Bob Dylan – Murder Most Foul | Lyrics Meaning & Song Review
The maestro of music, Bob Dylan himself made a return in 2020 with a brand new song; “Murder Most Foul.” The song will be significant for several reasons. This is Bob Dylan’s first original release since 2012. It is also his longest song yet, clocking at a staggering 16 minutes and 55-seconds! Yes, you read that right.
The song title “Murder Most Foul” is derived from Shakespear’s great work ‘Hamlet.’ It is no coincidence that the assassinated king (Hamlet’s father) mutters these words. This song by Bob Dylan is a tribute to the late American President John F. Kennedy who was assassinated while parading the streets.
Releasing the song, Bob Dylan left a note to his fans; “Greetings to my fans and followers with gratitude for all your support and loyalty across the years. 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.”
Listen to “Murder Most Foul” by Bob Dylan
“Murder Most Foul” Lyrics Meaning & Song Review
The 17-minute anthem details the events surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the cultural impact it had. The lyrics also mention many references to people, places, and events throughout the years.
In the first verse of the song, Bob Dylan goes into very graphic and explicit details of the assassination of John F. Kennedy in broad daylight. The singer imagines how Kennedy must have felt riding in that parade, feeling on top of the world. But little did he know that he was being driven to his own slaughterhouse. “Shot down like a dog in broad daylight,” is Bob Dylan’s conclusion of one of the darkest days in United States history.
Bob Dylan also mentions the ‘Magic Bullet‘ that killed President Kennedy–a reference to how impossible the trajectory of the bullet that hit the president was. This lead to many theories speculating that there was more than one gunman involved in this assassination. He calls it the “greatest magic trick.”
Dylan also mentions how heartless politics can be. There was no grudge against John F. Kennedy personally. This was most likely a political influence. Because it is just a matter of electing a new president once Kennedy is taken out. And hence, it becomes a murder of the most foul nature!
In this verse, Bob Dylan namedrops many songs and movies and people. A few notable mentions are The Beatles and their hit track “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Ferry Cross the Mersey” by Gerry and The Pacemakers band, “Good Times Roll” by The Cars, Grassy Knoll is a small hill near where Kennedy was killed, the alleged last words heard by Kennedy “Mr. President you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you” by Texas First Lady, Elm Street on which Kennedy was killed and the reference to the movie ‘Nightmare on Elm Street,’ Dealey Plaza in front of which the assassination took place, and Oswald and Ruby referencing to Lee Harvey Oswald, the man identified as the killer, and Jack Ruby who murdered Lee Harvey Oswald before he was put to trial. So the truth surrounding the murder of JFK will remain a mystery forever.
“Murder Most Foul” return to the murder scene and details more on this unfortunate incident. Bob Dylan also pokes at the mystery of John F. Kennedy’s brain being missing from The National Archives in 1966.
“Wake up, little Susie” is a song by the Everly Brothers from 1957. “Dizzy, Miss Lizzy” is a 1958 song by Larry Williams. Patsy Cline a famous American singer is also namedropped cleverly in the lyrics. “I’m just a patsy” is part of the plead of innocence by Lee Harvey Oswald.
‘Zapruder film’ is a recording by Abraham Zapruder who recorded the parade of John F. Kennedy and managed to capture the murder on tape. Below is the tape.
With this, Bob Dylan pronounces the beginning of the age of Antichrist, because this act was of the most foul in nature.
Verse 4 & 5
While Bob Dylan pays home to late radio host Wolfman Jack, he invites Wolfman to play a series of songs. Each line on this verse references to either a song or an artist prominent in the history of music.
Several notable songs and artists are mentioned below;
- Tom Jones – What’s New Pussycat?
- Billy Joel – Only the Good Die Young
- the song ‘Tom Dooley’
- ‘St. James Infirmary’ song
- Etta James – I’d Rather Go Blind
- ‘Scratch My Back’ song
- Marilyn Monroe
- The Animals – Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
- The Eagles – Take It to the Limit
- Queen – Another One Bites the Dust
- ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ hymn
- Oscar Peterson, a Canadian Jazz pianist
- Dickey Betts – Blue Sky
- Bugsy Siegel, an American mobster
- Ella Fitzgerald – Cry Me a River
- Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks
- Nat King Cole – Nature Boy
- Joe South – Down In The Boondocks
- ‘It Happened One Night,’ 1934 movie
- Elvis Presley – One Night of Sin
- ‘Merchant of Venice’ play by Shakespear
- Frank Sinatra – Stella by Starlight
- Misty – 1961 movie
- Anything Goes – 1934 musical
- Old Devil Moon song
- Nina Simone – Memphis in June
- The Ordinary Boys – Lonely At the Top
- Lonely Are the Brave – 1962 movie
- Little Richard – Lucille
- ‘Deep in a Dream’ written by Jimmy Van Heusen
- Beethoven – Moonlight Sonata
- ‘Key to the Highway’
- Henry Clay – Marching Through Georgia
- ‘Dumbarton’s Drums’ – a traditional Scottish song
- Walter Donaldson – Love Me Or Leave Me
- ‘Blood-Stained Banner’ – a reference to the confederate flag of America
So if you are stuck at home in quarantine due to Coronavirus AKA COVID-19, Bob Dylan just gave you a list of classic songs and movies and novels. Dig in.
Let us know what you think about this epic poem “Murder Most Foul” by Bob Dylan in the comments below.
Check out the complete lyrics and further song meaning on Genius.