While the world has been under lock-down, Bob Dylan has been quietly releasing a stream of original music. The releases began with "Murder Most Foul," a nearly 17-minute song about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He followed up with "I Contain Multitudes" on April 17. Then, on May 8, Dylan announced he'll be releasing a new album titled Rough and Rowdy Ways, accompanied by a third single, "False Prophets."
Rough and Rowdy Ways – which is scheduled for release June 19 – will be Dylan's first album of original songs in eight years.
If the first three singles are any indication, the album will be great. "Murder Most Foul," in particular, is a feat of songwriting that lives up to its grand ambitions.
When I think about the upcoming album, however, I'm filled with a degree of sadness. As I drove around this past weekend, listening to Dylan's weathered voice and contemplating his opaque and poetic lyrics, I was suddenly filled with dread that, in all likelihood, I was listening to what may be the legendary musician's final output.
Eight years is a long time between new, original songs, and Dylan is already 78 years old.
I don't want to be morbid, and I don't want to dwell on death. In the last two months, there's been enough of that news.
But as I considered Dylan's age, art and legacy, a single thought ran through my head – don't take the greats for granted. Days later, I haven't been able to shake it.
As I've turned that though over in my head, I've been transported back to Jan. 26. I was standing in the kitchen making lunch, when my wife's posture changed suddenly.
"Ben, Kobe Bryant is dead," she said. It was shocking news. It still feels shocking, all these months later.
When it comes to titans like Bryant and Dylan, whose work provides not only entertainment but real emotional catharsis, there is sometimes a sense that they are immortal. They loom so large in the popular imagination that they become almost god-like, and we forget that the athletes, musicians, actors and artists we love are also human. This is why it can hurt so deeply when they pass.
Even though we have no actual relationship with the person, our relationship with their work is very real. We feel we know them, at least in part.
That sense of immortality can also lead those of us who love them to a sense of complacency. We forget they won't always be around.
This past weekend, as I listened to one of my favourite musicians, that illusion crumbled. So I'm appreciating Bob Dylan's new songs deeply, and I won't be taking his new album for granted.