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,

Juliette Jagger

Juliette Jagger is a Canadian music journalist. She is on Twitter @juliettejagger.

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