Bob Dylan’s best songs: The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll
With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger
At a Baltimore hotel society gath’rin’
And the cops were called in and his weapon took from him
As they rode him in custody down to the station
And booked William Zanzinger for first-degree murder
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears
~Bob Dylan (The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll)

The story I took out of the newspaper and I only changed the words. It’s, er… ..Well, I changed, er… the reporters view into… I used it I used it for something I wanted to say, er, and I used his view, the Maryland reporters view to get at what I wanted to say and turn it that way. And I used a true story, that’s all. I could have used a made-up story.
~Bob Dylan (to Steve Allen – Feb. 1964)

audio from the interview:

“The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” is an extremely moving song that has stood the test of time better than any of Dylan’s other early topical songs of this sort (retellings of real events, usually tragedies, usually with a moral attached or implicit). Dylan sings it from the heart; he really cares about the woman who
died-her dignity and the value of her life come through in the song, it is a memorial to her and a tribute to people like her as much as it is an attack on her killer and people like him and the system that coddles them.
~Paul Williams (Bob Dylan Performing Artist I: The Early Years 1960-1973)

 

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TOC

  1. Facts
  2. Lyrics
  3. Live versions

@#20on my list of Bob Dylan’s top 200 songs.

Facts

Dylan_The_Times_They_Are_A_Changin_front

Wikipedia:

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” is a topical song written by the American musician Bob Dylan. Recorded on October 23, 1963, the song was released on Dylan’s 1964 album, The Times They Are a-Changin’ and gives a generally factual account of the killing of a 51-year-old African-American barmaid, Hattie Carroll, by William Devereux “Billy” Zantzinger (whom the song calls “William Zanzinger”), a young man from a wealthy white tobacco farming family in Charles County, Maryland, who had turned 24 the day before, and of his subsequent sentence to six months in a county jail, after being convicted of assault.

The lyrics are a commentary on 1960s racism. When Carroll was killed in 1963, Charles County was still strictly segregated by race in public facilities such as restaurants, churches, theaters, doctor’s offices, buses, and the county fair. The schools of Charles County were not integrated until 1967.

Known studio recordings:

  • Studio A
    Columbia Recording Studios
    New York City, New York
    23 October 1963
    The 4th The Times They Are A-Changin’ session, produced by Tom Wilson.

Live:

  • First known live performance: Carnegie Hall, NY, October 26, 1963.
  • It has been performed 294 times live – last performance: Power Balance Pavilion, Sacramento, California – 20 October 2012.
  • Top year 1975 – 18 times.

Bob DyalnNov19_1975_f (400x400)

Album:

Lyrics

William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll
With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger
At a Baltimore hotel society gath’rin’
And the cops were called in and his weapon took from him
As they rode him in custody down to the station
And booked William Zanzinger for first-degree murder
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears

William Zanzinger, who at twenty-four years
Owns a tobacco farm of six hundred acres
With rich wealthy parents who provide and protect him
And high office relations in the politics of Maryland
Reacted to his deed with a shrug of his shoulders
And swear words and sneering, and his tongue it was snarling
In a matter of minutes on bail was out walking
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears

Hattie Carroll was a maid of the kitchen
She was fifty-one years old and gave birth to ten children
Who carried the dishes and took out the garbage
And never sat once at the head of the table
And didn’t even talk to the people at the table
Who just cleaned up all the food from the table
And emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level
Got killed by a blow, lay slain by a cane
That sailed through the air and came down through the room
Doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle
And she never done nothing to William Zanzinger
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears

In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel
To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level
And that the strings in the books ain’t pulled and persuaded
And that even the nobles get properly handled
Once that the cops have chased after and caught ’em
And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom
Stared at the person who killed for no reason
Who just happened to be feelin’ that way without warnin’
And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished
And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance
William Zanzinger with a six-month sentence
Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now’s the time for your tears

 

Live versions

NBC Studios
Los Angeles, California
25 February 1964
Steve Allen Show

De Montford Hall
Leicester, England
2 May 1965

Jones Beach Theater
Jones Beach State Park
Wantagh, New York
1 July 1988

Hammersmith Odeon
London, England
4 February 1990

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Sources

-Egil

One thought on “Bob Dylan’s best songs: The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll”

  1. It’s always difficult, for me, to decide which songs of Bobbys are best. There are simple too many songs that, by any standards, must be deemed to be “great songs”. But, across the years, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Caroll” has remained a favourite of mine. I saw Bob in London, when, to be honest, and as he discusses in “Chronicles Volume 1”, he was at something of a low-point in his career. The concert was lack lustre. But, shining like a jewel in that night’s set was “Hattie Caroll”. That songs, wonderfully sung, made the evening worthwhile.

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