Dylan releases first original song in eight years

A file picture of Bob Dylan performing at a music festival in France in 2012. Last Friday, he released Murder Most Foul, a 17-minute ballad about the assassination of former United States president John F. Kennedy in 1963.
A file picture of Bob Dylan performing at a music festival in France in 2012. Last Friday, he released Murder Most Foul, a 17-minute ballad about the assassination of former United States president John F. Kennedy in 1963.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Veteran musician Bob Dylan surprised fans last Friday by releasing his first original song in eight years, a 17-minute ballad about the assassination of the 35th United States president John F. Kennedy.

Backed by delicate piano, strings and muted drums, Murder Most Foul retells the shooting of the president while describing the evolution of 1960s counterculture.

"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," Dylan posted on his website, along with a portrait of president Kennedy, who was killed in 1963 while riding in a motorcade through Dallas.

The song is packed with artist name-drops and pop-culture references, including to The Beatles, Charlie Parker, The Eagles and Stevie Nicks as well as the Woodstock festival.

"Shot down like a dog in broad daylight/Was a matter of timing and the timing was right/You got unpaid debts; we've come to collect /We're gonna kill you with hatred; without any respect," Dylan recounts in his signature sandpaper vocals.

It is the American folk singer's first original song since his 2012 album Tempest, though he has released a number of cover albums in the interim.

Murder Most Foul is also the first song Dylan has penned and released since he reluctantly accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature.

He is the first songwriter to be awarded the honour, "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".

At 78, Dylan has maintained a relentless touring schedule, though he was forced to cancel a string of April dates in Japan because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The singer-songwriter and artist, whose most celebrated works such as Blowin' In The Wind (1963) and The Times They Are A-Changin' (1964) became anthems for the civil rights movement and anti-war movement, is still set to kick off a North American tour in June.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2020, with the headline 'Dylan releases first original song in eight years'. Print Edition | Subscribe