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Bob Dylan’s Murder Most Foul: The Words of the Prophet Are Written on the Internet Walls

Released yesterday by America’s only living Nobel-Prize poet and sometimes prophet. Saying something…. something… about the need to beware of history not repeating but rhyming.

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 thirty-six hours past Judgment Day
Wolfman Jack, he’s speaking in tongues
He’s going on and on at the top of his lungs
Play me a song, Mr. Wolfman Jack
Play it for me in my long Cadillac
Play me that “Only the Good Die Young”
Take me to the place Tom Dooley was hung
Play “St. James Infirmary” and the Court of King James
If you want to remember, you better write down the names

Bob Dylan releases 17-minute song about JFK assassination

Against a minimal bed of violin, piano and light percussion, Dylan frequently references or riffs on 1960s events, catchphrases or titles, with lines that include: “The Beatles are coming, they’e gonna hold your hand” (the arrival of the Fab Four in America in early 1964 is regarded by some as a tonic to the lingering depression from the assassination); “ferry cross the Mersey and go for the throat” (only part of which is a nod to Gerry and the Pacemakers); “Tommy can you hear me, I’m the Acid Queen,” and “I’m going to Woodstock, it’s the Aquarian age / Then I’ll go to Altamont and stand near the stage.”

When it comes to the actual assassination, Dylan doesn’t skimp on the details: “They blew off his head while he was still in the car,” he sings in the first stanza. Later on, he traces the car’s frantic exit away from Dealey Plaza in Dallas, even taking the first-person point of view of the deceased Kennedy: “Riding in the backseat next to my wife / And it’s straight on into the afterlife / I’m leaning to the left I got my head in her lap…” He gets specific about details following the death, too — like “Johnson sworn in at 2:38.”

In the song’s view, the killing of JFK, “right there in front of everyone’s eyes,” is the “greatest magic trick” — and one he presumably thinks has some relevance in 2020.

[Verse 1]
It was 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
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
Shot down like a dog in broad daylight
Was a matter of timing and the timing was right
You got unpaid debts, we’ve come to collect
We’re gonna kill you with hatred, without any respect
We’ll mock you and shock you and we’ll put it in your face
We’ve already got someone here to take your place
The day 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
Greatest magic trick ever under the sun
Perfectly executed, skillfully done
Wolfman, oh wolfman, oh wolfman howl
Rub-a-dub-dub, it’s a murder most foul

[Verse 2]
Hush, little children, you’ll understand
The Beatles are comin’, they’re gonna hold your hand
Slide down the banister, 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 goin’ to Woodstock, it’s the Aquarian Age
Then I’ll go to Altamont and sit near the stage
Put your head out the window, let the good times roll
There’s a party going on behind the Grassy Knoll
Stack up the bricks, pour the cement
Don’t say Dallas don’t love you, Mr. President
Put your foot in the tank and then step on the gas
Try to make it to the triple underpass
Blackface singer, whiteface clown
Better not show your faces after the sun goes down
Up in the red light district, they’ve got cop on the beat
Living in a nightmare on Elm Street
When you’re down on Deep Ellum, put your money in your shoe
Don’t ask what your country can do for you
Cash on the ballot, money to burn
Dealey Plaza, make a left-hand turn
I’m going down to the crossroads, gonna flag a ride
The place where faith, hope, and charity lie
Shoot him while he runs, boy, shoot him while you can
See if you can shoot the invisible man
Goodbye, Charlie! Goodbye, Uncle Sam!
Frankly, Miss Scarlett, I don’t give a damn
What is the truth, and where did it go?
Ask Oswald and Ruby, they oughta know
“Shut your mouth,” said a wise old owl
Business is business, and it’s a murder most foul

