Bob Dylan surprised fans overnight into Friday by releasing his first original music in eight years, a 17-minute ballad about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Backed by delicate piano, strings and muted drums, ‘‘Murder Most Foul’’ retells the shooting of the U.S president while describing the evolution of 1960s counterculture.
‘‘This is an unreleased song we recorded a while back that you might find interesting. Stay safe, stay observant, and may God be with you,’’ Dylan posted on his website, along with a portrait of Kennedy, who was slain in 1963 while riding in a motorcade through Dallas.
The song is packed with artist name-drops and pop culture references, including to The Beatles, Charlie Parker, the Eagles, Stevie Nicks and the Woodstock festival.
‘‘Shot down like a dog in broad daylight / Was a matter of timing and the timing was right / You got unpaid debts; we’ve come to collect / We’re gonna kill you with hatred; without any respect,’’ Dylan recounts in his signature sandpaper vocals.
It’s the folk singer’s first original song since his 2012 album ‘‘Tempest,’’ though he has released a number of cover albums in the interim.
‘‘Murder Most Foul’’ is also the first song Dylan has penned and released since he reluctantly accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, the first songwriter awarded the honor.
At 78, Dylan has maintained a relentless touring schedule, though he was forced to cancel a string of April dates in Japan over the coronavirus pandemic.
The artist is still set to kick off a North American tour in June.