There are multiple interpretations of this song. Some believe the "Jokerman" is referring to Jesus. This is backed up by the song's multiple Biblical references: "Standing on the water, casting your bread, while the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing." Others assert that the "Jokerman" is, in fact, Dylan himself.
The Jamaican musicians Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare both played in the rhythm section on this song. Their contributions helped to give the song a Caribbean feel.
The official video for "Jokerman" features footage of Dylan playing the track, interspersed with shots of legendary artworks. All the while, the lyrics to the song are overlaid across the screen. Dylan reportedly hated the video, which was directed by George Lois and Larry Sloman. Sloman told Mitchell Blank: "The whole idea of the video, I mean there were a few ideas. One, was this guy is one of the greatest poets that we have working in contemporary music, so we were going to take his words and put them in your face. The second thing was we would use great artworks to illuminate his art. And third, we would shoot Bob and make him look as heroic as these artworks...so he would look as heroic as Moses. So, we put him in a white tee shirt and sport jacket and the whole time Bob was lip-synching the chorus, 'Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune...' For the whole shoot he kept his eyes closed. After every take George would plead with him, 'Bob, please open your eyes,' Bob would say, 'I'm trying.' Finally, on the last take, and to me this is the ultimate Dylan video, we got him to open his eyes and he looks cagily at the camera. We had captured that Dylan mystique, I think." Sloman went on: "Columbia flips out, they think it's the greatest video ever done, and it's about to go on the air and Bob wants to kill it. Well...not kill it, he likes everything except what was shot of him. He wants to go to Malibu and to take an 8mm handheld thing and do some shots of him on the beach instead. George says, 'F--k him, I know better, I don't want him to do that.' Columbia, who had paid for the video, said they agreed with Lois. So we finished the video over Bob's objections."
Bob Dylan is not a big fan of this song, or the Infidels album in general. Dylan told Song Talk: "That's a song that got away from me. Lots of songs on that album got away from me. They just did." Dylan added: "They were better before they were tampered with. Of course, it was me tampering with them. Yeah. That could have been a good song. It could've been."
Infidels is Bob Dylan's 22nd album. Many consider it Dylan's return to secular music, after his previous three albums all dealt with his conversion to Christianity. The album was co-produced by Dire Straits frontman, Mark Knopfler.
Dylan makes reference to the Greek hero Hercules in the line, "You were born with a snake in both of your fists."
According to myth, Hercules was the son of Zeus, but not by his wife Hera - he was born to a mortal woman named Alcmene. Jealous, Hera sent snakes to kill the infant in his crib, but Hercules killed them and was found holding the dead serpents in his hands.
The lyrics "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread" originated in the 1709 poem "An Essay on Criticism" by Alexander Pope. It's also the title of a popular 1940 song
written by Johnny Mercer.