Folk Icon Bob Dylan Stops by Cincinnati's Aronoff Center on His Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour

“Murder Most Foul” from Dylan's new album became the first No. 1 Billboard hit in his long and winding career.

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click to enlarge Bob Dylan released his 39th studio album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, in June 2020. - Photo: Courtesy Columbia Records
Photo: Courtesy Columbia Records
Bob Dylan released his 39th studio album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, in June 2020.

Released unexpectedly on March 27, 2020, just weeks into a pandemic that is only now beginning to abate, “Murder Most Foul” became the first No. 1 Billboard hit in Bob Dylan’s long and winding career. That fact was a surprise for myriad reasons, the most obvious being that Dylan has been releasing music for six decades.

Even more curious is that “Murder Most Foul” is also a 17-minute stream-of-consciousness elegy about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy that seems to synch up psychically with our current crazy times. Then there’s the moody, dark-hued instrumentation and voice: pensive piano, violin and percussion backed by Dylan’s hushed, spoken-word delivery, which has rarely sounded as convincing or moving. And, of course, the lyrics, which seem to cover the whole of the last 60 years, punctuated by this simple sentiment about a quarter in: “What is the truth, where did it go?”

“Murder Most Foul” closes Dylan’s 39th studio album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, which dropped a few months later, his first set of original tunes since 2012. The record’s nine other songs are more in line with Dylan’s late-era masterworks, Love and Theft and Modern Times, which excavate equally from traditional Blues, Rock and Folk songbooks.

But, like “Murder Most Foul,” the new songs seem more preoccupied with specific cultural figures than anything in Dylan’s vast canon. Edgar Allen Poe, Beethoven, Anne Frank, Marlon Brando, Jimmy Reed, Martin Luther King, William McKinley, The Beatles, Jack Kerouac and Wolfman Jack are name-checked, among many others.

“Those kinds of songs for me just come out of the blue, out of thin air,” Dylan said in a 2020 interview with The New York Times shortly after Rough and Rowdy Ways surfaced. “I never plan to write any of them. But in saying that, there are certain public figures that are just in your subconscious for one reason or another. None of those songs with designated names are intentionally written. They just fall down from space. I’m just as bewildered as anybody else as to why I write them.”

Concertgoers are required to wear a mask while indoors, and also provide proof of COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test 

8 p.m. Nov. 9. $59-$129. Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Downtown, cincinnatiarts.org. 


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