Essential Bob Dylan Playlist: The Voice of a Generation

20. Ballad of a Thin Man

Harry Scott/Redferns

With cryptic lyrics sung in a way that only Bob Dylan can, this song is laced with biting sarcasm that painted one “Mr. Jones” as tragically unhip — so much so that even the simplest cultural references go over his head. Dylan plays the piano with haunting, circus-like riffs, which adds to the song’s eerie vibe and perfectly matches the lyrics. The song was allegedly inspired by a real-life encounter with a clueless music journalist. Whether fact or fiction, it serves as a piece of poetic justice, making Mr. Jones not just the butt of the joke, but practically its whole anatomy.