Without any warning, music icon Bob Dylan released a 17-minute-track titled "Murder Most Foul." The track narrates and makes references to the infamous assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy on November 22, 1963, while riding a presidential motorcade passing through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.
While the entire song is dotted with names (Oswald, Ruby, Wolfman) and places (Grassy Knoll and Dealey Plaza), "Murder Most Foul" also contains several musical references, which would otherwise pass through the heads of the younger generation. To help you navigate this maze that is the narrative of "Murder Most Foul", here are some of the references found throughout the song.
The first verse in the song is but a seemingly straightforward retelling of the JFK assassination, likening the former president to a cowboy "a-ridin' high/ Good day to be livin' and a good day to die."
Dylan incites doubt to the official government accounts of the event, calling it the "greatest magic trick ever under the sun/Perfectly executed, skillfully done."
It opens with a couplet similar to the lullaby "Hush, Little Baby" before mentioning English band The Beatles and their U.S. breakthrough hit "I Want To Hold Your Hand." The Fab Four landed at the then-recently-renamed JFK international airport in February 1964.
"Ferry 'cross the Mersey" is a 1964 song by Gerry and the Pacemakers, referring to the river in Liverpool, The Beatles' hometown.
The third verse opens with two singles from English rock band, The Who, "Tommy Can You Hear Me" and "The Acid Queen", both coming from the 1969 rock opera "Tommy." Specifically, "The Acid Queen" refers to LSD, the drug increasingly popular by the end of the decade. Its placement in the third verse seems to mark the change from the 60s to the 70s and sets the JFK incident in a trippy, surreal mood.
Other songs mentioned in this verse, weirdly enough, are from the late 1950s to early 60s like The Everly Brothers' "Wake Up Little Susie" and Larry Williams' "Dizzy, Miss Lizzy" released in 1957 and 1958, respectively.
Halfway through the verse, Dylan sings, "Play me that 'Only the Good Die Young." While it is a title for a 1977 Billy Joel song, it also apparently refers to JFK, who is the youngest U.S. President to die in office at 46.
He also sings "Play Etta James, too, play "I'd Rather Go Blind", referring to the 1968 soul and blues classic. Dylan also mentions blues legends Eddie Jones, better known as Guitar Slim, and John Lee Hooker.
This part starts with a reference to "Please Don't Let Me Be Understood", first recorded by Nina Simone and later on by The Animals. "Murder Most Foul" then calls The Eagles members Don Henley and Glenn Frey before referring to their hit "Take It To The Limit."
Another interesting reference in this verse is what appears to be an example of repetition and alliteration. "Play 'Mystery Train' for Mr. Mystery" actually refers to two different acts: "Mystery Train" being the blues single first recorded by Junior Parker before Elvis Presley; "Mister Mystery" was among the monikers used by Sun Ra, the eclectic and Avant-garde jazz musician at the front of The Arkestra.
The rest of the last verse hops around various music legends and their hits, from the 1865 march by Henry Clay Work "Marching Through Georgia," to the 1934 "Anything Goes," to Nat King Cole's 1948 "Nature Boy."