Bob Dylan Countdown #119: “Property Of Jesus”Posted: February 15, 2012
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.