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Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)

(Bob Dylan)

From the album: Street Legal (1978)
 Classic   B-side  

 4.3/5 (551 votes)

14 comments

Bubba Most of these comments ignore the song's subtitle, "Tales of Yankee Power." The song is all about fighting "for the empire," in one god-forsaken dessert or another, in an unending war. "She" in the song is "lady liberty," the "wicked wind still blowing 'cross the upper deck" is the legacy of slavery, and the "iron cross still hanging around her neck" is religious oppression. The "painted wagon" is a field ambulance with a red cross painted on its side. "Before I stripped and kneeled" IS a reference to torture, along with "disconnect these cables." "Seems like I've been down this way before," which has been repeated at the song's end by various artists, including Tim Obrien, emphasizes the unending nature of such hopeless "war on terror," In the 70's., it was Nicaragua. More recently, it's El Salvador, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, etc. etc. etc. Feb 12, 2017
aristophane Most of Dylan's writings are not specific in meaning because the writer doesn't want them to be I will put my ideas down just as I saw them in my mind or while I was between awaken and asleep No need to bother explaining them to others, since talking to u is as good (bad) as talking to me of course humanity is striding towards self destruction and not peace, of course my ultimate desire will never come true, of course whatever happening on the upper deck is wicked and she will always feel burdened and the trivial march is playing, but I will remember what she said The fears and the futile wandering , the dragon and the gypsy, finally I'm getting all weary and consumed by every thing especially my own mumbling suffering and despair, so let me turn every thing upside down, the whole suffering is meaningless and the place also, where would I go ? Dec 11, 2016
Guy G Most explanations I read are too detailed and specific. For me it's what you want it to be and very general. A person growing old getting ready for death. A few regrets some remorse over stated probably. Guilt, defiance, happy and sad. Scared but also a sense of resignation and readiness. Relationships, wife, kids especially. Could be for anyone. Seriously contender for my own funeral service. Great song anyway. Music, lyrics always I enjoy it. Aug 02, 2015
Rob I became hip to this song through Jerry Garcia's covering of it with his band (not the Grateful Dead),which I don't believe he started to cover until the late 80's; there's a great version on the double cd 'Jerry Garcia Band' release from around 1990. Dylan has in my opinion an unrivaled genius for phrasing, and for being able to "channel" voices. But Garcia has tremendous pathos in his voice and is up near Dylan w/r/t phrasing but I don't feel he had the chameleon like ability of Dylan (a Gemini) to bring songs' narrators' voices out. If anyone hasn't, they should definitely seek out recordings from the Dylan & the Dead shows and rehearsals. A song they did in rehearsal with Jerry on the old banjo which everyone must hear is "John Hardy (Was a Desperate Little Man)"; they did not perform that song (nor a bunch of others) during the tour, including Paul Simon's "Boy in the Bubble" which is sort of amusing as they don't have the lyrics totally memorized or in front of them and it's Jerry who pull or rather drags the rest through the last verse (lasers in the jungle!) There are versions of 'Man of Peace' (RFK could be tops, Foxboro, MA second) and 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" that blow me away. They also performed 'Wicked Messenger' only once, but it's a killer version. Jerry covered that song with his "Legion of Mary" solo project back in '74 & '75 and his solos reminded me of Hendrix at some points. Dylan himself id's that collaboration with a realization that he needed to be on "endless tour" to maintain his ability to channel so much energy and connect to audiences. In fact, my acquiring of most (if not all) of the shows Dylan did with the Dead as his backing band reignited my Dylan fever and among the albums (cds) I bought was 'Street Legal'. To me, by the way, "Senor" is narrated by a Mexican who's been employed by or forced to join a white man who's on a mission and who doesn't care to answer the volleys of questions the Mexican showers on him. I'm fascinated by the connections I'm reading about here for the first time such as "the upper deck" referring to a torture ship, though I think the CIA connection is unlikely and the "she/her" being Death or 'Senor' being God very improbable, to put it mildly. Nov 21, 2014
dougiebe its about CIA sponsored torture in Nicaragua during the 1970s - the narrator understands his predicament but must endure it, he speaks to the silent man behind the torturer (the CIA), can he entice freedom through empathy (is there any hope for me there senor), he asks who he can bribe for his life (can you tell me who to contact here senor) his life becomes more painful than his death (this place dont make sense to me no more, tell me what are we waiting for senor) disconnect these cables - just google torture post the discovery of electricity, the last hope for his life a straight request to his torturer, knowing there is no hope for clemency from 'the man' Jul 05, 2014
