Bob Dylan’s Latest Track Reminds Us of Another Era-Changing Moment

Every day I’ve gotten up over the past few weeks, I roll over and reach for my phone and am inundated with coronavirus this and COVID-19 that.

Which made for a particularly great surprise when I reached for my phone Friday morning and I saw a unique headline: “Bob Dylan releases 17-minute song about JFK Assassination.”

It’s a headline I wouldn’t have expected any other day either. But Bob Dylan releasing a 17-minute single about the John F. Kennedy assassination roughly seven-and-a-half years since his last album and with little fanfare or reasoning behind its release also seems like the most Bob Dylan thing one could do.

So I stumbled out of bed and put on “Murder Most Foul” while I ate breakfast with a tinge of excitement. I’ve always been interested in the effect the assassination had on the country and Bob Dylan as a character has always been a little nebulous to me. Deliberately so, it seemed.

I admit I would be called a “casual fan” of his music, but I’ve liked his hits and have a genuine curiosity in the man that no amount of Martin Scorsese-directed documentaries will ever fully extinguish.

The piano-heavy piece is more elegy than song, yet remains engaging and acts as a somber retrospective of the assassination and its impact on our culture.

The times they did a-change, one could say.

And just as the times changed, further pieces of entertainment and pop culture icons arose such as The Beatles, which Dylan refers to in the song along with many others.

But just as fascinating as the song is the time that Dylan chose to release it.

Dropped on YouTube Thursday evening with not much more than a “this is an unreleased song we recorded a while back that you might find interesting. Stay safe, stay observant and may God be with you.”

Perhaps it really is that simple, but is anything Dylan does that simple? And at 17 minutes long, one gets the impression this means a lot more than something left on the cutting room floor.

Has it taken him this long to collect his thoughts on the event? Or has something recently awoken an interest in examining it?

It’s hard to hear lyrics like “the soul of the nation’s been torn away and it’s beginning to go in a slow decay” today without, again, thinking of those headlines peppering our social media feeds.

Perhaps its recognizing that ongoing events will have just as big of an impact on our culture as the assassination did in 1963.

Or, perhaps it’s meant to be separated entirely from this moment and could be the hint of future work to come.

Or maybe he just wanted to give us a unique headline that acts as a breath of fresh air during a difficult time for many as we remain cooped up inside.

But I’m more interested what other, perhaps more dedicated, fans have made of his latest single and the significance behind its release this week.

Let us know what you thought of “Murder Most Foul” and what your favorite Bob Dylan song is in the comments below.

3 Comments

  1. Christy

    I listened to,Murder Most Foul, prior to seeing your article. Having always been a Dylan fan, I was more then excited to listen. It is top notch Dylan in my opinion. His words razor sharp. The accompanying music and pace perfectly match the momentousness of the lyrics, both historic and eerily current. Oh, to be able to teach this song in an English or History class. Or create an artwork to visually depict any part or emotional impact one has. Listen more than once. The depth is astounding. Your article, a very pleasant surprise to see, is a good, thoughtful tribute to Dylan, a poetic genius. Thank you~

    Like

    1. brentbader

      I agree! It really evokes a certain feeling I’m guessing was prevalent then that also seems to feel similar to what we’re collectively feeling now. Whether that was the original intent of the song or not, I’m uncertain. I think it would be fitting in both English and History classes. Thanks for your kind words!

      Like

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