Album Reviews

Various Artists: The Ballad of JFK: A Musical History of the Kennedy Assassination (Iron Mountain Analogue Research)

IMAR 105 JFK LP Layout REVISE

Various Artists
The Ballad of JFK: A Musical History Of the John F. Kennedy Assassination (1963-1968)
Iron Mountain Analogue Research

Fifty three years ago today, at 1:00 PM CST, President John F. Kennedy was pronounced dead, felled by an assassin’s bullet while his motorcade drove through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. The world was rightly sent into shock. Why?  Kennedy was a young man in his prime, offering change and a fresh hope to the White House. His death would have a profound effect on popular culture, not the least of which was the propelling of The Beatles to superstardom; they were a breath of fresh air that young people wanted and needed after such overt tragedy and the harshness of a long, cold. lonely winter.

The Ballad of JFK: A Musical History of the Kennedy Assassination is the latest high-quality thematic release from archival label Iron Mountain Analogue Research, and they’ve dredged the depths of musical archives to find twenty recordings about the JFK assassination. The twenty tracks featured here range from the poetry of Poet Laureate Charles Wright, a letter from assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother, Marguerite, and sound recordings of Oswald himself stating. “I am a Marxist.” 

The music itself ranges from bluegrass, pop country, and rockabilly. It’s an interesting collection, to be sure, ranging from tributes like Bobby Atkins’ “Memories of President John F. Kennedy” and Doc Williams’ “Why Do The Good Die Young,” to the retelling of the histories of the day by Alex Harvey (“The Ballad of John F. Kennedy”) and of assassin Oswald by Red River Dave (“Ballad of Lee Harvey Oswald”). Some, such as Buddy Starcher’s “History Repeats Itself” and Don & Ebby’s “J.F.K.” are spoken word recitations—Starcher’s being the first comparison between the death of Kennedy and President Abraham Lincoln. There are two versions of Tom T. Hall’s “The World Lost A Man,” one by David Price and one by Jimmy C. Newman. The Keys’ “Lovely Roses (Stained In Red)” features an unknown female vocalist paying tribute not to JFK, but to his widow, Jacqueline.  “Keep A Workin’ Big Jim,” by Johnny Rebel, is perhaps the most interesting; it’s a tribute to researcher and conspiracy theorist Jim Garrison by a notorious Southern musician and Klansman Johnny Rebel.

The Ballad of JFK: A Musical History of the Kennedy Assassination (1963-1968) is a fascinating historical document, released by a label that is quickly rivaling Bear Family in terms of its quality discoveries and thematic releases. If you’re curious about how amateur musicians and obscure country acts reacted to the murder of the President, this is an excellent place to start.

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