Murder Most Foul
The recent George Floyd killing was a Murder Most Foul.
My mind is spinning. People seem to want to argue, but NOBODY thinks Floyd’s knee-to-the-neck murder was justified or correct. NOBODY.
In the 1st week of April 2020, a song was released that proved to be an eerie American harbinger of our inevitable dystopia. Bob Dylan, released “Murder Most Foul,” a 17-minute epic ballad seemingly about the assassination of J.F.K. When you skim it, that’s what you get. If you read deeper, you may find more in the song.
This was the 1st original song that Dylan has put out in 8 years, so it was a big deal for us fans, but it was not anything we could have expected. If you haven’t listened to it yet, here it is.
He had recorded this drone half sing/half talk weird magnum opus years earlier and never released it, but today it haunts listeners, retelling the day that the ‘age of the anti-Christ has just only begun’.
On April 3rd, 2020, this song had a sort of captive audience as we were all doing #stayhome in isolation. And with ears across the planet held hostage, this song enigma was catapulted to Bob Dylan’s very first #1 hit. (Reminder: Bob Dylan has been at this for 60 years and you ALL KNOW at least 5 of his songs. **A number 1 song in 2020 needs to be noted**).
The novel coronavirus — like the 1963 president assassination and today the George Floyd murder — have a strikingly similar media ‘captive audience’.
We are ALL watching.
With themes of doom and possible redemption, the song slowly unfolds like a sentimental dirge that uses the mystique of the JFK tragedy to point to something bigger (and more sinister) today. Nearing the end of May, the virus, the killing, the song had millions of us — during the scariest pandemic riot times — listening to the same story from our homes — as if we were being programmed.
The song starts with President Kennedy killed in his car in Dallas, but that car transfixed into a culture time machine that drives us through the decades and icons of each era since. It may seem like a sloppy stream-of-consciousness, but I don’t think he selected these icons by accident.
“Turn the radio on; don’t touch the dials,” he asks Wolfman Jack to play and says Wolfman is “Speaking in Tongues” through Etta James, The Animals, Queen, Nina Simone, the Eagles, the Beach Boys, Elvis, Oscar Peterson, the Allman Brothers, Monk and Bird, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, Nat King Cole, Randy Newman, Jelly Roll Morton, Little Richard….
“The Beatles are comin’; they’re gonna hold your hand.” That single was to arrive in the US one month after Kennedy’s death.
Do NOT listen to Murder Most Foul too fast or flippantly.
Dylan has JFK’s car-culture time machine cruising past societal milestones that all had one thing in common: they were ALL BOURNE out of historical and cultural unrest. Unrest like that happening in Dylan’s very own Minnesota tonight. May 2020.
“I’m going to Woodstock, it’s the Aquarian Age. Then I’ll go over to Altamont and sit near the stage” is the kind of biting contradiction that Dylan does so well.
Bob Dylan has nothing definitive to say about George Floyd or Kennedy or Coronavirus, but the song says that Zapruder’s film footage of the JFK killing is “the ugliest thing that you ever have seen” — much like the knee-to-the-neck murder video we’ve all watched over the last 3 days. Here are some lines from Murder Most Foul:
“I said the soul of a nation been torn away. And it’s beginning to go into a slow decay”
Shot “Like a human sacrifice”
“Black-face singer white-face clown”.
“I’m going down to the crossroads, gonna flag a ride The place where faith, hope, and charity died
Shoot him while he runs, boy Shoot him while you can”
“Freedom, oh freedom Freedom above me I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free.”
The song somewhat painfully requires diligent listeners to look into the mirror of 250 years of American political and cultural history.
Murder Most Foul is either a feat of ultra-clairvoyance or an unhappy accident of fate. But either way, it makes you think.
What art, what movement, what cultural steps forward can this current injustice stimulate?