Music Lists

A Playlist of (Most Of) the Songs Referenced in Bob Dylan's "Murder Most Foul"

Bob Dylan's "Murder Most Foul" pays homage to dozens of iconic and lesser-known songs. We tried to compile them into a playlist.

At the end of his new song, "Murder Most Foul," Bob Dylan essentially curates a playlist for a dying America, asking some abstract listener to "play" countless songs as violins wail in the background.

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Bob Dylan’s First New Song in 8 Years Is About JFK and the Death of America

It's an exploration of JFK's assassination and its aftermath.

Bob Dylan has released his first new song in eight years.

"Murder Most Foul" is a 17-minute tapestry of Americana history that is, as most things from Bob Dylan are, folkloric and reverent. Here, the object of Dylan's horror and worship is John F. Kennedy's death, which ties together countless references to everything from A Nightmare on Elm Street to "Moonlight Sonata" to Stevie Nicks and Ray Charles.

As violins and drums mutter in the background, Dylan laments America's complex, largely mythological, often wicked history. His focal point is the 1960s and the fallout from JFK's 1963 murder. He mentions Woodstock, the Age of Aquarius, and Altamont, the doomed California music festival that was invaded by Hell's Angels and ended in bloody disaster.

Despite its focus on the mid-20th century, the song veers throughout time and across mediums. The title itself is a reference to Shakspeare's Hamlet, and he specifically shouts out Lady Macbeth in one verse, then pivots to messages of sympathy for a woman whom we can safely assume is Jackie O.

Bob Dylan Revisits His Long, Twisted Relationship with John F. Kennedy

Dylan's complex obsession with John F. Kennedy's death goes far back in time. He apparently called JFK "fake" and a "pretender" and did not vote in the 1960 election. But in 1960, he told Rolling Stone, "I don't know what people's errors are: nobody's perfect, for sure. But I thought Kennedy, both Kennedys – I just liked t hem. And I liked Martin Luther King. I thought those people who were blessed and touched, you know? The fact that they all went out with bullets doesn't change nothin'. Because the good they do gets planted. And those seeds live on longer than that."

Later, when asked about the assassination, he said, "Of course, I felt as rotten as everyone else. But if I was more sensitive about it than anyone else, I would have written a song about it, wouldn't I? The whole thing about my reactions to the assassination is overplayed."

Bob Dylan Historical Collection Everett/Shutterstock

He pivoted yet again thanks to an excess of alcohol. When accepting the Tom Paine Award from the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee in 1963, allegedly "a drunken, rambling Dylan questioned the role of the committee, insulted its members as old and balding, and claimed to see something of himself (and of every man) in assassin Lee Harvey Oswald."

"I'll stand up and to get uncompromisable about it, which I have to be to be honest, I just got to be, as I got to admit that the man who shot President Kennedy, Lee Oswald, I don't know exactly where—what he thought he was doing, but I got to admit honestly that I too—I saw some of myself in him," said Dylan. "I don't think it would have gone—I don't think it could go that far. But I got to stand up and say I saw things that he felt, in me—not to go that far and shoot."

Now he's gone back on his word and returned to JFK nearly half a century later. "Murder Most Foul" is apocalyptic and brooding, and it can't be an accident that Dylan released it in the midst of a pandemic. "What's new pussycat? What'd I say? / I said the soul of a nation been torn away / And it's beginning to go into a slow decay / And that it's 36 hours past Judgment Day," he drones, words that—like the best Dylan lyrics—seem to apply to anything and everything at once.

"Murder Most Foul" Questions America's Motives and JFK's Legacy

JFK's rise represented a profound moment of all-American optimism, but to many radicals he was just another figurehead. Dylan's confusion and rage at the government feels relevant today, especially because it was released the day after a controversial and resolutely non-populist stimulus package—which allots $500 billion to big businesses while giving a small one-time check to working people and nothing at all to hospitals—was announced.

Sometimes, in these pandemic days, it does feel like we've passed through some kind of long-feared cataclysm, and now we're in the free-fall. John F. Kennedy's assassination, like 9/11 and like COVID-19, was a moment that marked an entire cultural conscience and revealed the vulnerability of American ideals and the insubstantiality of all our great institutions, for better or worse.

But we still have music; that's one thing that's not going away. In the end, "Murder Most Foul" is just as much of an ode to music as it is an ode to the ephemera of the past.

Bob Dylan - Murder Most Foul (Official Audio)

JFK Jr was one of the most well known names and faces in the US when the plane that he was piloting went down on July 16, 1999, killing him, his wife Carolyn Bessette and her sister Lauren.

