Somehow Bob Dylan knows when I’m in my darkest moments. There’ve been a few over the last few weeks. It seems like each time I feel like giving up on the world and crawling into a hole, he releases a new song. The first was a 17-minute long meditation, next came a smaller five-minute sermon, and now he’s back with a bit of hellfire and brimstone.
At around 12:30 AM on a Friday morning with little to differentiate from the last couple of Friday mornings, I got a phone alert telling me Bob Dylan has added to his Facebook story. Normally I hate these kinds of alerts. I appreciate that people are doing social media things, but I don’t always need my phone to buzz with the news. In fact tonight of all nights I wanted nothing to do with social media. Earlier I had seen an article with a quote from some administration flunkie comparing a disgraced traitorous general to Nelson Mandela. That was a bit too much for me to take right now. I had retreated into doing some audio editing, which is a fairly zen process that requires a narrow focus. I can’t meditate but that editing process is pretty close.
The phone buzz alerting me to the fact that Dylan had updated his story sent me to youtube looking for what I hoped was another new song. Within seconds I was rewarded with the brand new video. Around 2000 people had listened to the song before I got there, which I admit I was impressed by since it had been posted all of twelve minutes prior.
It’s a weird feeling being among the first people to hear something put out by a guy like Bob Dylan. Most of his most famous music was released before I was born, even though I am not a young man. I wonder who the other 2000 or so are and what they were doing when it hit. Did they need it as much as I did? I imagine they probably did.
The song is a big stomping blues number. There’s some anger behind it, as well as the kind of swagger that only someone like Dylan can truly muster. It’s called “False Prophet” and it has the most perfect opening line of our times;
“Another day that don’t end…”
He goes on to sing a song filled with anger, world-weariness, and some pretty righteous boasting.
“Don’t care what I drink,
I don’t care what I eat,
I’ll climb the mountain of swords on my bare feet”
Dylan is back to singing about himself and what he does. He’s been around a while and he’s still got something to say, and that in and of itself is exciting. The three songs he’s released are all taking listeners to the church of Bob in one way or another and trying to give them a little Jesus. This is the most impish of the bunch so far. Dylan has always had some humor and some arrogance, and those things are still there despite his exhaustion with the world around him. It’s impossible to not nod your head along to the beat and say, “Amen preacher man.”
The picture in the youtube clip says that the song will be on a new album coming out called “Rough and Rowdy Ways.” It shows a skeleton in a suit and tophat with a maniacal grin. It’s easy to imagine it as the cover of a pulp mystery written by Raymond Chandler. It’s a great picture and an even greater song.
None of us can go to church right now. We need to be socially distant and careful, so America’s true prophet has decided to come down from the mountain and bring some church directly to us.
You’re not far off on the Raymond Chandler: the photo is lifted from a 1940’s pulp bimonthly called “The Shadow.” Scott Warmuth posted the original on his Twitter: https://twitter.com/scottwarmuth1/status/1258532642716184576?s=20