Boredom is a constant feeling many of us are dealing with during this quarantine season, but this nearly 17 minute Bob Dylan track, “Murder Most Foul,” can help pass the time.
It’s evident, from this new piece, that the master of songwriting hasn’t lost his touch after all these years.
Detailing the story surrounding President John F. Kennedy’s murder, Dylan sings about the day in “November ‘63” when President Kennedy was shot and Vice President Johnson was sworn into office. Based on the cover art and the opening verses alone, you might think this song is solely about the infamous murder.
However, when you take a closer look into the track’s lyrics, you’ll realize that this isn’t just a song about President Kennedy’s death, but a song of togetherness. In attempt to harken the spirit of the nation, Dylan employs rich references to various sectors of American pop culture throughout the decades. He mentions many music artists in his meandering verses, describing American life in its fullest, some of which include the Beatles, the Who, Queen, Billy Joel, Joni Mitchel, the Grateful Dead, Etta James, and Louis Armstrong.
“Murder Most Foul” is very reminiscent of Don Mclean’s song “American Pie.” Mclean takes the event of “the day that music died” to paint a story filled with colorful descriptions of life throughout the twentieth-century. Dylan does the same thing in this new single.
There’s no doubt in my mind why I believe Bob Dylan released this song in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as the nation was in grief and panic when one of the most beloved presidents was murdered, we’re currently experiencing another hardship in our nation’s history. In my eyes, through this song, Bob Dylan is trying to communicate that we will get through this difficult time when we come together as one.
I encourage everyone to give this song a listen!
To further note, NPR recently released a playlist of the 70+ songs Dylan references in “Murder Most Foul.”
Alex Cambra is a Cal Poly History freshman and KCPR staff member. Image credit to Bob Dylan.