“Murder Most Foul”: “…. play “Hello, Goodbye; …. play American Pie”

The Covid-19 virus is merely an opening act for the next pandemic:

Covet-20 is on it way, with those who covet authoritarian power and corporate largesse dispersing their delayed reaction viruses and time-lapse memes with hypnotically enhanced algorithms.

Meanwhile, self-imposed quarantines would be a lot easier to endure if radio stations would occasionally play two songs back-to-back:”Murder Most Foul” and “American Pie.” Bob Dylan’s influence on Don McLean was fairly obvious when McLean cranked out a song that began as a mournful tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and “The Big Boppe,” but turned by the second verse into a generational lament.

In “Murder Most Foul,” Dylan pays indirect tribute to McLean with a litany of famous and obscure songs that mark “the day the music died” in November, 1963. Less than 25% of the American pubic can remember where they were when they heard the news that JFK had been shot; it’s likely that less than 10% — and possibly less than 5% — can identify the cultural figures and references in Dylan’s song. If the assassination remains a blurred event:

“It happened so quickly, so quick, by surprise
Right there in front of everyone’s eyes
Greatest magic trick ever under the sun
Perfectly executed, skillfully done”

then the cauldron of popular culture is adroitly smudged by Dylan, too.

Maybe ten percent of the American population recognizes Wolfman Jack and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” but anyone betting the rent money that five percent of the American population can identify half of the following people must have a profound yearning to be served an eviction notice.

Etta James
Thelonius Monk
Oscar Peterson
Stan Getz
Dickey Betts
Art Pepper
Charlie Parker
Bud Powell

For that matter, how many can identify Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd? This kind of roll-call brings to mind Dylan’s early work as a collage lyricist. “Murder Most Foul” will not dislodge “Desolation Row” from the list of Dylan’s best songs, but he has done us the service of a playlist that no D.J. in the United States has ever featured on his or her show. The trick for millennials in assembling the complete playlist cited by Dylan will be to remember that lyrics to songs that aren’t mentioned by title are also in his song: “You make me dizzy, Miss Lizzy” and “Wake up, little Suzy.” If one were to compile a very quirky tape of songs, in fact, one would blend in the songs mentioned or alluded to in McLean’s song as well.

Post-Script: The title of Dylan’s song comes from a phrase uttered by the ghost of King Hamlet to his son, but the earliest significant use of Shakespeare in regards to JFK’s assassination was Barbara Garson’s play, “MacBird!”