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Bob Dylan song about JFK assassination


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Dylan's "Band" mate/drummer Levon Helm coincidentally weighs in on the JFK assassination himself in the film "The Shooter" starring Calvin Klein underwear model Marky Mark Wahlberg.

Thirty seconds into the following "Shooter" film clip see and hear raspy voiced Helm reference ...

"them boys on the grassy knoll? They were dead in three hours. Buried in the damned desert in unmarked graves out past Terlingua ( Texas.)"

Asked "You know this for a fact?"

Helm's eccentric weapons expert character says "Still got the shovel!"

hqdefault.jpg?sqp=-oaymwEZCNACELwBSFXyq4

 
 

 

Also, Dylan mentions front row seat at Altamont.

Could this possibly be a reference to the violence there, especially the brutal stabbing death of pistol pulling stage crasher Meredith Hunter by Hell's Angel stage security thug Allan Pissaro who was later found innocent of murder through self defense?

And even more likely the main "Gimme Shelter" lyric phrase ... "it's just a shot away" "It's just a shot away" ?

Gimme Shelter
Oh, a storm is threat'ning
My very life today
If I don't get some shelter
Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away
War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
War, children, it's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

 

 

Edited by Joe Bauer
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14 hours ago, Joseph McBride said:

When your down on Deep Ellum put your money in your shoes
Don’t ask what your country can do for you
Cash on the barrelhead, money to burn
Dealey Plaza, make a left-hand turn
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
See if you can shoot the invisible man
Goodbye, Charlie. Goodbye, Uncle Sam
Frankly, Miss Scarlett, I don’t give a damn

 

"Left-hand turn" (onto Elm St.) makes me think of how J. Edgar Hoover ordered his drivers to make no right

turns. Sounds like a joke but it wasn't.

McBride, you're probably better hooked up than most to do it: get Dylan an EdForum membership.  I'm sure James will permit him a pseudonym, such as his old fave, Blind Boy Grunt.

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8 hours ago, Denny Zartman said:

A few more random observations:

“Perfectly executed, skillfully done”

It’s a cliché that when someone is about to be executed, they are often asked if they have any last requests.

I believe the song could be interpreted as JFK dying on the way to the hospital, and these are his last requests, merged with Dylan’s own requests for songs in tribute to JFK and others. There’s a mention of the radio in the car, and urging someone not to touch the dial, a common saying in radio and TV.

The wolfman is evoked at the end of the first verse, I believe this is the only wolfman reference in which it’s not specifically Wolfman Jack. The later reference to the Invisible Man could make this first mention of the Wolfman is also a reference to a monster unleashed because of the JFK assassination.

The second verse introduces the sixties, the pop music angle, expertly blended in with jfk symbolism. Bannister, Ferrie, “go for the throat” I believe is a reference to JFK’s anterior neck wound.

“Then  I’ll go to Altamont and sit near the stage” I think this line is more than just a simple invoking of a  ‘60’s cultural event that bookends Woodstock. Dylan also seems to offer himself up as a sacrifice by placing himself in Meredith Hunter’s place.

Whiteface clown – a reference to Dylan’s own “whiteface” makeup?

“Going down to the crossroads, going to flag a ride - The place where faith hope and charity died” = hell

The invisible man – Obviously a Universal Studios monster that counted the Wolfman as one of his peers. This could also refer to someone in camouflage, since the next line invokes war.

 “Where we ask no quarter, and no quarter do we give” I love that little descending note when he sings “give.” I also like the long pause on “We’re right down the street… from the street where you live”. Very effective and affecting use of phrasing and space right there.

“Turn the radio on, don’t touch the dials” After this the perspective immediately switches from JFK, to Oswald, back to JFK, and then to Dylan himself in the next line about watching the Zapruder film.

“What’s new, pussycat? What’d I say?” Love his voice when he sings the line “What’d I say?”

Then when he starts making requests, really some brilliant writing. “Take me to the place Tom Dooley was hung” has such vulnerability to it. This is one of my favorite moments of the song.

St James Infirmary, King James, and Etta James. Very nice bringing the three together.