[Verse 3]
Tommy, can you hear me? I’m the Acid Queen
I’m riding in a long, black Lincoln limousine
Ridin’ in the backseat next to my wife
Headed straight on in to the afterlife
I’m leaning to the left, I got my head in her lap
Hold on, I’ve been led into some kind of a trap
Where we ask no quarter, and no quarter do we give
We’re right down the street, from the street where you live
They mutilated his body and they took out his brain
What more could they do? They piled on the pain
But his soul was not there where it was supposed to be at
For the last fifty years they’ve been searchin’ for that
Freedom, oh freedom, freedom over me
I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free
Send me some lovin’, then tell me no lie
Throw the gun in the gutter and walk on by
Wake up, little Susie, let’s go for a drive
Cross the Trinity River, let’s keep hope alive
Turn the radio on, don’t touch the dials
Parkland hospital, only six more miles
You got me dizzy, Miss Lizzy, you filled me with lead
That magic bullet of yours has gone to my head
I’m just a patsy like Patsy Cline
Never shot anyone from in front or behind
I’ve blood in my eye, got blood in my ear
I’m never gonna make it to the new frontier
Zapruder’s film I seen night before
Seen it thirty-three times, maybe more
It’s vile and deceitful, it’s cruel and it’s mean
Ugliest thing that you ever have seen
They killed him once and they killed him twice
Killed him like a human sacrifice
The day that they killed him, someone said to me, “Son
The age of the Antichrist has just only begun”
Air Force One comin’ in through the gate
Johnson sworn in at 2:38
Let me know when you decide to throw in the towel
It is what it is, and it’s murder most foul

[Verse 4]
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 thirty-six hours past Judgment Day
Wolfman Jack, he’s speaking in tongues
He’s going on and on at the top of his lungs
Play me a song, Mr. Wolfman Jack
Play it for me in my long Cadillac
Play me that “Only the Good Die Young”
Take me to the place Tom Dooley was hung
Play “St. James Infirmary” and the Court of King James
If you want to remember, you better write down the names
Play Etta James, too, play “I’d Rather Go Blind”
Play it for the man with the telepathic mind
Play John Lee Hooker, play “Scratch My Back”
Play it for that strip club owner named Jack
Guitar Slim going down slow
Play it for me and for Marilyn Monroe

[Verse 5]
Play “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”
Play it for the First Lady, she ain’t feeling any good
Play Don Henley, play Glenn Frey
Take it to the limit and let it go by
Play it for Carl Wilson, too
Looking far, far away down Gower Avenue
Play tragedy, play “Twilight Time”
Take me back to Tulsa to the scene of the crime
Play another one and “Another One Bites the Dust”
Play “The Old Rugged Cross” and “In God We Trust”
Ride the pink horse down that long, lonesome road
Stand there and wait for his head to explode
Play “Mystery Train” for Mr. Mystery
The man who fell down dead like a rootless tree
Play it for the reverend, play it for the pastor
Play it for the dog that got no master
Play Oscar Peterson, play Stan Getz
Play “Blue Sky,” play Dickey Betts
Play Art Pepper, Thelonious Monk
Charlie Parker and all that junk
All that junk and “All That Jazz”
Play something for the Birdman of Alcatraz
Play Buster Keaton, play Harold Lloyd
Play Bugsy Siegel, play Pretty Boy Floyd
Play the numbers, play the odds
Play “Cry Me A River” for the Lord of the gods
Play Number nine, play Number six
Play it for Lindsey and Stevie Nicks
Play Nat King Cole, play “Nature Boy”
Play “Down In The Boondocks” for Terry Malloy
Play “It Happened One Night” and “One Night of Sin”
There’s twelve million souls that are listening in
Play “Merchant of Venice”, play “Merchants of Death”
Play “Stella by Starlight” for Lady Macbeth
Don’t worry, Mr. President, help’s on the way
Your brothers are comin’, there’ll be hell to pay
Brothers? What brothers? What’s this about hell?
Tell them, “We’re waiting, keep coming,” we’ll get them as well
Love Field is where his plane touched down
But it never did get back up off the ground
Was a hard act to follow, second to none
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 his grave
Play Jelly Roll Morton, play “Lucille”
Play “Deep In a Dream”, and play “Driving Wheel”
Play “Moonlight Sonata” in F-sharp
And “A Key to the Highway” for the king on the harp
Play “Marching Through Georgia” and “Dumbarton’s Drums”
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”

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kevin in PA March 28, 2020, 8:30 AM

    ‘the “greatest magic trick” — and one he presumably thinks has some relevance in 2020.’

    With respect to the notion of relevance in 2020 — Has anyone else had the creepy feeling that the Deep State could off this president (DJT) as a way of maintaining their hold on power?