Who can forget the enduring memory of the then three year old John-John proudly saluting the coffin of his slain father, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy as the funeral cortege rolled by?

He went on to become a fine young man, a credit to his family name and his late father. He carved a career in publishing and was said to be planning an entry into politics and follow in the family tradition.

The world was shocked and horrified when he died in such tragic circumstances, taking it as proof that the "Kennedy curse" lives on. For some though, the news of the crash and the subsequent inquiries just don't sit well. There's something amiss....

The Theory

JFK Jr was more than "the sexiest man alive". He was a man with something to prove. He is the only Kennedy to ever acknowledge that there may have been a conspiracy and a cover up around his father's assassination, and some say he was getting ready to expose the truth.

The (alleged) truth is shocking. That George Bush Snr, yes that's right, President Bush Snr, was involved in JFK 's assassination. That he was a senior CIA operative and not only did he orchestrate the events in Dallas on 22nd November 1963, but that he was actually there in Dealy Plaza at the very moment the trigger was pulled.

Bush Sr knew that Kennedy Jr was close to the proving the truth and he needed him shut up for good, so he used his wide-reaching connections to do just that.

The 'Proof'

JFK Jr's Death Was Not An Accident

There are so many facts that point to the plane crash not being an accident as reported in the media at the time. The official National Transportation Safety Board report was published thirteen months after the crash and despite the fact that the it concluded that "the accident that killed Kennedy was caused by an inexperienced pilot" there are many contradictions in that report that show foul play. Here are a few;

  • Media reports that the plane went down in poor visibility are untrue. The Tower manager at Martha's Vineyard (where the plane went down) stay there were stars out and that visibility was between 10 and 12 miles that night.
  • The NTSB concluded that JFK Jr was described by his trainers as an "excellent", "methodical" and "very cautious" pilot. If he was such a careful pilot why, when he got into difficulty, would he not have engaged the autopilot that was capable of flying the plane to within 100 feet of the airport?
  • JFK Jr was actually a highly experienced pilot with enough hours under his belt to qualify for an instructor's license.
  • The mysterious flight instructor. Early reports of the accident said there was a flight instructor on board—then all of a sudden the flight instructor disappeared from accounts of the accident. It is just not a reasonable conclusion that Kennedy did not have a flight instructor on board. He had flown a total of 310 hours and of those, 55 hours were at night. He had only flown 45 minutes of those 55 hours at night without an instructor. He was very cautious and had his wife and her sister on board so it just doesn't add up that he didn't have an instructor with him.
  • The logbook is missing. The logbook would have recorded the presence of a flight instructor on the plane but has never been recovered.
  • The US Coast Guard reports that JFK Jr had contacted the tower on his final approach. FAA regulations require that a search begins immediately when a plane hasn't landed within five minutes of reporting a final approach. Why did it take a staggering 14½ hours then for a search to commence?
  • The FAA went on to claim that there was never a communication from Kennedy to the tower despite all the immediate news reports to the contrary.
  • It took five days to find the plane. How come the Emergency Locator Transmitter which sends out a beacon signal in the event of a crash didn't alert the rescue party? Nothing in the NTSB report was mentioned about the ELT so we don't know if it was missing or even disabled.
  • The presence of a black box. No other private non-jet plane in service at the time had a black box (the flight recorder), yet Kennedy had one installed on his plane. Why? Even more suspicious, the battery had been removed from the black box, meaning there was no record of any conversation in the cockpit.
  • The fuel valve. According to the NTSB report the fuel valve had been turned to OFF. This could not have been done by accident. Obviously the fuel valve is highly important and would never be turned off mid-flight—doing so at full speed would result in the engine dying in 45 seconds. Therefore the valves are fitted with a safety release button that must be pushed down and held while the valve is being turned. Kennedy wasn't committing suicide so who turned the valve off? The non-existent flight instructor?
Why Would George Bush Snr Want JFK Jr Dead?
  • JFK Jr had been was on a mission to expose the truth around his father's murder. But he was playing the long game. The mainstream media was controlled by the cabal that were responsible for the conspiracy and cover up around JFK's death and his son wanted to make sure his discovery wouldn't get covered up again.
  • The magazine. JFK Jr could have named his magazine literally anything in the world. Why did he name it 'George'? Launched in 1995, he named it as a veiled threat. A promise of things to come. He knew who had orchestrated his father's assassination and he was going to use his magazine to expose the truth as soon as he had concrete proof.
The CIA Connection
  • George H W Bush was a senior member of the CIA in 1963. He has denied his involvement with the agency prior to his appointment as Head in 1976, but the amount of circumstantial evidence and facts assembled around his personal life prove otherwise.
  • Bush and his wife Barbara lived in Houston where he ran an oil drilling business named Zapata Offshore Co—a CIA front company.
  • Bush Snr had been highly involved in planning the disastrous Bay of Pigs fiasco (coincidentally code-named Operation ZAPATA), the ill-fated attempt by a band of CIA funded Cuban exiles to invade Cuba and ultimately overthrow Castro.
  • E Howard Hunt was one of the CIA funded, Miami-based, anti-Castro terrorist and assassin involved in the Bay of Pigs.
  • Five days after the JFK assassination J Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI wrote a memo titled "Assassination of President John F Kennedy" where he discusses the band of CIA funded Miami based anti-Castro Cuban terrorists and assassins. He names "George Bush of the CIA" as the apparent supervisor of the group.
The CIA Were In Dallas
  • Howard Hunt was identified as being one of three tramps arrested in Dealey Plaza, Dallas after the assassination of JFK. In 1978 Spotlight magazine published an article and photos saying he was involved in the assassination. Hunt sued....and lost.
  • Incredibly Bush could not recall for over 20 years any details of where he was when Kennedy was assassinated. This is just inconceivable for a politically aware 39 year old and even he knew it to be suspicious. He later developed a memory (that coincided with his alibi).
  • Bush was actually in Dallas on the day of the assassination. His cover was that he was speaking at an oil industry gathering.
  • On the day of the JFK assassination, Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig reported that he knew of twelve arrests made in Dealey Plaza. One was of a man coming out of the Dal-Tex Building (next to the very building where it is claimed Oswald fired from) who said he was "an independent oil operator from Houston, Texas" (George Bush's CIA cover). The arrested man was taken by Dallas police detectives but no mug shot, prints, interview or arrest records exist.
  • The FBI received a call from a George Bush (about an hour after the mystery oil-man was arrested) identifying himself as an independent oil businessman from Houston saying he he had heard in previous weeks of a man named James Parrott talking about killing the President. He gave his location as his home address and added that he would be in a hotel in Dallas that evening—he was establishing an alibi as he knew he had been spotted. James Parrott was actually a Republican party worker from Houston and was given an airtight alibi by another Republican worker. (Coincidentally, 30 years later the same James Parrott was working on the Bush v Clinton campaign.)
  • There is a photo taken in Dealey Plaza on November 22 showing George Bush (he had returned after being mistakenly arrested). He was clearly in the vicinity at the time and is shown in a cordoned off zone speaking with police. He was also photographed next to Ed Lansdale who it has now been ascertained, was famous for arranging political assassinations around the world. Lansdale and Bush's connection goes back to the secret 'Skull and Crossbones' society at Yale.
  • Lansdale was also photographed in the same frame as the three tramps (not forgetting that one of those is CIA operative Howard Hunt).

