Bob Dylan’s The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

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Bob Dylan, considered one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century who is now playing an important part in the music business, is one of the few musicians who will be remembered for their role in revolutionizing the music industry. He was born in Duluth, Minnesota, in May 1941. His birth name was Allen Zimmerman, but he changed it to Bob Dylan after entering the music industry (Beviglia & Jim 108). Bob’s love of music started in college, where he began by singing country and folk songs. His idol from a young age was Woody Guthrie, a legendary folk singer, and at some point, he dropped out of school to visit him in a hospital when he was hospitalized in 1960.
Bob has released many songs which were of significant influence during the resistance period of the 1980’s (Beviglia & Jim 99). Some of his albums which are still used today include The Freewheeling which was released in 1963 and Blowing in the Wind. Both of these songs promoted his career and helped him reach a large number of fans. Along the journey of his music career, he has had to reinvent himself many times because of both natural causes and family problems. In 1966 after being involved in a fatal accident, he went into seclusion to recover, and when he emerged in 1968, he released the album, John Wesley Harding. Late in the 1970’s, he released another album, Sara, after splitting with his wife, Sara Lowndes. However, his attempt to win her back was unsuccessful.
Bob has received some awards for his contribution in the music industry with the most significant distinction being the Nobel peace prize for his participation in literature. He was nominated for the award because he is among the few original musicians who use songs to talk about the problems that face the society (Dylan & Bob 60). In 2012, after releasing the album Tempest, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Barrack Obama. These awards among many others are the highlights of Bob’s career over the years. He still plays a role in the music industry, and many believe he will not stop anytime soon.
One of the songs that highlighted Bob’s career is the song the lonesome death of Hattie Carroll released in 1963. The song is about a true story of an old black lady, Hattie Carroll, who lost her life after being hit by Bill Zantzinger when she was working in a hotel and failed to offer him service in time (Beviglia & Jim 108). Hattie was a 51-year-old Black woman who had ten children and several grandchildren. She worked for the hotel only on occasions when they needed a larger staff for special events. On a particular day, Billy came to the hotel drunk and almost started a fight with other customers present. When he settled down and called the waiter to take his order, Hattie who was receiving an order from another customer did not respond immediately. In anger, Billy hit her with his cane, and he was arrested for being disorderly and assaulting other people.
After the incident, Carroll was taken ill and was taken to hospital where he died a few hours later from a stroke. Meanwhile, Bill had been released from police custody on bail before the court was informed of Carroll’s death. Bill was subsequently arrested and charged with the murder of Carroll. This incident happened at almost the same time when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech. Bill came from one of the wealthiest family at that time, and he had vast tracks of land where he farmed tobacco. Given the influence, his family had, it was obvious the sentencing was not going to be fair for both parties. The charged against him were changed from first-degree murder to manslaughter, and he was sentenced to serve only six months in prison for the charges. He was later granted bail to take care of is tobacco farm before he served the prison sentence. These series of events motivated Bob to sing the song “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll’.
Looking at the song, it tells listeners that Bill killed Carroll by beating her with his cane and is supposed to be charged with first-degree murder. However, a more in-depth analysis of the story behind the song provides that Bill only hit Carroll with the cane he was wielding one and she later died from high blood pressure which caused hardening of arteries which contributed to her untimely death (Beviglia & Jim 120). When Bill was charged in court for the demise, he said he was too drunk on that particular night to recall the events that happened, and he did not know what he was doing. This helped reduce the charges against him to manslaughter. Bob presents Bill as a spoilt rich kid who behaved in the wrong manner towards the innocent kitchen maid. He, therefore, felt no remorse that his actions led to her death. Given the influence Bill’s family had and the high cases of corruption in the Baltimore police, he was bailed out without spending the required time of twenty-four hours, and he also received a light jail term. These actions point out the injustice that was being done to those who were not privileged in the society in this period.
Some critics of Bob claim the song would not play any significant role in the political world at this time given the nature and influence of Bill’s family. Bob composed and song this song six months after the case had been closed and the events had already tarnished the family name of Bill. When the song became a hit, some human right groups called for justice to be done for the low-income family that had lost someone they depended on. In retaliation, Bill threatened to sue Bob over the song but he never proceeded to go to court about it. Bill believed that Dylan’s song was like a letter of a worried young man. Both of these incidents promoted towards the popularity of Bob and tarnishing of the family name of Bill.
Some of the mistakes Bob made in the song include not providing a detailed argument about the events that occurred that day when Carroll was hit. He also misspells the name of Bill in the song (Dylan & Bob 60). He even fails to provide an in-depth analysis of the proceeding after Bill was arrested and how the court judges reduced the charges against him. In the song, Bob presents Carroll as a maid who many did not know much about given the nature of the tasks she was doing, i.e., taking out the trash, emptying the dust-bin and doing dished. People only paid attention after she collapsed and was rushed to hospital after being hit by Bill. She did not deserve to die given she was carrying out her duties as expected, but the courts failed to ensure justice was served because they gave Bill an unfair sentencing. These actions were evidence of the protection provided to those considered noble in the society.
The song is delivered with effectiveness given the account of events that occurred and how they are narrated in the song. Though it does not contain some of the critical information, it provides a good point of view on the wrongs done by the rich and the state in administering justice to the poor. It also explains the position of each and how the society viewed them. For example, Bill is from a wealthy family and is required to act nobly to protect his family name but instead he does the opposite. The judges and police are needed to ensure justice is served to all parties, but they do the opposite and over-look the low-income family of Carroll.
In conclusion, this is one of the best songs that Bob produced in the last century, and it can be adapted to show the injustices happening in the world almost half a century after the song was released. It portrays the society as a place where the rich can do anything and get away with it because they control the justice system while the poor still suffer from being suppressed.

Works Cited
Beviglia, Jim. Counting Down the Rolling Stones: Their 100 Finest Songs. , 2016. Print.
Dylan, Bob. Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan: Honouring 50 Years of Amnesty International. Australia: Amnesty International, 2012. Sound recording.
Dylan, Bob, and Jonathan Cott. Bob Dylan, the Essential Interviews. , 2017. Print.

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