One of the Greatest Folk Singers Wrote This Song on 9/11. It Was Never Released

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

When indie folk songwriter Jason Molina passed away in 2013, the music world shook with grief. In the period that followed, musicians released a tribute album covering his slow-burn American folk ballads, while his label released the elegiac box set Journey On. But through all of the retrospectives, one song was never turned up until now.

On Wednesday, a Molina recording surfaced that nobody had heard before. "September 11" is some of Molina's last unheard music. He recorded it on Sept. 11, 2001, in a farmhouse in Kentucky after hearing about the events of the day.

Source: YouTube

He collaborated with indie rock royalty Will Oldham, best known as Bonnie Prince Billie, Paul Oldham and Alasdair Roberts. Along with the song, the record label Secretly Canadian posted a note from Roberts about the songwriting experience.

According to them, it came about because of a "spontaneous response from Jason's soul to the unimaginably terrible events of that day." The song begins with Molina singing, "That's all / That's all / Look what it got us / Let's all look what it got us / We're in the pre-world dark again / We're in pre-world dark again / We can hear them ringing rescue bells / We can hear them ringing the rescue bells / It's like a tempest / Hear the bells / Then nothing."

It's a fitting attempt at a tribute to the day and a beautiful way to remember Molina's power. His work is characteristically dark, addressing matters of life and death. Before his alcohol-related death in 2013 at age 39, Molina released a staggering number of records: 19 LPs in just 15 years. Each one was a powerful study of the human condition in its own right.

While he never saw commercial success, he had a dedicated following and paved the way for bands like Bon Iver, Dinosaur Jr. and Phosphorescent. "September 11" is a powerful and unexpected posthumous release from Molina, but more importantly, it's a chance for remembrance — a visceral reminder of what it felt like to be alive in America that day.

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Kate Beaudoin

Kate is a staff writer for Mic's music section. With an M.A. in journalism from NYU, she's written for Salon, NewYorkMagazine.com, and RollingStone.com. Kate hails from Montana, but eats pizza like a New Yorker—often and aggressively.

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