In November 1963, I was 14 years old and was at Joseph Pulitzer Junior High in Queens, New York, when the announcement came over the PA. That was start of a four-day drama watching around-the-clock news trying to make sense of a senseless act and the crazy senseless acts that followed. My family watched, as did the rest of the nation, simply glued to our TV sets.
On March 27th Bob Dylan dropped a brand new tune ... something he hasn't done since 2012. "Murder Most Foul" is ... I am stumped for words here (a problem when attempting to write a blog). As I said to the friend who sent me a link (https://genius.com/Bob-dylan-murder-most-foul-lyrics): "W.O.W!!! This song alone could have won him the Nobel prize! So many charming and surprising cultural references ... the old boy has not lost his touch." And that without having the printed lyrics to refer to (she had sent the link from Bob's website). Bob is eight years older than I which means he is pushing 80. It also means he was a young adult when the Kennedy assassination changed our world.
One of the reasons I think "Murder Most Foul" is so powerful for me is that I spent my junior and senior high school years (1966-67) hanging out in my friend Larry's apartment listening to Dylan for hours and hours and hours. Larry burned incense and lit candles and we drifted along in the semi-dark listening to the raspy voice tell tales of worlds we didn't recognize, yet instantly knew to be valid to the world we were growing up in. "Subterranean Homesick Blues" comes immediately to mind (https://genius.com/Bob-dylan-subterranean-homesick-blues-lyrics). And "She's got everything she needs, she's an artist, she don't look back" a line from "She Belongs to Me" became my personal anthem in the day. And as hard as this may be to believe we had not yet started smoking wacky-tabacky.
No doubt this way of validating our shared experience in a life changing event will be repeated in one variation or another on "Where were you in 2020 when the entire world came to a halt because of Covid19?" With followup questions such as: How long did you have to shelter-in-place? Did you know anyone with the virus? Did you get sick?
Dylan doesn't specifically refer to the current worldwide pandemic and I suspect he actually wrote the song several years ago, the references are mostly 20th Century from both before and after the Kennedy assassination but it's as if with this song his music has formed the book ends of my life. I lost touch with Bob and his music once he found religion but I am pleased to see (and hear) the Nobel Laureate has not lost his touch.
"Where were you when the 21st century lights went out?"