When interpreting the content of Marilyn Manson’s triptych, few things can be taken at face value. Everything within this trilogy of concept albums is insight into the story he is telling and the satire and social commentary within it. Primarily during the era of Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death), Manson uses John F. Kennedy to convey the characters and elements important to the story he is telling. Below are 8 examples of some of Marilyn Manson’s cryptic and lesser known references to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
“Dear God the paper says you were the King in the black limousine, dear John and all the King’s men can’t put your head together again.” – Marilyn Manson “Godeatgod”
Tying into his themes of canonization after death, Manson describes the media (“the paper”) headlines hallowing Kennedy as the “King in the black limousine”, a fitting title as JFK was killed in the back seat of a black presidential limousine. The latter half of the above lyric is a rather morbid allusion to the popular nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty”, substituting John F. Kennedy for Humpty Dumpty.
“She’s got eyes like Zapruder and a mouth like heroin, she wants me to be perfect like Kennedy” – Marilyn Manson “Posthuman”
While the song is most likely detailing the character Coma White from Mechanical Animals, it has several instances of alluding to JFK and his death. In this particular lyric, Marilyn Manson describes Coma as having “eyes like Zapruder”. Zapruder is the surname of the individual who recorded the famous footage of John F. Kennedy’s death. He goes on to say “she wants me to be perfect like Kennedy”, a more blatant reference to the deceased president.
Later in the song, Manson says “in all of her dreams, she’s a saint like Jackie-O”. This line is clearly a reference to JFK’s wife, Jacqueline Lee “Jackie” Kennedy Onassis. He describes her as a saint, furthering the Celebritarian concept of celebrity sainthood and martyrdom after death.
“Lamb of God”
“There was Christ in the metal shell, there was blood on the pavement, the camera will make you God, That’s how Jack became sainted” – Marilyn Manson “Lamb of God”
In this particular song, Marilyn Manson is using the assassination of John F. “Jack” Kennedy, amongst other historical events, to describe the postmortem glorification of public figures. Manson has an affinity for drawing parallels between JFK and Jesus Christ, hence “Christ in the metal shell”. We can assume “the metal shell” is the vehicle Kennedy was shot in, while the “blood on the pavement” is a more direct and graphic invocation of the young president’s tragic demise.
“Target Audience (Narcissus Narcosis)”
“Target Audience (Narcissus Narcosis)” is the fifth track of Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death. The song foreshadows the content of the next track, “President Dead”, by playing a snippet from WABC Radio host Don Gardiner after the confirmation of JFK’s death. At the end of the song, his famous words “the President is dead; let us pray” are heard. Immediately following the sound bite, is the beginning of “President Dead.”
“President Dead” is the sixth track of Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death). “President Dead” was taken from a newspaper headline about the death of Kennedy. If the song title itself wasn’t indicative enough, the track length directly alludes to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. “President Dead” is 3 minutes and 13 seconds long; frame 313 of the Zapruder film is the exact moment of JFK’s death. Fittingly so, Marilyn Manson has only performed the song live once, and that was in Dallas, Texas, where Kennedy was assassinated.
“A Place In The Dirt”
“Put me in the motorcade, put me in the death parade, dress me up and make me, dress me up and make me your dying god, now we hold the ugly head”
At this point, the first four lines of this excerpt should be fairly obvious. JFK was murdered while traveling in a “motorcade” that would soon become a “death parade.” Marilyn Manson again compares Kennedy to God: “..make me your dying god.” The last line in this quote, however, requires a little more digging, but it is what makes the lyric a more direct reference to the JFK assassination. “Now we hold the ugly head” is calling Kennedy by name, as “Kennedy” means “ugly head” in Gaelic. The line most likely also serves as a disturbing pun, as a gunshot to the head isn’t exactly easy on the eyes.
“King Kill 33°”
The title of the track itself is an ode to the James Shelby Downard essay “King-Kill/33: Masonic Symbolism in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy” and thereby yet another reference to JFK’s death. 33 is the degree of latitude where Kennedy was killed, and grade 33 is the highest degree in Freemasonry. “King Kill” also refers to the ancient Masonic initiation ritual, The Killing Of The King, which Manson cites in the lyrics “and I want you now to just kill the king.”
Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) and other album art
The artwork and photography associated with Marilyn Manson’s triptych (Antichrist Superstar, Mechanical Animals, Holy Wood – In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) is full of imagery mimicking that of JFK, his assassination, and autopsy. Below some photos from the albums, I will provide a link to a photograph it parallels, however these images can be graphic.
“Disposable Teens” cover features JFK autopsy face sheet.
“The Fight Song” cover displays Boswell’s drawing of JFK’s damaged skull.
The hidden bonus feature on Holy Wood is a black & white video of Marilyn Manson reenacting the autopsy of JFK.
Another shot from Holy Wood’s bonus feature of the JFK autopsy reenactment.
The cryptic nature of these JFK references make them intriguing. Though, there are many other references such as the music video to “Coma White”, the lyrics to “Cruci Fiction In Space”, and other esoteric references to Freemasonry and JFK conspiracies.