Last month, Bob Dylan released his first original song in eight years, a 17-minute whopper of a track called “Murder Most Foul”. Despite its length, though, “Murder Most Foul” has officially topped the Rock Digital Song Sales chart — making it Dylan’s first-ever No. 1 song on any Billboard chart ever, as Pitchfork points out.
“Murder Most Foul” isn’t a breezy listen by any measure. It’s longer than some albums, it’s got a menacing instrumentation to it, and it sees Dylan weaving together an intricate story about the JFK assassination. Nielsen data indicates that the track sold 10,000 downloads within its first week, though, which means plenty of people not only wanted to hear what Dylan’s newest epic was all about, but that they wanted to hear it again and again afterwards, too.
The bizarre part of this news isn’t that Dylan’s first material since his 2012 album Tempest topped the Billboard charts. Instead, the unbelievable part of all of this is that Dylan has never had one of his original songs go No. 1 before. Funnily enough, several covers of his material have, including Peter Paul & Mary’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” in 1963 and the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man” in 1965.
In an open letter about the song, fellow songwriting legend Nick Cave called it “a perplexing but beautiful song and, like many people, I have been extremely moved by it.”
Bob Dylan hasn’t been sitting idly these past few years. The Nobel Prize winner dropped his latest Frank Sinatra covers album Fallen Angels in 2016, released a collection of standards titled Triplicate back in 2017, and he’s spent the other years unearthing rarities for his surprisingly fun Bootleg Series. If all of this keeps his literature skills sharp, then we aren’t complaining about it.
In other news, Dylan had to cancel the Japanese leg of his 2020 tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he still plans to play North America this summer. You can grab tickets to all of his upcoming concerts here.