The Cover Up
  • A man named George de Mohrenschildt is an important witness in the Kennedy assassination—he was Lee Harvey Oswald's (the alleged assassin) best friend in Dallas and got Oswald the job at the School Book Depository (from where it was claimed Oswald fired the fateful shots). De Mohrenschildt was murdered on the day he was supposed to testify about the assassination and George Bush's name and company name were found in his address book.
  • The Warren Commission which was set up to investigate the assassination of JFK was eventually found to have altered the official location of the entry wound on JFK's back in support of their conclusion that the President was killed by a lone gunman.
  • One of the members of the commission was Gerald Ford, who became president when Richard Nixon was forced to retire after the Watergate break-in was linked to him. The leading Watergate burglar was Howard Hunt, and the reason for the break-in? To retrieve the photos of himself as a tramp at Dealey Plaza.
  • George H Bush went on to be appointed Director of the CIA in 1976, by President Ford, and was in a position to appoint old friends as his deputies, just as new investigative committees were formed probing the possible role of the CIA into the assassination plots to kill Fidel Castro, Martin Luther King and John F Kennedy. During the investigations, the CIA stonewalled, holding back documents and witnesses (coincidentally one of the witnesses pressured not to testify was found to have had pressure applied by one George W Bush Jr).

We've barely scratched the surface in getting to the bottom of the incestuous connections that have shaped American politics for over half a century.

John F Kennedy Junior was getting close to having enough proof from numerous sources to make the story of President Bush Sr's key involvement in the assassination of his father public. He was warned by his family that what he was doing was dangerous.

Were they right?

And, check out Popdust's previous Conspiracy Theory Thursday posts here!

Conspiracy Theory JFK Jr