"Jokerman" is a song by Bob Dylan that appeared as the opening track of his 1983 album Infidels.[1][2] Recorded on April 14, 1983,[3] it was released as a single on June 1, 1984, featuring a live version of "Isis" from the film Renaldo and Clara as its B-side.[4]

Jokerman - Bob Dylan album cover.png
Single by Bob Dylan
from the album Infidels
B-side"Isis" (live version from Renaldo and Clara)
ReleasedJune 1, 1984
RecordedApril 14, 1983
Power Station, New York City
GenreReggae rock
LabelColumbia Records
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan
Producer(s)Mark Knopfler
Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan singles chronology
"Sweetheart Like You"
"Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love)"

In addition to appearing on Infidels, "Jokerman" appeared on several Dylan "Best of" compilations, including Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Volume 3, The Best of Bob Dylan, The Essential Bob Dylan, and the deluxe version of Dylan.


The song has been noted for its biblical imagery, and has also been analyzed as a political metaphor.[5] In a 1984 interview with Kurt Loder for Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan discussed his inspiration behind the song: "Me and another guy have a boat down there [in the Caribbean]. “Jokerman” kinda came to me in the islands. It’s very mystical. The shapes there, and shadows, seem to be so ancient. The song was sorta inspired by these spirits they call jumbis."[6]

On March 27, 1984, a music video was released for "Jokerman", directed by Larry Sloman and George Lois.[7][8][6][9] The video features live footage of Dylan only during the chorus, otherwise being illustrated by photographs of figures such as Dylan, Adolf Hitler and Muhammad Ali, and paintings by artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, Francisco Goya, and Albrecht Dürer, with the lyrics of the song superimposed.[6]

Dylan also performed the song on Late Night with David Letterman, backed by The Plugz.[10][2] According to Dylan's official website, he has performed the song over 150 times live.[1]


In addition to Dylan, the song features Mark Knopfler and Mick Taylor on guitar, Alan Clark on the keyboard, Robbie Shakespeare on bass, and Sly Dunbar on drums.[3] Percussion performed by Sammy Figueroa was later overdubbed onto the track.[3]


As a single, "Jokerman" failed to chart, but was critically well-received and continues to have a positive legacy. The Telegraph named "Jokerman" as Dylan's fourth best song,[11] while Rolling Stone readers named the song one of Dylan's best post-1960s songs, with the magazine calling it "a brilliant six-minute tune about a twisted figure," noting the song's biblical[12] imagery.[13] Rolling Stone also listed "Jokerman" at #46 on its list of 100 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs.[14] As a guest writer for Rolling Stone, Chris Martin of Coldplay wrote a tribute to "Jokerman", writing "How can this guy [Dylan] have a song that comes from this other world, and it's still so brilliant?"[14]

Cover versionsEdit

Built to Spill covered the song for the Dylan tribute album Bob Dylan in the 80s: Volume One.[15] It was also covered by Eliza Gilkyson on her 2007 album Your Town Tonight[16][17] and featured in the play Girl from the North Country.[18] Caetano Veloso covered "Jokerman" on his 1992 live album Circuladô Vivo.[19][20]

Vampire Weekend has added "Jokerman" to their live sets for their 2019 Father of the Bride tour.[21] On May 10, 2019, the band performed the song on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.[22]


  1. ^ a b "Jokerman | The Official Bob Dylan Site". Bobdylan.com. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  2. ^ a b "Bob Dylan's Greatest Songs of the 1980s". Rolling Stone. 2012-08-15. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  3. ^ a b c "1983 Sessions". Bjorner.com. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  4. ^ "Bob Dylan - Jokerman". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  5. ^ Rehkopf, Bill (2016-10-22). "Dylan's 'Jokerman' a metaphor for Election 2016 and more". TheHill. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  6. ^ a b c Loder, Kurt (1984-06-21). "Bob Dylan, Recovering Christian". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  7. ^ "Bob Dylan - Jokerman". YouTube. 2009-11-23. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  8. ^ "Legendary Madison Avenue ad man George Lois on Bob Dylan's "Jokerman" video: "A poet should be read as well as heard"". Nightflight.com. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  9. ^ "Jokerman". Georgelois.com. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  10. ^ "The Strange Story of Bob Dylan's Triumphant First Letterman Performance". Vulture. 2015-05-19. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  11. ^ "Bob Dylan: 30 greatest songs". The Telegraph. 2015-07-24. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  12. ^ Balassone, Damian (April 4, 2012) "Jokerman"
  13. ^ Greene, Andy (2015-02-11). "Readers' Poll: The 10 Best Post-1960s Bob Dylan Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  14. ^ a b "100 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs". Rolling Stone. 2016-05-24. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  15. ^ Sullivan, James (2014-01-22). "Built to Spill Cover 'Jokerman' for Dylan Tribute". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  16. ^ Eliza Gilkyson - Jokerman on YouTube
  17. ^ Your Town Tonight - Eliza Gilkyson at AllMusic
  18. ^ Williams, Richard (2018-01-17). "Girl from the North Country lets us hear Bob Dylan's mysteries anew". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  19. ^ "Circuladô Vivo - Caetano Veloso | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  20. ^ Caetano Veloso - Jokerman on YouTube
  21. ^ "Watch Vampire Weekend Cover Bob Dylan's "Jokerman"". Pitchfork.com. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  22. ^ "Jokerman live at Jimmy Kimmel video". Vampireweekend. Reddit. July 2019. Retrieved November 6, 2019. video