Well, my telephone rang it would not stop
It’s President Kennedy callin’ me up
He said, “My friend, Bob, what do we need to make the country grow?”
I said, “My friend, John, Brigitte Bardot
(Put ’em all in the same room with Ernest Borgnine!)
This verse is from Bob Dylan’s song “I Shall Be Free No. 10,” which appears on the album “Another Side of Bob Dylan” (1964). It’s a humor-filled, stream-of-consciousness song with seemingly disjointed references and ideas, characteristic of Dylan’s early playful and satirical style.
The specific lyrics you’re asking about seem to be Dylan imagining a scenario where President John F. Kennedy calls him for advice on how to improve the country. Instead of offering a traditional solution like changes to economic policy or social programs, Dylan humorously suggests introducing French actress Brigitte Bardot, Swedish actress Anita Ekberg, and Italian actress Sophia Loren. These women were all internationally renowned actresses and symbols of beauty and glamour during the 1960s.
Dylan might be poking fun at the idea of relying on beauty and glamour to solve serious national issues, or he might be commenting on the nature of fame and the public’s fascination with celebrities. Ultimately, like much of Dylan’s work, the interpretation is open-ended. It’s a glimpse into Dylan’s humor and his knack for mixing serious themes with absurdist elements.
In one interpretation, Dylan might be satirizing the shallow, glamour-obsessed culture of the time. This could be seen as a critique of the idea that a nation’s growth and progress might be associated with the glitz and glamour of Hollywood celebrities, highlighting the absurdity of such a notion. The line could also be read as Dylan’s comment on the spectacle of celebrity culture, and how celebrities could be seen as commodities to be put on display – hence the suggestion of putting these high-profile figures in the same room.
In a broader perspective, Dylan’s response to President Kennedy’s question could reflect the songwriter’s skepticism towards political authorities seeking simple answers to complex problems. His nonsensical answer underscores the fact that there are no easy solutions to societal growth and development, and a genuine answer would require thoughtful discussion on serious topics like education, economic policy, social justice, and more.
“Bardot was an actress and sex symbol of the 1950s and 60s.
Ekberg was a Swedish actress who starred in many films, including Boccaccio ’70 in 1962, the year this song was recorded.
Loren was an Italian actress and singer.
Borgnine was an American actor.
It’s interesting that all the actresses are from outside America while the one male actor is American. That may be nothing at all, though, and Dylan could have simply picked the other actresses because they were beautiful women and sex symbols of their day.”
“Is the part about Kennedy a sexual pun? You know, these beautiful women would make people “grow”. Or perhaps I’m just a pervert or dude with a fertile imagination.”
Article by Cansu Demir