What Bob Dylan Does—Or Doesn’t—Know About the Assassination of JFK

JFK’s murder was most foul, and that event paved the way, in Dylan’s mind, for the process of long decay, the rootlessness and suspicion, that we have lived since then.

“Not long after Covid-19 began its insidious spread, Bob Dylan struck. At nine minutes past midnight on March 27, 2020 the 78-year-old singer-songwriter released his first piece of original music in nearly eight years: ‘Murder Most Foul,’ a 17-minute long song-poem (it doesn’t really have a melody) about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. It was counterintuitive marketing to say the least. For a world contemplating the imminent catastrophe of a global pandemic, Dylan offered a raspy rap about a distant catastrophe that redirected the course of history when most living Americans were unborn. A savvy promoter, Dylan saw ‘Murder Most Foul’ become his first No. 1 song on the Billboard charts. When I asked Yale literature professor David Bromwich about ‘Murder Most Foul,’ he called it a palinode, a poem of retraction, written against the hopes raised by the 1960s and by Dylan himself. I never knew the term but it fits. In the course of a quarter of an hour, Dylan retracts his first thoughts on the subject of who killed JFK, which he uttered when he was just 22 years old, a rising star from Minnesota via the coffee houses of Greenwich Village. The back story of ‘Murder Most Foul’ begins three weeks after the liberal president was shot dead in Dallas under suspicious circumstances. In early December 1963, Dylan appeared at the banquet of a left-liberal group, the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to accept an award for his musical contribution to the civil rights movement, Dylan shocked the respectable crowd by saying he saw something of himself in the man accused of killing Kennedy. The young Dylan didn’t doubt the official story of a lone gunman. He embraced it. … As he took grief for his careless comments, Dylan retreated from the unwanted role of generational spokesman, plugged in his electric guitar, and the rest is rock and roll history. … Dylan returns this November 22 as a visitor from a past many can’t remember (and others don’t care to remember too closely), a spectral presence haunting the halls of power where the last of the JFK files are stashed, perhaps permanently, beyond the view of the American people, the greatest magic trick under the sun. …”
LitHub – November 22, 2021 (Video)
The MIT Press: “Murder Most Foul” and the Haunting of America (Video)
W – Murder Most Foul (song)
“Murder Most Foul” – Lyrics
Bob Dylan “Murder Most Foul” Dallas Morning News Kennedy Assassination Newspaper Mashup

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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1 Response to What Bob Dylan Does—Or Doesn’t—Know About the Assassination of JFK

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