Dylan vents about subjects such as commercialism, hypocrisy and warmongering in this song. In the book, Bob Dylan, Performing Artist, author Paul Williams states this song sees Dylan acknowledge "the possibility that the most important (and least articulated) political issue of our times is that we are all being fed a false picture of reality, and it's coming at us from every direction."
Williams adds that Dylan portrays an "alienated individual identifying the characteristics of the world around him and thus declaring his freedom from its 'rules'."
This song is one of Dylan's personal favorites. In 1980, he stated: "I don't think I could sit down now and write 'It's Alright, Ma' again. I wouldn't even know where to begin, but I can still sing it."
The opening line, "Darkness at the break of noon," is referring to a nuclear explosion. After a nuclear explosion, the sky turns black and the sun disappears.
Jake - Sonoma, CA
The line, "He who is not busy being born in busy dying" is popular with politicians. Jimmy Carter used the line in his acceptance speech at the 1976 Democratic National convention, and while campaigning for President in 2000, Al Gore told talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, that it was his favorite quote. Ironically, the song also contains the line, "But even the President of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked," which is Dylan alluding to the fact even the most powerful people will be ultimately judged.
The album cover shows a woman lounging by a fireplace with Dylan in the foreground holding a cat. She is Sally Grossman, the wife of Dylan's manager Albert Grossman. The photo was taken in Grossman's house, and the cat belonged to Sally.