Bob Dylan and “Murder Most Foul”: A look back at an assassination and the pop culture that followed
today at 5:00 am
Twas a dark day in Dallas, November ’63
A day that will live on in infamy
President Kennedy was a-ridin’ high
Good day to be livin’ and a good day to die
November 22, 1963. President John F. Kennedy is shot to death in Dallas, Texas. Everyone from my generation can give you a detailed account of where they were on this day. I was in sixth grade, at recess after lunch, when we first heard of the shooting. An hour later, my class was watching as NBC’s Frank McGee announced the death of the President.
On this date, Bob Dylan is a twenty-two year old folk singer. He’s at the start of a legendary career. Like everyone else, the way he looked at his life, and the world, changed on that November day. Almost sixty years later, Bob Dylan writes about the day that does live in infamy.
A month ago today, Dylan released “Rough and Rowdy Ways.” Now seventy-nine years old, it’s his thirty-ninth studio album and his first of new music since 2012’s “Tempest.” The reviews have been wonderful. Some have claimed it’s his best work since “Blood on the Tracks.” While many of his contemporaries stopped creating new music years ago, it’s uplifting to see that at his age, Bob Dylan still has plenty to say….plenty he wants us to learn. It’s certainly a pleasant and unexpected change from his last three releases of standard tunes.
Although there’s more speaking than singing, Dylan’s voice sounds better than it’s been in years. The music is lovely and the lyrics are accessible. and It’s easy to follow along. It’s a straight forward record. You don’t need to spend a lot of time trying to read between the lines deciphering what he really means to say. It’s well worth the seventy-five minutes of your time to give it a listen.
The jewel of the album is “Murder Most Foul.” It starts by telling the details of the Kennedy assassination and then moves forward into the pop culture of the music that followed. From JFK and LBJ to the Beatles, Woodstock and Altamont. He’ll ask if Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby know the truth about that weekend in Dallas; then out of nowhere asks The Who, if Tommy can hear him. Among others getting a shout out are members of the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, as well as Jazz legends Oscar Peterson, Stan Getz, Charlie Parker and Thelonius Monk.
Back and forth, up and down, “Murder Most Foul” is a seventeen minute roller coaster ride. Yes, you read that right. It’s the longest song of Dylan’s career, but even for those of us with attention span issues, the time flies by.
I admit that I’m not the biggest Bob Dylan fan. I like his songs, but I like them better when they’re done by other artists. But there’s something about “Murder Most Foul” that gets to me and gets to me deeply. I think most of the baby boomer generation will get the same feels.
Play “Love Me Or Leave Me” by the great Bud Powell
Play “The Blood-stained Banner”
Play “Murder Most Foul”
Related Post: 50 years ago today-Memories of the JFK assassination
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