Sunday, 17 November 2013

My Top Ten JFK Songs

Although it happened 9 years before I was born, I've always been fascinated by the events of November 22nd 1963. It seemed inevitable, then, that I would commemorate the 50th Anniversary of that date with a list such as this. Except... when I started looking into it, there were as many JFK songs out there as there are conspiracy theories...

For a more complete list, I suggest checking here. (A lot of those songs deal far more directly with the Kennedy assassination that many of my own choices... but it's my party and I'll stick with the ones that mean the most to me. As usual.)

Special mention for The Dead Kennedys, of course.

10. The Fall - Oswald Defence Lawyer

If Lee Harvey had made it to trial, he could have done worse than get Mark E. Smith to stand up in his defence...
How do you think that jury made up of putrid mass
Embraced theory of triangle bullet lines
Turning in circles twice,
Then incredible, marvelous, exiting back of mind?
9. The Beach Boys - The Warmth of the Sun

Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love within hours of the news of the JFK shooting; that knowledge makes you hear these otherwise lovelorn lyrics in an entirely new light.

8. Guns N' Roses - Civil War

In Axl's earliest memory, they shot John Kennedy. (By my reckoning, he was a little over 21 months old at the time, so his memory is pretty damned good.) Still, a great camp, subtle-as-a-brick protest song as you'd expect from the Roses...
What's so civil about war, anyway?
7. Lou Reed - The Day John Kennedy Died

On the other hand, Lou's memories of that fateful day are truly visceral...
Talking stopped, someone shouted, "What!?"
I ran out to the street
People were gathered everywhere saying,
did you hear what they said on TV
And then a guy in a Porsche with his radio hit his horn
and told us the news
He said, "The president's dead, he was shot twice in the head
in Dallas, and they don't know by whom."
He goes on to dream himself the president... now, if only that could have come to pass.

6. Steve Earle - Conspiracy Theory
What if you could've been there on that day in Dallas ?
What if you could wrestle back the hands of time?
Maybe somethin' could've been done in Memphis?
We wouldn't be livin' in a dream that's died?
'Nuff said.

5. Simon & Garfunkel - The Sound of Silence

Another song written in the aftermath of 22/11/63 (no, I'm not writing it 11/22/63, not even for Stephen King).
Hello darkness, my old friend, 
I've come with talk with you again...
4. Manic Street Preachers - I Am Just A Patsy

Great track from one of my favourite Manics albums...
I am just a patsy
The Oswald in Lee Harvey
...they're just a patsy for your love.

3. The Wedding Present - Kennedy

Already Number One in my Top Ten American President Songs, which also features another track from this very list... though this time, that one wins top spot. 

2. The Dream Academy - Life in a Northern Town

Ostensibly a song about Nick Drake, this also contains the memorable refrain...
He said "In winter 1963
It felt like the world would freeze
With John F. Kennedy
And The Beatles."
...which means I can shoe-horn it in here. Good job: it's ace.

1. Okkervil River - The President's Dead 

Although it doesn't mention JFK, Oswald or Dealey Plaza, this still has enough references to that infamous day ("a shot from the crowd and a shot in the head") as well as tackling the question of "where when you when...?" that anyone who lived through November 22nd 1963 will have been asked at one time or another. Plus, it's my all-time favourite Okkervil River song, and the first song I thought of when I decided to compile this Top Ten.

Those were my Dealey (Plaza) Boppers... but which is your Love Gunman?


  1. The Dream Academy does it for me every time. Although it does come packaged with memories of the BBC's Going Live as that was where I first saw the video.

    1. How terribly sad for you. Philip Schofield.

  2. not much beats holiday in Cambodia, at that point I was distracted and lost the real theme sorry. Good YouTube safari catalyst though :)

    1. I'm here to facilitate such trips.

  3. JFK, blown away - what else do I have to say?

    1. When I first started planning this top ten, I was sure there'd be a place for Billy. In the end, I decided that song's about so much more... I'm sure it'll feature here eventually though.

  4. Anything by Supergrassy Knoll?

    I'll get my coat...

    1. And I thought my "Dealey Plaza Boppers" was bad.

    2. Anything by Frank Zappa-ruder film?



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