Music

Deep Cuts: JFK Songs

The assassination of John F. Kennedy scarred American culture in a way that I’m not sure we ever really got over.  Within six years we were on the Moon and integrating schools, but at the same time we were in the middle of a culture war.    Confusing correlation with causation is always a risk, but November 22, 1963 seems to be a polarizing date on the national calendar.

The youth culture in particular seemed to take seriously the late president’s call to ask what you can do for your country,  so it’s no wonder that over the last almost fifty years JFK has been referenced, name checked, and quoted in popular music.  Here are a few examples:

“The Day John Kennedy Died,” Lou Reed.  Lyrics well worth a listen in our current political climate:

“Foreign Policy,” The Buckinghams.  These guys took their Kennedy love the extra mile and included clips from JFK speeches in this cut:

“Cult of Personality,” Living Colour.  Kennedy’s inaugural speech is only one of many famous clips in Living Colour’s classic:

“Brain of J,” Pearl Jam:

“Dallas 1 PM,” Saxon.  A New Wave Of British Heavy Metal take on that ugly day:

“He Was A Friend Of Mine,” The Byrds.  It’s cuts like this that clearly demonstrate The Byrds’ influence on artists like Tom Petty and R.E.M.

“Catholic Day,” Adam and the Ants.  You’re going to do some kind of faux robot dance when you listen to this.  Don’t fight it, don’t deny it:

“Civil War,” Guns N’ Roses.  Here’s a good example of confusing the art with the artist.  I wasted way too much time wondering how Axl’s first memory was the Kennedy assassination when he was only about eighteen months old when it occurred.  Of course I also wasted a lot of time wondering if he was an Andy Griffith fan.  That Axl, always whistling.

“President Kennedy’s Mile,” Screaming Blue Messiahs.  I was really into this album when it came out back in 1986, but yeah.  Not feeling it now.

I think I’m going to leave it at that for today.   I’ve left dozens of JFK musical references out there for you, so don’t be shy — what are your JFK songs?  I’m listening.

5 replies »

    • Part of speech that was sampled: “For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace,” the president told 40,000 people in Rice’s football stadium that day. “We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.” —JFK Moon Speech 1961

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