Bob Dylan Has a Lot on His MindHistorians in the News
tags: music, popular culture
Was “Murder Most Foul” written as a nostalgic eulogy for a long-lost time?
To me it’s not nostalgic. I don’t think of “Murder Most Foul” as a glorification of the past or some kind of send-off to a lost age. It speaks to me in the moment. It always did, especially when I was writing the lyrics out.
Somebody auctioned off a sheaf of unpublished transcripts in the 1990s that you wrote about J.F.K.’s murder. Were those prose notes for an essay or were you hoping to write a song like “Murder Most Foul” for a long time?
I’m not aware of ever wanting to write a song about J.F.K. A lot of those auctioned-off documents have been forged. The forgeries are easy to spot because somebody always signs my name on the bottom.
Were you surprised that this 17-minute-long song was your first No. 1 Billboard hit?
I was, yeah.
“I Contain Multitudes” has a powerful line: “I sleep with life and death in the same bed.” I suppose we all feel that way when we hit a certain age. Do you think about mortality often?
I think about the death of the human race. The long strange trip of the naked ape. Not to be light on it, but everybody’s life is so transient. Every human being, no matter how strong or mighty, is frail when it comes to death. I think about it in general terms, not in a personal way.
There is a lot of apocalyptic sentiment in “Murder Most Foul.” Are you worried that in 2020 we’re past the point of no return? That technology and hyper-industrialization are going to work against human life on Earth?
Sure, there’s a lot of reasons to be apprehensive about that. There’s definitely a lot more anxiety and nervousness around now than there used to be. But that only applies to people of a certain age like me and you, Doug. We have a tendency to live in the past, but that’s only us. Youngsters don’t have that tendency. They have no past, so all they know is what they see and hear, and they’ll believe anything. In 20 or 30 years from now, they’ll be at the forefront. When you see somebody that is 10 years old, he’s going to be in control in 20 or 30 years, and he won’t have a clue about the world we knew. Young people who are in their teens now have no memory lane to remember. So it’s probably best to get into that mind-set as soon as we can, because that’s going to be the reality.
As far as technology goes, it makes everybody vulnerable. But young people don’t think like that. They could care less. Telecommunications and advanced technology is the world they were born into. Our world is already obsolete.
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