said the elder to his wife

    There's too much confusion,not to mention the strife

    Anointed ones, they drink the wine,the rest live on the Earth

    None of them along the line know what any of it's worth"

    and so it went on

  • intropist

    To BluesBrother,

    Show must go on...

Share this