Bob Dylan Countdown #119: “Property Of Jesus”

I’m not so sure how the Lord feels about sarcasm as a means of converting non-believers, but it sure works effectively when wielded by Bob Dylan in “Property Of Jesus.” One lesson that should be clear to anyone who has ever listened to Dylan is that you should never be on the wrong side of one of his diatribes.

The rumor about this composition is that it came about after Dylan heard Mick Jagger badmouthing Bob’s Born-Again music. While this has never been officially confirmed by either Bob or Mick, it’s still fun to consider. Certainly the comments about wealth and style could have been tailored to the guy sitting in the silk-upholstered chair and riding in his rose pink Cadillac.

Regardless of such speculation, what makes “Property Of Jesus” sizzle is Dylan’s way with a putdown. He facetiously urges on the person whom he’s addressing, saying that this person should continue to rile up the title character as much as possible. The implication is that the title character is just fine and no amount of jibes or snide comments will touch him.

Dylan takes to his adversary here with gusto, exposing the hypocrisy inherent in those who put down others for religious beliefs yet are beholden to their own personal idols. “When the whip that’s keepin’ you in line doesn’t make him jump,” he sings. “Say he’s hard-of-hearin’, say that he’s a chump.” The barbs just keep on coming throughout, including this doozy of a closing couplet:  “But you’ve picked up quite a story and you’ve changed since the womb/What happened to the real you, you’ve been captured but by whom?”

The track is excellent as well, with Jim Keltner’s booming drums paving the way to the stirring chorus, in which Dylan reveals the ultimate prize for the skeptics:  “You’ve got something better/You’ve got a heart of stone.” No these folks aren’t headed to salvation, according to Bob. Considering the pointed nature of “Property Of Jesus,” it sounds like they’re headed to 4th Street.


3 Comments on “Bob Dylan Countdown #119: “Property Of Jesus””

  1. At the time Dylan made some comments along the lines of “christ is not christianity” and this song seems to me a continuation of the theme of Shot of Love the album… which is about a move away from Christian dogma – ending as it does with Every Grain which vacilates between pantheism and allegience to christ. Those with hearts of stone are probably the vineyard christian fellowship who tried to control bobs every utterance, who vetted his songs during that 1979/80 period to make sure they were in line with narrow doctrine. Ever heard Chrissie Hyndes live version? In some ways it makes this theme clearer than Dylans.

  2. paul kirkman says:

    See my Bob Dylan: Property of Louvre-itch Chassidim.

    This song is an important forerunner of Jokerman, who is a chump – a Messianic Yiddiot (Norman).

    Every Grain of Sand may be panENtheistic but not pantheistic even if it is dressed up in Blakean garden-gnome theological imagery. As for Mick, the nature of his game, there is a bio of him called Heart of Stone. Most apt. Our Mick, whose art in St Petersburg, down with you for all eternity, Amen.

    Richard Wurmbrand in Marx & Satan:

    He became what his pseudonym ‘Stalin’ means: a man of steel, without the slightest human emotion or pity.
    (Andropov, late premier of the Soviets, produced the same impression as Stalin. The French Minister of External Affairs Claude Cheysson, who met him, described Andropov in Le Monde, Paris, as ‘a man without warmth of soul, who works like a computer … He shows no emotions … He is extremely dispassionate … He is accurate in words and gestures like a computer’).

    Satan, whom his worshippers see in their hallucinatory orgies, speaks through them. Thus Marx is only Satan’s mouthpiece when he utters in his poem Invocation of One in Despair the words, ‘I wish to avenge myself against the one who rules above’
    The Soviet newspaper Soviestskaia Molodioj, of 14 February 1976, adds a new and shattering proof of the connections between Marxism and Satanism. It describes how the militant Communists stormed churches and mocked God under the Czarist regime. For this purpose the Communists used a blasphemous version of the ‘Our Father’:

    Our father, which art in Petersburg
    [today, Leningrad],
    Cursed be your name,
    May your Kingdom crumble,
    May your will not be fulfilled,
    yea, not even in hell.
    Give us our bread which you stole from us,
    And pay our debts, as we paid yours until now,
    And don’t lead us further into temptation
    But deliver us from evil—the police of Plehve
    [the Czarist prime minister],
    And put an end to his cursed government.
    But as you are weak and poor in spirit
    and in power and in authority,
    Down with you for all eternity. Amen.

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