Listen: Bob Dylan shares another new song, ‘I Contain Multitudes’

"I Contain Multitudes" is Bob Dylan's latest surprise release, weeks after the 17-minute "Murder Most Foul."
(David Vincent / Associated Press)

Bob Dylan is on a roll.

After the surprise release last month of the 17-minute song “A Murder Most Foul,” the 78-year-old singer-songwriter has dropped “I Contain Multitudes.” The creeping meditation clocks at a far less imposing 4:38, but Dylan packs odd accents into every measure.

“Today, tomorrow and yesterday too / The flowers are dying / Like all things do,” sings Dylan, his phrasing casual, his graveled delivery just above a whisper, ending the opening verse with a typically inventive turn of phrase: “I fuss with my hair / And I fight blood feuds / I contain multitudes.”

Bob Dylan, I Contain Multitudes

Dylan’s hide-and-seek approach to new music suggests an artist perfectly content doling out single-song releases minus the typical fanfare that comes with an Official New Bob Dylan Album. The last one of those he released — excluding a series of covers albums — was “Tempest,” eight years ago. He’s also been dipping into his vaults.

Details are sparse for now on when and where “I Contain Multitudes” was recorded. The song, a reference to a line in Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself” in his “Leaves of Grass” collection, arrived without a press release, notes on instrumentation or musicians.


On “Multitudes,” Dylan sighs into the microphone like an exhausted reaper. “I got a tell-tale heart like Mr. Poe / Got skeletons in the walls of people you know,” he sings to sparse, clean electric guitar accompaniment. “I drink to the truth / And the things we said / I’ll drink to the man who shares your bed.” Elsewhere he rhymes “frolic with all the young dudes” with “I contain multitudes.” He name-checks Anne Frank and couples “Indiana Jones” with “the Rolling Stones.”

“I Contain Multitudes” crawls along like a gunshot victim abandoned outside the emergency room. But lyrically, Dylan’s having fun with his lines, and phrases them with a devil-may-care joyfulness. Multitudes indeed.