At this point Dylan begins relaxing the concept of requesting Wolfman Jack to play songs for him by asking for more modern songs as well as traditional gospel songs, things the Wolfman wouldn’t or couldn’t play.

Then Dylan relaxes the concept even further, requesting non-musical artists like Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd (both silent film stars) and then Bugsy Sigel and Pretty Boy Floyd (both gangsters). It’s possible that he’s urging these figures to play instead of asking music from them. Dylan also requests at least one movie "It Happened One Night."

“Play number 6” – Could be a reference to Jimi Hendrix’s song “If 6 Was 9” and/or the television show “The Prisoner”, a surreal ‘60’s TV show which featured political themes, heavy symbolic music in the final episodes, and a main character called Number Six.

“Don’t worry Mr. President, help’s on the way” Dylan sings this line in a higher voice that sounds very much like he did when he was young.

Then the ending, a very powerful series of requests, ending with double gut punch of “The Blood-Stained Banner” and “Murder Most Foul”. I’ll say it again - I think it’s a brilliant touch by Dylan to end by referencing the song that the listener is listening to. That’s a great meta moment and the perfect way to cap the song by taking it back to the beginning - “bringing it all back home” if you will.

So many ways to interpret so many of the lines.

"Play number 9", as in Revoulotion number 9?  Play it backwards, Paul is a dead man...???

The Beatles wanting to hold your hand made me think of a writer I believe named Tom Wolfe (?) in the mid 60's saying something along the lines of "The Beatles want to hold your hand, the Stones want to burn down your town."

Edited by Ron Bulman
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Dylan’s song echoes themes of sacrifice in poet Jeanie Dean’s JFK elegy book The Whole World Stopped and her singular annual November tribute in Milwaukee, WI to play and play JFK songs and poems lest we forget. Bless u all.

image.png.1ec4c08e58061cbb2d67544c61952e29.png

Edited by Jeanie Dean
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Dylan’s song echoes themes of sacrifice in poet Jeanie Dean’s JFK elegy book The Whole World Stopped and her singular annual November tribute in Milwaukee, WI to play and play JFK songs and poems lest we forget. Bless u all.

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image.png.33c410abe9f89aeee37302ba81dcebc1.png  I WOULD LIKE to Invite Dylan to play his new song at the Annual November JFK Tribute in November, that I host. Does anyone know how to contact Dylan?

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image.png.8e243b187ad6b2c644c476ba2f6007a7.pngimage.png.7d16e4ac7e8862b12891ba509270b59e.png The book cover of Jeanie Dean’s book, The Whole World Stopped with Phoenix Suvayas’ painting of a psychedelic Kennedy alludes to Milton Glaser’s iconic poster of Dylan greatest hits album.

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1 hour ago, David Andrews said:

McBride, you're probably better hooked up than most to do it: get Dylan an EdForum membership.  I'm sure James will permit him a pseudonym, such as his old fave, Blind Boy Grunt.

Or Robert Milkwood Thomas. 

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4 minutes ago, Jeanie Dean said:

image.png.33c410abe9f89aeee37302ba81dcebc1.png  I WOULD LIKE to Invite Dylan to play his new song at the Annual November JFK Tribute in November, that I host. Does anyone know how to contact Dylan?

I doubt Dylan would do anything more than producing this song.

He seems to be too private to share his JFK  feelings with others, imo.

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Nice to see Dylan's reference to the mutilation of JFK's body and the removal of his brain described as a fact rather than "Lifton's theory."  The truth will out, if we keep looking for it, but the confirmation bias keeps clouding the eyes.

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On 3/28/2020 at 12:52 PM, Denny Zartman said:

I'm cross posting this with the other thread Bob Dylan tackles the Kennedy assassination: Murder Most Foul

Bob Dylan's new song is a surprise and quite a work of art. There are many layers to dig into.

