“Murder Most Foul”: My Translation of Bob Dylan’s New Song

I found “Murder Most Foul” intriguing. Its retelling of the assassination of JFK was provocative as it attributed it to Deep State forces. But the lack of melody was disappointing. It was also difficult to understand the connections between Dylan’s narrative and the over-long list of songs he centralized. It seemed mostly random and unconnected. Along with references to his story, my own “translation” tries to subtly connect as many of those song titles as I could to Dylan’s well-told tale. I’ve referenced “Only the Good Die Young,” “I’d Rather Go Blind,” “Scratch My Back,” “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” “Twilight Time,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” “In God We Trust,” “Cry Me A River,” “That Old Devil Moon,” “One Night of Sin,” “Misty,” “Anything Goes,” “Blue Sky,” “Deep in a Dream,” and “The Blood-Stained Banner.”

Near the Ides of last March
The Seer from Duluth
Sang a swan’s song
To all
About murder and truth.
He sang to a world
Sick and under arrest
In a globe-wide pandemic
And put to the test
By an earth in decay
In the Antichrist’s age
When faith, hope and love
Disappeared from the page
(Of our nation’s own book).
It all began
(He said)
On a Dallas dark day
In the blinding-bright sun
Which brought hell to pay
To an Aquarian Age
Shaped by spinning magicians
With a shot that all heard
But nobody listened.
They exploded the head,
They blew the brains out
Of the King JFK
(But we’re all left in doubt)
He was a sacrificed lamb
Put down like a dog
Mocked and shocked
By the killers
While spreading a fog
Yes, everyone watched
But few can recall
What our own eyes revealed
We saw nothing at all.
It was carefully planned
During nights filled with sin
And carefully timed  
With LBJ in
Standing prepared
To step forward and take
The place of late Claudius
At 2:38.
The message was sharp:
We forbid New Frontier
Segregation will stay
With everyone here
With ghettoes in ruins
Illumined at night
By red lights and crime
It’s all such a fright
Ruled by cops on the beat
To enforce
Elm Street’s nightmare
For the sake of elite
For the sake of what’s right for
Cash on the barrelhead
(After all, business is business).
We’ve seen this crime’s movie
Again and again
But frankly, Miss Scarlet,
We don’t give a damn
We’re distracted by Woodstocks
Beatles, acid and flags
We’re forbidden to ask
As if mouths filled with gags
Prevented owl’s questions
Beyond what we’re told
About Oswald and Ruby
We’re left out in the cold
With mouths firmly shut
With those questions so old
All left unanswered
(And subject to scold).
It’s all unfair to Jackie
And Marilyn too
It’s unfair to us
To me and to you
We’re blind by our choice
To back-scratchers all
Who refuse to take questions
Whenever we call.
They kill all the young
The brave and the good
They make us all fearful
That we’ll be misunderstood
At this twilight time
As rivers we cry
Watching our heroes
All bite dust and die
As we sing about crosses
And the God who’s a lie.
So, we’re all feeling misty
Lonely but brave
Under the old devil’s moon
As in Plato’s dank Cave
We wander in mystery
Where anything goes
We’re deep in a dream
When we’ll wake
No one knows.
We’re surrounded by darkness
Nightfall and death
Under a banner
That’s blood-stained
With nothing that's left
But music and jazz
And that prophet
In howl
Who shakes us to wake us
About murderS most foul.

Published by

Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

4 thoughts on ““Murder Most Foul”: My Translation of Bob Dylan’s New Song”

  1. Dylan’s song? The underlying theme is the hopelessness and lostness of all sensitive individuals today. Where have all our trusted values gone….?


      1. Poets don’t have to offer answers. Their cries from the heart are their gifts to us. What we do with those deep feelings is or business, or not.


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