The Kabbalah of Bob Dylan’s ‘Murder Most Foul’

by Seth Rogovoy

 

Bob Dylan’s ‘Murder Most Foul‘, a newly released, 17-minute ballad about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, is not only a work of epic genius – formally, structurally, and otherwise – but, like the Talmud itself, it veritably demands a close reading in order to comprehend fully what the Nobel Prize-winner hath wrought.

Dylan’s song-poem is a surreal fever-dream that unfolds through the voices of multiple narrators, including a third-person storyteller, JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald, the unnamed and unknown conspirators behind the assassination, and Bob Dylan. The form perfectly suits the content by capturing the dizzying madness of that “dark day in Dallas, November ’63” and its puzzling aftermath. The spoken-word piece is sprinkled with cultural signposts, political history, film and song titles, and literary allusions (beginning with the title, a quote from “Hamlet”). This is no mere “We Didn’t Start the Fire” sequel; rather, it is Dylan’s “The Waste Land,” substituting November for April….

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