January 10, 2009

The Lonesome Death Of William Zanzinger — or Zantzinger, for that was his real name.

He was 69 years old and never sued Bob Dylan
Who wrote a folk song that made William look evil
He was just raging drunk in a Baltimore Hotel
He had a toy cane that he'd bought at a farm fair
He ordered a drink from poor Hattie Carroll
And Hattie was slow and he stupidly hit her
But he didn't do anything that seemed it would kill her
Yet she suffered a stroke and she died the next morning
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain't the time for your tears.

They arrested Zantzinger for disorderly conduct
But when Hattie Carroll died they upped it to murder
At the bench trial, Zantzinger said he couldn't remember
And his lawyer said Hattie had high blood pressure
Did Hattie really die from that blow from the cane?
The 3-judge panel agreed with the lawyer
They said it's only manslaughter, here's your 6-months sentence
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 read the story in the New York newspaper
And he scribbled out lyrics in an all-night diner
Or maybe it was at Joan Baez's house in Carmel
And he didn't take much care for the facts of the case
He sang that the charge was first-degree murder
And the 6 months sentence was a corruption of justice
Yet the court found him guilty of manslaughter not 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.

"The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll" got famous
And Bob Dylan became the most honored of rock stars
Zantzinger kept quiet and wouldn't talk to the press
He just lived through the decades with that song on his head
And he probably cried for himself and for Hattie
And what did he think of that songster Bob Dylan?
"I should have sued him," he finally said later
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.


Bob said...

Nice little parody! I tend to think that 6 months was a bit light in a manslaughter case, though.

Bob (not Dylan)

traditionalguy said...

So life's not fair to the eminent Mr Zatzinger. Bobby D. was in his avenging angel mode in 1963. But who's to say that Hattie Carroll who tried to serve this vicious drunk did not deserve avenging. And no, 6 months "given" Mr Zatzinger was a virtual pardon. I know that had Mattie attacked the eminent Mr. Zatzinger, the the DA and the Judge would never have thought of virtually pardoning her for his resulting death. Maybe Bobby D served her well as the avenging Angel in her case. It is fair to note that since 1963 the times they have a changed Big Time. Bobby D was the only Hebrew Prophet I ever got to meet in person.

American Liberal Elite said...

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Ann Althouse said...

I agree that 6 months is a light sentence for manslaughter, but it's not the outrageous corruption of justice that the song makes it sound like. Actually, it is the judges who come in for the worst criticism in the song. "Now is the time for your tears" comes when the court does not apply equal-handed justice, not when WZ delivers the beating.

Also, I didn't work it into the lyrics, but the song also makes the bail seem outrageous. Only $600 when he was arrested for first degree murder. But that bail was set on the disorderly conduct charge, before Carroll died.

KCFleming said...

Had the song's public shaming effected any improvement on Mr. Zantzinger's character, it might have been a fair trade for having the bad luck to have your racist assholery result in enough stress to cause a stroke.

But it didn't.

"In 1991, The Maryland Independent disclosed that Mr. Zantzinger had been collecting rent from black families living in shanties that he no longer owned; Charles County, Md., had foreclosed on them for unpaid taxes. The shanties lacked running water, toilets or outhouses. Not only had Mr. Zantzinger collected rent for properties he did not own, he also went to court to demand past-due rent, and won.

He pleaded guilty to 50 misdemeanor counts of deceptive trade practices, paid $62,000 in penalties and, under an 18-month sentence, spent only nights in jail."

In any event, nowadays the Carroll family would have done the suing, and won. The times have a-changed since then.

sierra said...

Interesting to cpmpare Hattie Carroll with Percy's Song, which Dylan wrote at roughly the same time. Percy seems like a continuation of Hattie, with even wilder exaggerations to provide the illusion of injustice.

chickelit said...

Years later, Dylan tried to atone with his Rubin Carter fib.
One day, Dylan will admit that he has voted, and has voted Republican. People will weep.

Psota said...

The most surprising thing in the obituary was that WZ attended Sidwell Friends. That's where Barack Obama is sending his daughters to school!

Paul Bielawski said...

I am extremely impresed with your use of the structure and phrasing. Your lines could be added to Dyl;an's. You even picked up on the "feminine" endings as referenced in the Wikipedia entry. Some feel that the brilliance of the song is in the lyrical and musical structures that flow from the use of Zantzinger's name. The legacy of the song is as structural as it is topical. ALso, the Wikipedia hardly makes one feel sympathetic for Zantzinger.

I tried to use Adam Selzer's listing of "HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN SINCE DYLAN PLAYED...." to get a sense of how recenty Bob has covered this song. It appears that the dong was played on the summer 2008 tour.

Meade said...

Nicely done. I laughed out loud at:

Or maybe it was at Joan Baez's house in Carmel

jean-pierre said...

Thanks God, this ass-hole is dead !!!

jean-pierre said...

Thanks God, this ass-hole is dead !!!

Unknown said...

What are you trying to prove, Ann? Dylan is an artist, a poet, not a journalist.

Unknown said...

I dont really care for this ladys version. It sounds like shes tryin to defend the guy , when really he was drunk, racist and physically abused some innocent person because of those two reasons then got 6 months for manslaughter in the minimumist sercurity of prisons along with a $500 fine. That is the cost of a person life? Or is that just the cost of a 'niggers' life?

Meade said...

Internet said...
"What are you trying to prove, Ann? Dylan is an artist, a poet, not a journalist."

Althouse is an artist, a poet, not a journalist. Get it?

Bill said...

Very pretty. Why not try writing a song about the McDonald's coffee case next?

Meade said...

Which album did Bob record that one on? Was it during his Jesus period?

Anonymous said...

What sort of slimeball puts so much effort into defending a drunken homocidal racist? Dylan's song is factually inaccurate, but it isn't just about this one event, but about so so many racist crimes that went unpunished.

Unknown said...

While it is true Bob Dylan did take a little poetic license with his song you are wrong that the he made things up for it the original charge was disorderly conduct but when Hattie died 8 hours later the charge was changed the problem with your post is the fact you continue to defend a resist man who did not change his ways in 1986 he illgaly took rent from the poor black people in houses he no longer owned.

FullMoon said...

jean-pierre said...

Thanks God, this ass-hole is dead !!!
1/21/09, 4:12 AM

What did Hattie Carroll do to make you say that?