    It is a thought that has invaded my thinking for several months.

  • Vanderleun March 28, 2020, 8:49 AM

    Kevin, I think this song, in its usual oblique Dylan manner, is saying that something similar has invaded Dylan’s thinking.

  • anne March 28, 2020, 9:51 AM

    Of course they could, but I think the “Russian conspiracy” and their role– the impeachment and their role have made it a lot more difficult to cover up. This time around WE would all know wouldn’t we? And, that in itself would destroy their authority and the ultimate success of the mission.

    I believe this coronavirus event will be a perturbation that causes change and I fear that the government designed economic solutions will be designed by people with sinister intent to preserve the deep state. Hard for me to believe that Pelosi and her mobsters will walk away from this opportunity with clean hands.

  • Fluella De Vil March 28, 2020, 10:32 AM

    The JFK assasination
    The Corona Virus Pandemic…
    Favorite Dylan song for the times.

  • Kevin in PA March 28, 2020, 10:34 AM

    Thanks for your input. You are clearly far better read than I am….it was just something that has been in my consciousness for a while.
    After hearing this new cut for the first time last night, I just picked up this vibe and wanted to know what Dylan (whom I consider the Master Poet of our generation) was saying / thinking.
    And, yes, why now?

    As far as I can see, FBI, CIA, NSA, ATF et.al. have done a fine job of destroying their authority and credibility already. Not to worry, they shamelessly continue to speak of “protecting the American people” and other such tripe. The great tragedy in that is many Americans will swallow it.

    Absolutely agree with you on the matter of the economic “solutions” will be worse than the disease.
    We will look back at this event as a time of unimaginable change (and likely not for the better). Things will be referenced in the context of – Before the Pandemic – vs- After the Pandemic…in many ways.

  • Jack March 28, 2020, 11:33 AM

    Anne, I don’t believe for a second that Pelosi or Sanders or any other of these godless creeps will walk away with their hands clean. Eternity awaits all of us and these thugs, along with the Norks, the Chinese and every other evil minded human devil will wish to God they had never been born. A millstone awaits just as surely as the clock ticks toward their final breaths.

    This horrible pandemic will change the entire world and the only thing any right minded person can do is prepare mentally and spiritually for the drama and physically for self protection. If anyone ever comes for you you should be skilled and prepared to turn the other cheek only after you have removed theirs.

  • Casey Klahn March 28, 2020, 11:51 AM

    Dylan hits the nail on the head, as far as the form goes. His shitty voice is now extra shitty, but he has tailored the tune, the instrumentation, the words and the melody just so, and it is right for his vocal quirks. Essentially he writes anthems.

    Content? hmmmm. He indulges in direct nostalgia for JFK and the time when he was hungry but striking like so much chain lightning. He was incandescent; JFK was kilt. Same moment in history. Dylan is still in history, but he isn’t the leading edge of the culture in the same way. Never will be again, except if you zoom out a couple hundred miles and understand the whole of our times. ‘da fuk do I know about out actual times? I know for sure the virus is a tune, and the content of our song is something else. I can’t look away from our train wreck of a year, but somehow I feel the news has nothing of substance to offer us right now.

    Trump is the president; Kennedy got shot. It is a Nexus. Anne has something in her comment – what is the center of gravity vis: the deep state and the creeps whose hands are on the levers of power? Trump is at odds with them, but we are very keenly aware of their shitshow and nothavin much of it.

    I figured something out one time, and it made me smh. When Mussolini went to Como, his vaunted SS guard took one step back at just the right moment and BM got more bulletrain than Bonnie and Clyde did. How loyal are our secret service people? Just thinking out loud.

    Is there a sequence that goes: 2A rally in Virginia /ff/ total lockdown ? I notice the Chinese are rioting and that sh!t is critical mass over there.

    I don’t like thinking anymore.

