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The Comedy Stylings of Mr. Bob Dylan: Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues

The Comedy Stylings of Bob Dylan

The John Birch Society, which exists still today, was the target of this humorous and topical song by Bob Dylan in 1962. With the country still in the grips of the 1950s anti-Communist fervor, the John Birch society helped ramp up the paranoia to epic levels. As antiquated as the song and humor may seem now, it really isn’t. Consider the recent war on terror and that familiar refrain, “We fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here,” and think of all the times you hear or so example of Muslim paranoia. The names change but the song remains the same.many times you have heard that said.

While the comedy in the John Birch song was very broad, Dylan, portraying Joe Average in the song, was sharpening his voice and writing talents. The song finds the narrator in the opening stanza in the midst of a panic attack. According to him, the Communists were so prevalent, they were everywhere. There was only one thing for him, or any good American to do, and that was join the John Birch Society.

So I run down most hurriedly
And joined up with the John Birch Society
I got me a secret membership card
And started off a-walkin’ down the road
Yee-hoo, I’m a real John Bircher now!
Look out you Commies!

The comedy in “Talkin’  John Birch Paranoia Blues” springs from the absurdity of the lengths paranoia can carry a society. The paranoia it relates never leaves us. It just strengthens and takes on a life of its own. The fervor reaches ludicrous proportions until you start to turn the mirror inwards, or someone turns the mirror on you. For as history teaches us, these movements always tend to eat themselves up.

Well, I fin’ly started thinkin’ straight
When I run outa things to investigate
Couldn’t imagine doin’ anything else
So now I’m sittin’ home investigatin’ myself!
Hope I don’t find out anything

Bob Dylan was scheduled to perform the song on the Ed Sullivan and was set to perform the John Birch song, which had helped him gain a fair amount of popularity. The producers of the show, however, grew worried about the song. According to Wikipedia, ” When Dylan showed up for the dress rehearsal the next afternoon, the day of the show, a CBS program practices executive told him the song would have to be replaced because of possible libel against John Birch Society members. Refusing to do a different song, Dylan walked off the set.