Bob Dylan Releases New Song about JFK Assassination
Grammy-winning rock icon Bob Dylan released a surprise song at the end of last week — a meditation on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, through the lends of American political and pop-cultural history.
The song was released unexpectedly and for free on March 27, 2020 on Dylan’s YouTube channel. It was notable for being his first original song since 2012 as well as his longest — clocking in at nearly 17 minutes.
Dylan made a subtle reference to the coronavirus crisis as he announced the song on Twitter: “Greetings to my fans and followers with gratitude for all your support and loyalty across the years,” he said. “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.”
Set to piano, strings and light drums, the song’s lyrics revealed a “dark day in Dallas” and hint at sinister forces behind the scenes: “Being led to the slaughter like a sacrificial lamb/He said, ‘Wait a minute, boys, you know who I am?’/’Of course we do, we know who you are!’/Then they blew off his head while he was still in the car.”
After declaring the assassination as “the soul of a nation being torn away”, Dylan then lists cultural milestones that seemed to erupt in the wake of such political upheaval: the Beatles, Woodstock, Altamont, “Tommy,” Johnny Cash, Tom Jones, Tom Dooley, Oscar Peterson, Freddie Mercury, “Blue Sky”. Not restricted to just one time period, the song also references Beethoven, Houdini, Buster Keaton, Lady Macbeth and Stevie Nicks.
Several reviews have interpreted the song as an anthem to the power of music — a salvation during dark times. Rolling Stone, in praising the release, said the song “is really about the ways that music can comfort us in times of national trauma. […] For those of us who often turn to Dylan’s catalog for that very purpose, “Murder Most Foul” has arrived at the right time.”
The Guardian remarked that it’s an “epic portrait of an America in decline ever since.”
Dylan has been part of rock and roll history since the 1960s. Well-known for incorporating politics, social issues and religion into his music, he’s become an icon in music. He’s won multiple awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, ten Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, an Academy Award, and a Nobel Prize in Literature.