  • Chris March 28, 2020, 12:20 PM

    Oblique. Good one.
    I’ve been into everything music and instrumental forever. Help me as I’ve never enjoyed dYlAn.
    WhAt Am I mIsSiNg. I’ve done as many drugs and acruments the last 53 yrs as yous guys and gals.
    WTF over…

  • jwm March 28, 2020, 1:37 PM

    I put up a “Thoughts on the Morning” post on my local Next Door site, and began it with this:
    “Depending on where you look the news is either grim, or depressing. The television networks continue a drumbeat of despair, and blame, and I curse them for it. They are no friend to any of us.”
    Here are two of the responses:

    “I for one am grateful for the TV news to keep me in informed. I guess its just not for everyone, glad you’re enjoying your carefree days.”

    “I too believe most of the media, the responsible media anyway, are doing a great job of keeping the public informed. I appreciate everything they and all the front line people out there are doing. They aren’t able to shelter in place like me and others because they have to be out there. Putting themselves and their loved ones at great risk. Thank you to all of them. ❤”

    I didn’t bother with the clown who picked a fight, and immediately contradicted himself, by agreeing with what I had written. But he was an intelligent Econ Teacher who watched TV intelligently, and made smart decisions because he was intelligent. And so he baited me into trying to argue economics. It’s a typical troll tactic to try to start an argument, and immediately drag it into the troll’s little area of “expertise”. I let him have it, but truth to tell I hate arguing on the internet. That shit died with LGF.
    There are those who can see, and those who are terminally ‘woke’. I have a brother who would break his NYC quarantine and dance in the streets if Orange Man got whacked. We don’t talk.
    But more to the point, this song is one of those pieces that hit me behind the navel. Sort of like having your life flash before your eyes in the last moment before it all goes dark. Like swallowing an ice cube.
    Does the whole game end with this bizarre virus shitshow? Do we get a re-run of Happy Days, only without Conelrad? Maybe they’ll install 5G, and have everyone mandated to carry around their own private telescreen. Just like China.


  • ghostsniper March 28, 2020, 5:15 PM

    @Chris, you may be reading too much into it. I learned Dylan one drunk night in 1976, I think, and it was Tangled Up in Blue. It’s not about the voice or even the music, as those things are distractors. It is the story within the words, some call it poetry. Dylan roughs out a story, then figures out the math, then makes it rhyme, sometimes weerdly. After all that he makes it work with a guitar and harmonica. I believe he is more a songwriter than a song singer as many people have used his songs. FWIW the same is true with Willie Nelson. I never understood how that guy could sell his music, then I discovered he started out as a song writer and many people have sung his songs, mostly the ones you didn’t know he wrote. Yes, there is a thesaurus for songwriters and I used to have one.

  • robehr orinsky March 28, 2020, 5:21 PM

    The song is gifted and requires “interpretation’ that also must be inspired . Yes , Dylan has prophetically announced the assassination of 45 . The question is will the players have food,fuel,and electricity after they commit the act . I’m thinking the III percent will balloon to probably 20% and frisky times are coming . But I don’t prophecy . I only interpret . Mostly .

  • Sam L. March 29, 2020, 7:44 AM

    Not a Dylan fan. Don’t care.

  • Fluella De Vil March 29, 2020, 9:22 AM

    Gotcher predictive programming rightcheer, if you’re into that sort of thing. 🎵🎶Twilight Zone theme 🎵🎶
    “Their mission is simple: Find a cure. Stop the virus. Save the world. When a global pandemic wipes out eighty percent of the planet’s population, the crew of a lone naval destroyer must find a way to pull humanity from the brink of extinction.” The President and Vice President die and the Speaker of the House ascends to the Presidency.

  • Chris March 29, 2020, 12:26 PM

    Thanks for those thoughts! Haven’t looked at it that way.

  • Gnawbone Jack March 30, 2020, 2:47 AM

    The times they are a-changin’
    Come writers and critics, who prophesize with your pen
    And keep your eyes wide, the chance won’t come again
    And don’t speak too soon, for the wheel’s still in spin
    And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’

  • Christian March 30, 2020, 8:49 AM

    I’m older than I thought.

  • Dave J March 31, 2020, 11:57 AM

    From where I sit, when the PRC, DNC and Media elites all have the same talking points it is more than just time to turn off your TV.

  • pbird March 31, 2020, 1:17 PM

    Oh I get it. Its a warning about irrevocable change.
    I’m sure going to miss him when he’s gone.