Sturgill Simpson has a very simple life lesson he wants to impart on the title track to director Jim Jarmusch’s new zombie film, The Dead Don’t Die: “Oh, the dead don’t die/ Anymore than you or I/ They’re just ghosts inside a dream/ Of a life that we don’t own.” That’s what Simpson drawls on the classic country track that was released on Thursday (June 13) in advance of Friday’s (June 14) big screen debut of the indie darling’s all-star undead film.
Speaking to Zane Lowe on his Apple Beats 1 radio show, Simpson said he got the call from Jarmusch asking if he’d be interested in writing a song for his movie. “I think I said yes before he even got the question out,” Simpson, an avowed Jarmusch superfan, said. “I’ve always love his work, probably since I was too young to even understand or be watching.”
Knowing that the song had to carry the title of the film made writing it a bit easier, but after reading the script Simpson was challenged by writing a track that was not from his personal perspective. “This was fun. It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I just saw the film a couple nights ago for the first time, and one of the more surreal experiences since this ride all kind of started, so I don’t want to give anything away for people that haven’t seen the movie, but I read this script about this end of the world apocalypse and just thought it would be interesting to make this really sweet sort of melancholy countrypolitan song, you know, to juxtapose all that. Like something really sweet and beautiful.”
The song, Simpson’s first new track since his Grammy-winning 2016 album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, is anchored by a weepy pedal steel guitar, melancholy piano and a spare, dry drum click. An homage to the fact that we’re never really alone in this world, even after our loved ones move on, Simpson taps into a classic George Jones-style vibe.
The film stars Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Selena Gomez, Tilda Swinton, Tom Waits, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Rosie Perez, Carol Kane, Luka Sabbat, RZA and Iggy Pop and Simpson — who makes a cameo — and the artist’s name is dropped throughout, including a scene in which Driver and Murray are driving in a car listening to the track.
Check out the movie scene and visualizer below.