Dr. Geoffrey Brackett,
Executive Vice President

"The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" (1967, from Bob Dylan's album "John Wesley Harding")


spotify link: https://open.spotify.com/track/1XXHPSNbmHgi8EJvO3yGyd

This song is the one that got me hooked on Bob Dylan as artist. It is from his remarkable album that followed his retreat to Woodstock (just across the river and up into Catskills) and coalesced another cycle of Dylan's recasting of American song tradition. The ballad form from which it comes is specified in the title, of course, and the story is one that consciously ties to our most ancient traditions in Biblical and folk tradition: the savior, the devil, everyman, the samaritan, the trickster, the gambler, the danger and lure of the open road, all combine is a kaleidoscope narrative where up may be down and down up--friends may be foes and gambles may be sure things and sure things may be gambles. The language and imagery is as elliptical as the wide variety of folk and religious tradition from which it draws. Its story seems both assuringly straight forward and dangerously unclear. The concluding line, which supposedly acts as a motto is a fitting riddle for the whole:

Well, the moral of the story
The moral of this song
Is simply that one should never be
Where one does not belong
So when you see your neighbor carryin’ somethin’
Help him with his load
And don’t go mistaking Paradise
For that home across the road

And, while you're at it, I would also recommend that you don't go mistaking the home across the road for Paradise.

Point taken, Mr. Dylan.