The ‘end times’: Dylan’s nine crucial questions

Geoff Ward
17 min readOct 23, 2023

With the worrying global implications of conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, Bob Dylan’s hauntingly apocalyptic song ‘Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)’ gains a riveting new relevance today

Probably the best known track from Bob Dylan’s Street Legal album, released 45 years ago, in June 1978, Señor (Tales of Yankee Power) is also the song from that album that Dylan has played most live, and the one from the album which has been covered most by other artists.

Epic in scope, mythic and grimly eschatological, the song poses a series of nine key questions across seven verses, put anxiously to ‘Señor’ by the narrator, a humble manservant, retainer, or travelling companion evidently of lower rank, a kind of Spanish-American Everyman.

Composed as musical ‘bridges’, having a different chord structure and melody, the third and fifth verses confirm the narrator as the centre of the action and provide commentaries on his situation and perhaps how he arrived there. With his searching questions, the narrator is indeed the protagonist, while ‘Señor’ remains aloof and silent.

The location, in Mexico or maybe the borderlands, seems timeless, and the musical setting pensive in a minor key but with an atmospheric Mex-Moorish flourish unusual among Dylan’s musical styles, his vocal performance being fittingly plaintive, pleading and at times declamatory.

Popular culture has given us many pairings where a servant or lesser colleague out-performs or gainsays his or her supposed superior, and becomes equal to, or more notable than, the master. Such servants rising valiantly above their perceived station might enable us to appreciate that depth of insight and inquiry, good counsel, nobility and generosity are classless qualities.

In the context of Señor, Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza come immediately to mind, and one might also think of Mr Pickwick and Sam Weller, Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, Cisco and Pancho, even Raymond Reddington and Dembe Zuma, and any number of ‘buddy’ cop dramas. The interesting difference is that there is no dialogue between the characters of Señor, they are unnamed, and one of them is the narrator.

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Geoff Ward

Writer, journalist, book editor, poet, musician and tutor in literature and creative writing (MA and BA Hons degrees in English literature).