Murder Most Foul, by Bob Dylan

Perhaps no historical event had more influence on early baby boomers (those born, let’s say, between 1946 and 1955) than the tragic and brutal assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas in November 1963.  And no doubt the most influential cultural icon for these same boomers than poet/folk-rock singer Bob Dylan.  His first album, The Freewheeling’ Bob Dylan, was released in 1963, when the oldest of us were about to head off to college.  Containing classics like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” most of our copies of this vinyl LP were worn out by the time we graduated from college.  (Unlike digital music, analog LP’s would eventual deteriorate from careless over-use). 

After 39 studio albums, 94 singles, and 12 live albums, his 40th studio album, his first in 8 years,  was released June 19. The Album,

Rough and Rowdy Ways,   includes a “somber 17-minute ballad that’s eerily fitting for our current moment” according to Rolling Stone‘s review.  We are a generation that often wrapped it’s collective head around social and political crises with help of the music we got from our rock gurus.  “Murder Most Foul” may well be a Dylan song we need right now.  Dylan once again crystalizes in poetry how a generation dealt with perhaps the first widespread trauma of it’s collective life.

Murder Most Foul
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
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 gotta pay 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



Songwriters: Bob Dylan
Murder Most Foul lyrics © Audiam, In


  • Do you remember where you were when you learned President Kennedy had been assassinated? I was in Tokyo, Japan, where I was a junior at the American School in Japan. I will forever be warmed by the memory of literally scores of Japanese approaching me on the subways or in the streets to offer their deeply felt condolences. He and the US were quite widely loved in 1963.

  • I found Murder Most Foul very moving. I listened to it lying in bed in the dark. The Nobel committee made a wise choice.

    I liked the way Dylan recounts the almost 60 years since the assassination through song but returns to the assassination again and again, as if he can’t forget or ignore its continuing effects. I think it was the most decisive political event of my lifetime.

    A quibble: I believe Dylan’s first album was simply called “Bob Dylan.” It had “Baby Let Me Follow You Down”on it.

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