The figure who inspired the “Mr Jones” protagonist in Bob Dylan’s classic ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’ has died.
Jeffrey Owen Jones, a film professor at the Rochester Institute Of Technology, has been regularly identified as the subject of the song, which appeared on 1965’s ’Highway 61 Revisited’.
Jones was 63 and died of lung cancer at the beginning of November.
According to the widely held theory, Jones inspired the song after interviewing Dylan while he was an intern at ‘Time’ magazine.
The pair spoke at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, just ahead of the singer’s legendary performance where he went electric.
The opening lines of the song go: “You walk into the room/With your pencil in your hand/You see somebody naked/And you say, “Who is that, man?”/ You try so hard/But you don’t understand/Just what you’ll say/When you get home/ Because something is happening here/ But you don’t know what it is/Do you, Mister Jones?”
Years after the song appeared, Jones told Rolling Stone he was actually honoured to have been written about by Dylan.
“I was thrilled — in the tainted way I suppose a felon is thrilled to see his name in the newspaper,” he wrote. “I was awed too that Dylan had so accurately read my mind. I resented the caricature but had to admit that there was something happening there at Newport in the summer of 1965, and I didn’t know what it was.”
According to Editor And Publisher, Jones‘ passing has so far only been picked up by his local paper the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
They reported that since his immortalisation in song, Jones had excelled an athletics before living Uruguay and Spain where he wrote and directed films. He then returned to America where he became a teacher and lecturer, and also worked for CBS producing award-winning educational films.
His sister Pamela Jones told the paper that “Dylan didn’t paint a vignette of my brother that one would necessarily be proud of. But I think my brother was in the middle of history-making.”
Although it is widely thought that Jones inspired the song, there have been other candidates for the protagonist, including a British journalist named Max Jones, who Dylan has mentioned himself.