I like Dylan's jazz-like way of coming in off-beat, at times off with the music but never sounding incongruous with it. His singing is also noteworthy. I remember a performance from a decade ago that had me convinced he was done and that his voice was shot for good. There's only a few instances of raspyness here and there and I don't think they detract from the recording. Those instances are outnumbered by many pleasant moments where his voice sounds remarkably smooth. He has some really good phrasing. I really liked the subtle way the texture of his voice would change when assuming a character.

The instrumentation is really nice and restrained. Relaxing and slow without sounding sleepy or maudlin.

The lyrics and songwriting are something else. Some online review described it as "stream of consciousness". If that term implies a sort of aimlessness, then I don't agree. To me, the lyrics appear very carefully structured, and it is a credit to Dylan's musical genius that he is able to make it sound improvised. It is frankly amazing to me that he can hold a listener's attention for 17 minutes with a song that has no bridges, choruses, or hooks - just the title refrain and the imagery contained in the verses.

Denny,

      I used the term, "stream-of-historical-consciousness," (above) on this thread to describe Dylan's new opus.  It's not something that I read anywhere on line, but a term that I coined to describe a quality that I have observed over the years in Dylan's thought processes, speech, and writings-- e.g., in his remarkable Chronicles memoir and his 1985 Biograph interview by Cameron Crowe (which anticipated Martin Scorcese's No Direction Home documentary by 20 years.)

    In psychiatry, we would characterize Dylan's thought processes and speech as "circumstantial, with a kind of hypomanic logorrhea and "flight-of-ideas."  It's a trait that Bob Dylan shares with artists ranging from James Joyce and Dylan Thomas to Allen Ginsburg.

    And it's brilliant-- scintillating with profound sensibility and historical consciousness.  He has, obviously, studied and absorbed a lot of the quality research literature about JFK's assassination and related historical phenomena.

    As for his raspy voice, it has been a serious medical issue for at least 20 years.

    Dylan released his remarkable Love and Theft album in September of 2001-- and the great musical and literary merits of that anthology were obscured by the events of 9/11.

    When I first heard Love and Theft, I thought the songs were among the best that Dylan had ever written-- which is saying a lot-- but his vocal chords were shot by then.

    I bought the songbook and recorded the entire Love and Theft opus in my home studio-- because even I can sing better than Bob Dylan, at least in the 21st century!

    Here's one of my covers of a song from that album, about Dylan's tour of Mississippi with Pete Seeger during the Civil Rights era-- Mississippi.

https://www.soundclick.com/music/songInfo.cfm?songID=13466275

 

   

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3 hours ago, W. Niederhut said:

Denny,

      I used the term, "stream-of-historical-consciousness," (above) on this thread to describe Dylan's new opus.  It's not something that I read anywhere on line, but a term that I coined to describe a quality that I have observed over the years in Dylan's thought processes, speech, and writings-- e.g., in his remarkable Chronicles memoir and his 1985 Biograph interview by Cameron Crowe (which anticipated Martin Scorcese's No Direction Home documentary by 20 years.)

    In psychiatry, we would characterize Dylan's thought processes and speech as "circumstantial, with a kind of hypomanic logorrhea and "flight-of-ideas."  It's a trait that Bob Dylan shares with artists ranging from James Joyce and Dylan Thomas to Allen Ginsburg.

    And it's brilliant-- scintillating with profound sensibility and historical consciousness.  He has, obviously, studied and absorbed a lot of the quality research literature about JFK's assassination and related historical phenomena.

    As for his raspy voice, it has been a serious medical issue for at least 20 years.

    Dylan released his remarkable Love and Theft album in September of 2001-- and the great musical and literary merits of that anthology were obscured by the events of 9/11.

    When I first heard Love and Theft, I thought the songs were among the best that Dylan had ever written-- which is saying a lot-- but his vocal chords were shot by then.

    I bought the songbook and recorded the entire Love and Theft opus in my home studio-- because even I can sing better than Bob Dylan, at least in the 21st century!

    Here's one of my covers of a song from that album, about Dylan's tour of Mississippi with Pete Seeger during the Civil Rights era-- Mississippi.

https://www.soundclick.com/music/songInfo.cfm?songID=13466275

 

   

Tell us more about your group.

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