During the lockdown, many artists are making up for the lack of live performances by releasing new music. Bob Dylan is no exception. On Thursday night he surprised everyone with his latest track, ‘Murder Most Foul’. The song is about Kennedy’s assassination.
The release of the song was accompanied by little fanfare on Dylan’s end which is typical of the legendary singer songwriter’s low key personality. He only provided a short post on his web site explaining, “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.” Along with the post, he included a portrait picture of Kennedy.
The song is Dylan’s longest ever running close to 17 minutes. Musically, it is laid back with a focus on Dylan’s lyrics. It features piano, violin and light percussion that swells at times but mostly maintains a kind of disjointed rhythm behind his talk/sing vocals.
Lyrically, the song talks about the murder as well as what else was going on during that time in history. He references many musicians that were popular in the 60’s as well as signs of the culture during that time.
But, as is often the case with Dylan, we can’t help but think that he is sending some sort of underlying message. And we are sure that fans will be spending much of their time in lockdown wondering what these lyrics really mean. In fact, the Dylan fan site Expecting Rain is already filled with transcriptions of the lyrics and fan interpretations.
Millennial musician Trapper Shoepp collaborated with Dylan on the song On, Wisconsin last year and he interprets Murder Most Foul to be relevant to what’s going on in the world today. “This is music about music,” Schoepp says “For Dylan’s generation, JFK’s assassination shook their world. For my generation the coronavirus and the Trump presidency will be a defining moment. So while those things are wildly different, I think Dylan’s reminder of JFK’s assassination within these modern times is what makes the song so piercing and poetic and powerful. The release that music offers within that context, I think, is why Dylan offers up all the popular culture escapes. That’s very relevant to what we’re going through right now.”
Murder Most Foul is the first original song Dylan has released in eight years. His last batch of originals came out in 2012 on his album Tempest. Since Dylan admits the song was not written recently, it’s likely he wrote it while working on those sessions. There is no talk of any other new Dylan music coming out any time soon.
No matter what your interpretation of the song may be, it is definitely a haunting number with lyrics that will keep fans occupied for months to come. Whatever the meaning behind the song is, one thing that’s for sure...Dylan ain’t telling.