Bob Dylan's back. Eight years after "Tempest", his last album with his own songs, the Nobel Prize winner presents, seemingly out of nowhere, a new work that hardly anyone had expected. After three tiring American Songbook albums, "Rough And Rowdy Ways" is also a qualitative surprise: a multi-layered, thoroughly successful late work by someone who has remained young forever.
When Bob Dylan put a new song on the net on 27 March, at the height of the transnational Corona lockdown, it was celebrated as a sensation in the media worldwide. This was not only because "Murder Most Foul" was the first self-written song he had released in eight years. The Talking Blues is primarily about the 1963 murder of John F. Kennedy, but also pays homage to a past America and especially to his music - an almost 17-minute journey into a transfigured past that lies like a ghost above the present. In the second part of the song, Dylan conjures up the legendary DJ Wolfman Jack to play all those pieces that have shaped and marked the country, from old blues and jazz classics to the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac.
In his first interview since 2018, which appeared in the New York Times in mid-June, the great enigmatist emphasized, however, that the piece was by no means nostalgic for him: "I don't see 'Murder Most Foul' as a glorification of the past or a kind of farewell to a lost age He believes, however, that people of his age have a tendency to live in the past and to view the developments of the present with concern, whereas youth has no past at all, but only knows the here and now. "As for technology, it makes everyone vulnerable," he adds. "But that's not how young people see it. They couldn't care less. Our highly technological present is the world into which they were born. Our world, however, is already obsolete." Which, of course, does not change the fact that many people are only too happy to remember the past, subjectively perceived as golden, when music seemed to be able to heal the wounds of a nation. But is "Murder Most Foul" maybe not a song about Kennedy at all, but about the Trump years? Or even about the world during the Corona Crisis, as hasty critics first assumed?
Unfortunately, the history professor Douglas Brinkley, who conducted the interview, did not ask these questions - or Dylan did not want to answer them. In March, the musician had in any case still described "Murder Most Foul" as a gift to his loyal fans in a difficult time, and at first, contrary to the Trump or Corona theories, there was a rumour that the song was an outtake from an earlier session and had been around for many years. Maybe it's even true. One month later, on April 17th, another, no less successful new song was released with the meaningful title "I Contain Multitudes" - a clear allusion to the myth of the eternal mask that many Dylan experts believe the artist wore throughout his life to fool his audience over and over again ...