Over fifty years after his death, John F. Kennedy remains one of the most beloved and well-known U.S. presidents. His status as an American icon means that he’s shown up in popular culture a little more often then other presidents like Millard Fillmore or Rutherford B. Hayes. Let’s look at a few of the popular musicians who have referenced Kennedy in their art.
During the first leg of her career, Lady Gaga took every chance possible to provoke and shock her listeners. Her song “Government Hooker” was no exception. The very risque song referenced and was inspired by the alleged affair between President Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe. Gaga would later collaborate with R. Kelly on the song “Do What U Want,” where Kelly tells Gaga “You’re the Marilyn, I’m the president.” Kennedy and Monroe may not have been flattered by Gaga’s musical explorations of their personal lives (would Monroe have liked being called a “government hooker?”) but they probably would have been happy to know that the public fascination surrounding them endured long after they passed away.
Lana Del Rey
Speaking of the alleged affair between President Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, Lana Del Rey might be fascinated by it more than any other contemporary celebrity. She famously recreated the time that Marilyn sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” in her video for the song “National Anthem.” She further provokes audiences by playing both Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy in that video. What exactly she was trying to say by taking on that dual role is still up for debate. The singer would also reference the president in one of her unreleased songs, “JFK,” where she says that her boyfriend has charisma similar to President Kennedy’s.
Now let’s take a look at the second most famous Marilyn. A child of the 1960s, Marilyn Manson has referenced every major aspect of that decade in his work, from Charles Manson to the Vietnam War. In the video for his song, “Coma White,” Manson recreated the Kennedy assassination with himself as the president, his then-girlfriend, Rose McGowan, as Jackie Kennedy, and the other members of his band as Secret Service agents. Like everything else that Marilyn Manson did in the 1990s and early 2000s, the video ignited controversy. Some felt that the video exploited an infamous episode of American history, though Manson insisted that the video was designed as a tribute to Kennedy and anyone else who died thanks to mankind’s insatiable thirst for violence. The video’s premiere on MTV was postponed following the untimely passing of John F. Kennedy Jr.
John F. Kennedy and John Lennon were two of the defining figures of the 1960s, so it’s only appropriate that Lennon would reference the president in his work. As he grew older, the singer would become increasingly disillusioned regarding the idealism of the 1960’s counterculture. He channeled this disillusionment into his song “God.” In that song, he disavows all forms of politics, religion, and celebrity, singing that he doesn’t believe in God, Buddha, Kennedy, kings, Elvis, or the Beatles. At the end of the song, he says that he only believes in himself and Yoko Ono, before telling his audience that they should carry on despite the fact that the utopian dreams of the 1960s have died.