David Lindsey As soon as I heard this song I knew 'Slow Train' was just around the corner. Senor is a priest, the whole song is about redemption and wanting to find a new way of life. 'Disconnect these cables' is a reference to Pat Garrett but the whole them is the inevitable journey towards destruction and the need for personal change. May 16, 2014
Nick Love this song - the sense of menace it conveys to me is very strong. Feb 03, 2009
Bluesman Mike My take on Senor: it's about Chile. I will NOT criticize General Pinochet, who saved his country from the horrors of Commiedom. Renaldo is describing scenes from the view of an Allende man. "There's a wicked wind..upper deck.." A sailship called the ESMERELDA was used as a floating torture chamber. "Iron Cross"...well, leftists call anyone who stands against collectivism a Nazi, don't they? (I am NOT categorizing Bob as one of that sad crew.) "Let's overturn these tables...disconnect these cables...this place don't make sense to me no more...can you tell me what we're waiting for, Senor?" The narrator has had enough of brutalizing for a cause he doesn't understand. In the early part of the Second World War, SS men were ordered to kill Jews wherever and whenever they were found. Human feelings came into play. Souls revolted. (Remember, Germany was the land of Goethe and Bach.) To Himmler's shock, storm troopers were shooting =themselves= rather than murder the innocent. What to do? Let's do it big time. Let's do it in death camps. No one is =really= guilty because everyone's involved. Mar 19, 2007
Pete Sometimes I do love this song, but mostly it seems a little self-conscious to me, as though he was trying too hard. Maybe it's the difference between describing and revealing. WHY does he have to pick himself up off the floor? What's this "have to" all about? Dylan once wrote "i accept chaos. I am not sure whether it accepts me." There may be honesty in Senor's lack of acceptance of chaos, but on some deep level I feel there is less truth. Jan 20, 2007
Benedict This used to be one of my dads favourites. And i absolutley love it. Street Legal is so often overlooked for poor production, but it really contains some of the most wonderful songs. I love the ghostly atmosphere to this song. And the lyrics are so difficult to grasp and understand, Street legal contains the most profound lyrics in Senor and Changing of the Guards. One possibilty i have come up with, is that Senor could be god, which would be similar to other songs on this album which have references to God, remember this is his last studio album before his religous period, and i think it is beginning to show through in a much more beautiful and subtle way in Senor. I am glad to see it this high, it's a great song! Sep 04, 2006
Cromehorse Jeez Jenny! Can you find your knees? Jerry Garcia's version beating Mr. D´s???? WOW!!! You sure can find everything in the Lord's praries... Bob´s unique and magical and overwordly version of his song Señor, can make a nonbeliever shiver to the bone. Itr makes me think and cry and feel like no other existing artistic piece (at least from what I've seen) But believe me honey...I have seen a lot. May 09, 2006
jenny kelly best version,Masked&anonymous Apr 11, 2006
Mingo "Do you know where she's hiding?" "She held me in her arms one time and said 'forget me not' ".....By "she", he means death. Not talking about the loss of a woman. Throughout the song lyrics, he is pleading to God (Señor), to be taken to paradise. He even asks: "Is there any comfort there, Señor?" and continues "I can't stand the suspense any more". He referes to death as the 'path' or the means to get to that kingdom, which is surely a better place than this world, in which he feels he's paid his dues. Near the end of the song, he sings one of his most meaningful lines ever: "I'm ready when you are, Señor". Finally, he intensly -furthermore, desperately- sings: "Can you tell me what we're waiting for, Señor?". He feels he's been down the road of life so many times, it's now fair to change stages, and find out what's beyond that door he's kept his eyes glued to, for so long now. Undoubtedly, Señor is the most profound song there is.....can you think of another?? Mar 29, 2006
Toni Totally love it. Jun 05, 2005
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Related songs & albums

All songs on Street Legal
Track Song
1 Changing Of The Guards (Bob Dylan)
2 New Pony (Bob Dylan)
3 No Time To Think (Bob Dylan)
4 Baby Stop Crying (Bob Dylan)
5 Is Your Love in Vain? (Bob Dylan)
6 Señor (Tales of Yankee Power) (Bob Dylan)
7 True Love Tends To Forget (Bob Dylan)
8 We Better Talk This Over (Bob Dylan)
9 Where Are You Tonight (Journey Through The Dark Heat) (Bob Dylan)
Señor (Tales of Yankee Power) appears on these albums
Year Album
1978 Street Legal
1985 Biograph
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