It’s not just in the world of opera where the JFK story has been put to song. Pop musicians have been fascinated by his life and death as well. Here are six to check out.
Abraham, Martin and John, Dion (1968) — This folk-rock track — with the line “Anybody here seen my old friend John? Can you tell me where he’s gone?” — captured the late ’60s sense of weariness in the wake of the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy as well as Martin Luther King Jr. It would be covered by Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson, among others.
Six White Horses, Tommy Cash (1969) — Johnny Cash’s younger brother recorded this track which has been referred to as a country take on Abraham, Martin and John. It was a top five country hit in the U.S. and a No. 1 country smash in Canada.
Nov. 22, 1963, Radio Birdman (1977) — Interest in JFK hasn’t been limited to the U.S. This fiery slice of proto-punk from this Sydney quintet blends fear, conspiracy and paranoia into one head-banging blast. (“John woke up in the morning he knew he’d be dead, Jackie woke up on a Dallas day, she’d be alone”). They also re-recorded it later under the moniker New Race.
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The Day John Kennedy Died, Lou Reed (1982) — A melancholic Reed recounted what it was like to hear the news of Kennedy’s death. It’s alternately sad, disturbing and a concise expression of grief and loss.
(Glad I’m Not) a Kennedy, Shona Laing (1987) — This New Zealand singer-songwriter mused on the pressure of being a member of the famous family that is “wearing the fame like a loaded gun.” Was a No. 2 hit in New Zealand and reached No. 14 on the American alternative chart.
Conspiracy Theory, Steve Earle (2002) — The Texas singer references both JFK and MLK in this driving rocker when he sings “What if you could’ve been there on that day in Dallas? What if you could wrestle back the hands of time? Maybe something could’ve been done in Memphis. We wouldn’t be livin’ in a dream that’s died.”