An essay about Bob Dylan’s bizarre hit “Murder Most Foul,” the lure of conspitorial narratives, shifts in generation thinking, and Dylan’s own career.
On November 22, 1963, Dylan was scheduled to play a concert in upstate New York. He was worried his recent opener “The Times They are a-Changin’,” with its lyrics of letting the weights of the old world sink in order to create a better one, would enrage the audience. But he played it for the sake of consistency, and to his disgust, the crowd loved it. “I couldn’t understand why they were clapping,” he told his biographer Anthony Scaduto, “or why I wrote that song even.”
Hagiographies of Kennedy often portray his assassination as the end of an Arthurian America, ushering in an era of race riots, senseless war, and parapolitical intrigues that Dylan calls “the age of the Antichrist.” The allusion to Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the song’s title, however, implies that through telling the story there may be some hope of redemption, or at least vengeance.