Dylan Takes on JFK Assassination, Walt Whitman

Posted on May 4, 2020
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In what is his longest studio song (almost 18 minutes) in his 60-year career, Bob Dylan last month released “Murder Most Foul,” an amazing epic that uses the assassination of JFK (lest you ever forget, Nov. 22, 1963) as a jumping off point to examine the highs and lows of post-innocence America. Dylan launches into a series of lamentations hearkening back to the Old Testament’s Book of Lamentations:

‘Twas a matter of timing and the timing was right
You got unpaid debts and we’ve come to collect
We’re gon’ kill you with hatred and without any respect
We’ll mock you and shock you, we’ll grin in your face
We’ve already got someone here to take your place
The day that they blew out the brains of the king
Thousands were watching, no one saw a thing
It happened so quickly – so quick by surprise
Right there in front of everyone’s eyes


What’s New Pussycat – wha’d I say
I said the soul of a nation been torn away
It’s beginning to go down into a slow decay

He points his finger at those responsible for JFK’s murder, then goes on to provide a laundry list of pop culture heroes, from the Beatles  through the Stones , Oscar Peterson and Stan Getz, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Carl Wilson, and many, many more, who have tried to salve our wounds:

Hush li’l children, you’ll soon understand
The Beatles are coming they’re gonna hold your hand
Slide down the bannister, go get your coat
Ferry ‘cross the Mersey and go for the throat
There’s three bums comin’ all dressed in rags
Pick up the pieces and lower the flags
I’m going to Woodstock, it’s the Aquarian Age

But it’s the lamentations that stand out:

They killed him on the altar of the Rising Sun
Play Misty for me and that Old Devil Moon
Play Anything Goes and Memphis in June
Play Lonely at the Top and Lonely Are the Brave
Play it for Houdini spinning around in his grave
Play Jelly Roll Morton, play Lucille
Play Deep in a Dream and play Drivin’ Wheel
Play Moonlight Sonata in F sharp
And Key to the Highway by the king of the harp
Play Marchin’ Through Georgia and Dumbarton’s drum
Play Darkness and death will come when it comes
Play Love Me or Leave Me by the great Bud Powell
Play the Blood Stained Banner – play Murder Most Foul


From BobDylan.com:

Murder Most Foul

Apr 06, 2020

Greetings to my fans and followers with gratitude for all your support and loyalty across the years.
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.
Bob Dylan

The lyrics are available at BobDylan.com

Shortly after this, Dylan released another single, “I Contain Multitudes” on April 17. Its title comes from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself, 51”: “Do I contradict myself?/ Very well, then I contradict myself/ (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” It’s Dylan’s embrace of his past and present, his “Song of Experience,”


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