The World Nearly Witnessed a Post Malone and Bob Dylan Collaboration

Malone's 'New Basement Tapes'-inspired recording has ultimately stayed buried

Photos: Chris Allmeid (left), Alberto Cabello (right)

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Aug 29, 2023

Without this becoming a game of pop culture Mad Libs, a collaboration between Post Malone and Bob Dylan has the potential to be all kinds of Rough and Rowdy on its face — and it's something the world nearly experienced, if their song had been completed.

The reveal comes in a new Rolling Stone feature recounting how producer Michael Cash aspired to make an album in the spirit of 2014's Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes, on which artists like Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford and Rhiannon Giddens recorded songs using previously unreleased Dylan lyrics.

Cash's vision was to put together a record of Dylan-penned songs recorded by contemporary voices outside the worlds of folk, rock and country, instead enlisting the likes of Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and the guy who made "White Iverson." So he reached out to Dylan representative Jeff Rosen to make the pitch.

The producer told Rolling Stone that he sent Rosen a snapshot of a Dylan tattoo on Post Malone's bicep, and a link to a widely-circulated, pre-fame cover of the songwriter's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright." Cash recalled that weeks later, "Jeff texts me: 'Bob's going to write you something. He's got something in mind that he wants to craft specifically for this.'"

Rolling Stone notes how "a source close to the Dylan camp says that Dylan already had the lyrics lying around," but in any case, Cash ended up receiving lyrics to a song called "Be Not Deceived."

The producer shared of Dylan's words, "It was talking about a loss of innocence. And what people are going through — disfranchised, kind of leaderless masses of children with no parent or guardian or shepherd or anything. It talked about going out and making your own way. And when you read it, honestly, it's poetry. It's beautiful."

"Be Not Deceived" was so beautiful that Cash's reading over the phone reportedly had the artist "literally in tears," and in March 2021, Post Malone visited his studio to record the song — a trip that also saw the hitmaker hunt for ghosts and hold the belief that Dylan himself would actually sit in on the session.

Cash estimates that "Be Not Deceived" was 40 percent completed before Malone had to leave, explaining, "We got the stencilling done, he got some colours in, but he definitely wasn't finished. It needed flair. It needed more layers. It wasn't a complete piece of music, but it was definitely a song. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. There was a bridge, there was a chorus. It just needed to be finished." 

"[Rosen] heard the song," Cash continued. "He liked it, and then everybody left the studio and it just got … Honestly, they just were like, 'This should be finished.'"

Cash claims that Dylan's camp told him they planned to retract the lyrics as the completed song failed to materialize, telling Rolling Stone, "It just seems like nobody really managed expectations, and it just seems like nobody communicated. A really cool piece of music got made, and then it just got weird. It got really weird."

Anyway, while the unfinished session rots on a studio hard drive, press play on that aforementioned cover of "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" below and imagine what could have been.

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