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Published on November 22nd, 2013 | by Juliette Jagger

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The 10 Best Songs About the JFK Assassination

Fifty years ago today, the death of JFK launched a bazillion conspiracy theories.  The event is also engrained in popular culture through books, TV, film and, of course, music.  Here’s your JFK Assassination Playlist.

1.  Steinski and Mass Media: “And the Motorcade Sped On”

If you’ve never heard this track from 1987, today would be an excellent day to give it a listen. Given all the unauthorized samples in this track–the opening chord from “A Hard Day’s Night” would have cost a fortune as would the drum bits from the Stones “Honky Tonk Woman”–it could never be made today.

There are a variety of mixes of this song out there–I have one on CD that emphasizes the Stones sample more and contains more sirens–but you’ll get this gist from this one.

 

2.  Pearl Jam:  “Brain of J”

Students of the JFK conspiracy know that the president’s brain soon went missing.  Rumours were that it was delivered to Bobby Kennedy in a steel bucket and then moved into a Raiders of the Lost Ark-like government archive  No one knows where it is.  This prompted Pearl Jam to write a song about it.

 

3.  Lou Reed: The Day John Kennedy Died

Lou was a student at Syracuse University watching a football game in a bar on Friday, November 22, 1963, when the news broke.  He later wrote about that experience in 1982.

 

4.  Rolling Stones:  Sympathy for the Devil

The Stones heard about the assassination as they were about to appear on a TV show called Go! A few years later, they incorporated the death of both Kennedys into the lyrics of the song.

 

5.  Tori Amos:  “Jackie’s Strength”

Tori wrote this song on a plane ride back from England after picking up a paperback on Jacqueline Kennedy. It appears on her Choirgirl Hotel album.

 

6.  Alexisonfire: “The Kennedy Curse”

A track from their 2002 debut record.

 

7.  Child Actor:  “Dealey Plaza”

The EP was called Second Shooter.  The whole thing is a JFK assissination album that also features tracks like “Jackie” and “Grassy Knoll.”

 

8.  The Fall:  Oswald Defense Lawyer

Mark E. Smith has speculates on the kind of trial Lee Harvey Oswald might have had had Jack Ruby not plugged him in the basement of the Dallas Police Department. This comes from 1988’s.

 

9.  Folksteady:  “The Most Important Clue!”

Folksteady has created an entire pop opera based on the assassination just in time for the 50th anniversary.

 

10.  Cowboy Junkies – “The Kennedy Suite”

Another brand new musical project based on the assassination. There’s also a stage production.

If you’re interested in going even deeper into JFK-related music, go here,


About the Author

Juliette Jagger is a rock and roll journalist, freelance writer, and the Editor-In-Chief of Toronto based music website, Anchor Shop. Her artist profiles, investigative features and live reviews have dealt with some of rock and pop’s biggest acts crossing the musical spectrum from Queens of The Stone Age to Beyoncé. Her work has appeared in Vice’s Noisey, The Huffington Post, Exclaim! and AUX amongst others.



8 Responses to The 10 Best Songs About the JFK Assassination

  1. Just found an entire album of blues songs, by almost unknown artists, about the assassination, called Can't Keep From Cyring, issued on LP shortly after it happened. Don't believe I've had this for close to 50 years! Best song is called "Sad Day in Texas" and it's by Otis Spann, Muddy Waters' pianist for many years… Have to say it, but this IS folk music…in the best sense of the word.

  2. Phav Nosnibor says:

    I'd put Was (Not Was) somewhere near the top of the heap for "11 MPH". The version we got on the North American release of the album is a trippy little remix (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMWZ1n-XjP4), especially considering the swinging horns on the original (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRbCSLo5SPY). Good stuff.

  3. robb says:

    The Misfits – Bullet

  4. Mark says:

    Ahhhh… No Misfits?!

  5. huskermould says:

    you forgot peter gabriel's 'family snapshot'

  6. tom says:

    How about Phil Ochs' "That Was the President"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAI6OewUVGE

  7. No list is complete without Dion's "Abraham, Martin and John" from 1968! Especially if it has "Sympathy for the Devil" by The Rolling Stones, WTF?!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGKnrBP8ARY

  8. markosaar says:

    Still catching up on my RSS stuff after taking a couple weeks vacation.

    I’d add Saturn 5 by The Inspiral Carpets and 1963 by New Order.

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