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16 Inspiring Songs That Honor JFK

From the Police to Tori Amos, check out these unique ways musicians paid tribute to the President

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On Nov. 22, 1963, the Beatles released their second album, the Beach Boys played to a record-breaking crowd in Marysville, CA, and Elvis Presley wept with gal pal Ann-Marget as they watched the shocking news on television about President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Before that day, rock and roll was still in its happy-go-lucky infancy. After that fateful convertible ride through Dallas, the '60s became The Sixties, and a fast-maturing rock and roll would help guide the cultural and political shift waged by a generation that began to question the ways of the world. As we recognize the 50th anniversary of the day JFK was shot this week, here are some of our favorite musical nods to Kennedy and the tragedy that shattered Camelot. – PAT PEMBERTON

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The Postal Service, ‘Sleeping In’

In the song's first verses, the electronic duo seem to adopt the Warren Commission's conclusions that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing the president. "There was never any mystery of who shot John F. Kennedy," the song declares. "It was just a man with something to prove, slightly bored and severely confused." But later the song suggests it's merely a dream that things are exactly as they seem, shooting down our initial impression of the song.

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Simon & Garfunkel, ‘The Sound of Silence’

Feeling alienated after the assassination, Paul Simon briefly moved to Europe before writing this folk classic.

The song's mournful feel captured the mood of the nation, its somber opening reflecting dark times. "I wrote it when I was 20 or 21," Paul Simon told the Los Angeles Times, "around the time of the Kennedy assassination. I was still living in Queens and I used to sit in the bathroom with the running water in the sink and write because the echo against the tile was nice. I'd also turn off the lights, which is probably what led to the opening line, 'Hello darkness, my old friend.'" 

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Phil Ochs, “Crucifixication’

On a shuttle from Washington, D.C., to New York, Ochs began singing this folk song with lyrics about JFK's fall. As he did, Robert F. Kennedy — who was sitting near the back of the two-thirds empty plane — began to cry, suddenly realizing the song was about is brother, according to the documentary Robert F. Kennedy: A Memoir.

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