Song of the Day #4,502: ‘The Wicked Messenger’ – Bob Dylan

‘The Wicked MEssenger’ is a track from Bob Dylan’s 1967 album John Wesley Harding, the first record he released after his mysterious motorcycle accident a year earlier.

Dylas has said the accident gave him an excuse to “get out of the rat race” after a two-year span that saw the release of three classic, era-defining releases (Bringing it All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde). John Wesley Harding was a far quieter, less mind-bending album than that trio.

The record marked a return to acoustic performances after the stir caused by his going electric. And it offered the first glimpse into Dylan’s embrace of Christianity, with allusions to Biblical narratives in many of its tunes.

There was a wicked messenger
From Eli he did come
With a mind that multiplied the smallest matter
When questioned who had sent for him
He answered with his thumb
For his tongue it could not speak, but only flatter

He stayed behind the assembly hall
It was there he made his bed
Oftentimes he could be seen returning
Until one day he just appeared
With a note in his hand which read
“The soles of my feet, I swear they’re burning”

Oh, the leaves began to fallin’
And the seas began to part
And the people that confronted him were many
And he was told but these few words
Which opened up his heart
“If ye cannot bring good news, then don’t bring any”

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,502: ‘The Wicked Messenger’ – Bob Dylan

  1. Dylan uses images from the Old Testament to create a wonderful, dense, and occasionally funny song, which I think is about the priest Eli who delivers a short cryptic message. The messenger is seen as being wicked because he is the barer of bad news and sometimes messengers do get shot.

  2. Dana Gallup says:

    I just heard Springsteen on Colbert, where he was asked his three favorite Dylan songs. After naming “Like a Rolling Stone” and Visions of Johanna,” he cited this album in its entirety.

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