Saturday, March 27, 2021

"Twas a Matter of Timing and the Timing Was Right"

Exactly one year ago--March 27, 2020--Bob Dylan dropped "Murder Most Foul," without any public announcement or preview or warning--his first work of original music in over 8 years, in preview of his first album of new music since 2012's Tempest. I'm not a Dylanologist like many fans out there; I recognize that he's arguably been one of America's most important poetic voices for 60 years now, but even the Nobel Prize people know that. I am comfortable saying that Rough and Rowdy Ways in one of my favorite Dylan albums, and "Murder" is one of the primary reasons why. 

It's not the sort of song that I have any particular interest in listening to at any given time, but sometimes, like almost any truly great poem or work of art, the strange, haunting, tragic, but perhaps even weirdly hopeful incantation of Americana that this song provides is--like "Desolation Row," another one of Dylan's masterpieces--something that I just really want to hear. I'll put it on, and for the next 17 minutes I'm carried away. The greatest poets, like all the greatest artists and performers, are never solely about their chosen medium; they are also about the connection which they, through their various Muses, are able to provide between their times, their moment, and the medium in which they work. Dylan, whatever other criticisms one can make of the man--and surely those criticisms are legion--has continually, over more than a half-century, been able to bizarrely, unsettlingly, regularly connect with and/or comment upon his times. For him to have released this compelling dirge just as American settled into the third week of so of the pandemic, realizing that the year to come would not be a year of quick containment and renewal, but rather a year of difficult, despairing adjustments and realizations...well, some would call it prophetic. Which is a label Dylan has received often before, and hearing it again, would probably just make him shake his head once again, smile his creepy smile, and pick up his guitar again. 

Anyway, thanks Bob, I guess. Can't imagine what America will be like when you're no longer with us, watching us all, and writing your songs. Worse, I suspect.

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