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Fascinating Things To Read, Watch And Listen To On The 50th Anniversary of JFK’s Assassination
November 22, 2013
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U.S. President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie Kennedy in the presidential motorcade, shortly before the assassination (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)

Today marks 50 years since John F. Kennedy, the 25th President of the United States, was shot and killed while travelling in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. And if you've spent any time at all consuming media in the last few weeks, you've surely noticed that the internet has been awash with stories about the president, his policies, his love life, his assassination and the shock it sent through society. Below, some great essays, videos and music reflecting on the legacy of that terrible day in 1963:

The Boston Symphony Announces The President's Death

One strain of the JFK coverage has focussed on stories of where people were when they heard the news that president Kennedy had been shot. On the Time website, James Inverne writes about the Boston Symphony Orchestra's concert on November 22, 1963. The recording from that day is chilling: music director Erich Leinsdorf took to the microphone and in 53 words, made the solemn announcement that the president had been killed. He then proceeded to lead the orchestra through a moving rendition of the funeral march from Beethoven's third symphony, as some audience members rushed for the doors while others sat in what Inverne describes as "numbed silence". Take a listen, and then read Inverne's interview with one of the last remaining witnesses of the performance, the orchestra's librarian:

The Kennedy Suite By The Cowboy Junkies And Friends

A very different musical take on the assassination: The Kennedy Suite, a group of songs about the events of November 1963 that's been over a decade years in the making. It all started with "The Truth About Us," a song about Lee Harvey Oswald and his Russian wife written by amateur musician Scott Garbe and recorded by roots rock band The Skydiggers. The project snowballed from there, and was eventually spearheaded by Michael Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies. The final result is an album released on November 12 and featuring vocals by Sarah Harmer, Harlan Pepper, Hawksley Workman, Jason Collett, Reid Jamieson, Doug Paisley and more. Tonight and tomorrow night, the Junkies and many of the guest musicians will perform a staged version of the album at Toronto's Winter Garden Theatre (tickets are still available for Saturday's show).

A Potential Canadian Connection In Winnipeg

Last night, The National had a story about a Winnipeg insurance salesman named Richard Giesbrecht who says he overheard a couple of men discussing inside details of the Kennedy assassination — and was subsequently questioned by the FBI about what he knew. The original story was reported by a young Don Newman, who was recently a guest in the red chair. Here's the piece:

Peter Mansbridge On Watching The TV Coverage

"That whole weekend we sat on the couch and watched the television." Last night on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight Late, The National's Peter Mansbridge stopped by to talk about his memories of the 72 hours after the assassination, the subject of a special National report. Here's their interview:

Sympathy for the Devil: Remembering the Age of Assassination

Over on Hazlitt, Toronto writer Carl Wilson riffs on the idea that JFK's killing was "the beginning of the end of an Age of Assassination in the western world that had lasted 100 years, since the slayings of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and the Tsar Alexander II in 1880." He contrasts Kennedy's killing with the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which ignited the First World War, pointing out their eerie similarities ("each killing centered on a state visit in a motorcade, the dignitary beside his wife in an open car") and observes that throughout much of the last two centuries, "targeted killings and coups served as the sort of political and cultural preoccupation that mass terrorism and civil uprisings are to us now."

"November 22, 1963"

The New York Times commissioned award-winning documentary director Errol Morris to produce this 14-minute interview with Josiah “Tink” Thompson, a demolitions expert-turned-philosophy professor-turned-private detective with an enduring obsession: frame #313 of the Zapruder film, a silent home movie capturing the assassination. Morris's takeaway from Thompson's obsession: "to never give up trying to uncover the truth.... I am fascinated by Tink because he is obsessed with the photographic evidence. Not that you can read the truth of what happened off a photographic plate, but that photography can lead you to the truth."

I Saw JFK Murdered When I Was 6 Years Old

On Slate, there's a memoir from Jeff Franzen, a 56-year-old real-estate executive who was only a few steps away from the presidential limousine when Kennedy was shot. "I assumed it was firecrackers," he writes about hearing the shots. "That made sense to me at a parade."


Throughout the year, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library has been operating a Twitter feed called @JFK_1963 that gives frequent updates on the goings-on of the president 50 years ago, to the minute. The whole exercise has been leading up to today's event. This morning, it tweeted out Kennedy's trip schedule, and most recently, posted this photo from a breakfast at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce:

How Canada Learned The News

Archival CBC footage from November 22, 1963, including a special message from Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson:

All the President’s Killers

Here's one for the conspiracy buffs. The Morning News has put together "an illustrated guide to every person, plot, and nefarious organization ever accused of killing JFK," complete with plausibility scores. You're almost certainly familiar with Lee Harvey Oswald (plausibility: 10/10 or 0/10, depending on your outlook), but the guide also includes the mob (7/10) the Soviets (2/10) and Secret Service agent George Hickeys (4/10; "it sure would explain the mystery ballistics report").

JFK Still Dead, Baby Boomers Still Self-Absorbed

And finally, something for contrarians: Nick Gillespie, the editor of the libertarian website, has written an article on the Daily Beast that examines the popular and media fixation with president Kennedy and the assassination. His take: enough already. "The big, broad, deep lessons of the Kennedy saga have been duly taught, if routinely forgotten when it serves our fleeting partisan purposes."


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