The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

Infobox Song
Name = The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

Caption = Album cover
Artist = Bob Dylan
Album = The Times They Are a-Changin'
B-side =
Released = January 13, 1964
Recorded = October 23, 1963
track_no = 9
Genre = Folk
Length = 5:48
Label = Columbia
Writer = Bob Dylan
Producer = Tom Wilson
Chart position =
Last single =
This single =
Next single =
Misc = Extra tracklisting
Album = The Times They Are a-Changin'
Type = studio
prev_track = "When the Ship Comes In"
prev_no = 8
this_track = "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll"
track_no = 9
next_track = "Restless Farewell"
next_no = 10

"The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" is a topical song by Bob Dylan. Recorded on 23 October 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 51-year-old barmaid Hattie Carroll by the wealthy young tobacco farmer from Charles County, William Devereux "Billy" Zantzinger (whom the song calls "William Zanzinger"), and his subsequent sentence to six months in a county jail. Dylan's song, however, sentenced Zantzinger to lifelong infamy.

The lyrics are a commentary on the racism of the 1960s, which valued a black woman's life so lightly. At the time, 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, four years after Hattie Carroll was killed. [ "A Regular Old Southern Maryland Boy"] , by Peter Carlson Washington Post, August 4, 1991.]

The killing

The main incident of the song took place in the early hours of February 9, 1963, at the white tie Spinsters' Ball at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland. Using a toy cane, Zantzinger drunkenly assaulted at least three of the Emerson Hotel workers: a bellboy, a waitress, and — at about 1:30 in the morning of the 9th — Carroll, a barmaid. In addition to her work at the hotel, Hattie Carroll, at 51, was the mother of eleven children and president of a black social club. [,9171,828005,00.html The Spinsters' Ball] February 22, 1963, TIME magazine.]

Already drunk before he got to the Emerson Hotel that night, Zantzinger, 24 years old and 6'2", had assaulted employees at Eager House, a prestigious Baltimore restaurant, with the same cane. The cane was a 25-cent toy. At the Spinsters' Ball, he called a 30-year-old waitress a "nigger" and hit her with the cane; she fled the room in tears. Moments later, after ordering a bourbon that Carroll didn't bring immediately, Zantzinger cursed at her, called her a "nigger" also, then "you black son of a bitch," and struck her on the shoulder with the cane. After striking Carroll, he attacked his own wife, knocking her to the ground and hitting her with his shoe.

Soon after the blow, Carroll told co-workers, "I feel deathly ill, that man has upset me so." She collapsed and was hospitalized. Hattie Carroll died eight hours after the assault. Her autopsy showed hardened arteries, an enlarged heart, and high blood pressure, and gave brain hemorrhage as the cause of death.

Zantzinger was initially charged with murder. His defense was that he had been extremely drunk, and he admitted to no memory of the attack. His charge was reduced to manslaughter and assault, based on the likelihood that it was her stress reaction to his verbal and physical abuse led to the intracranial bleeding, rather than blunt-force trauma from the blow that left no lasting mark. On August 28, Zantzinger was convicted of both charges and sentenced to six months' imprisonment.

TIME Magazine covered the sentencing:Quotation|In June, after Zantzinger's phalanx of five topflight attorneys won a change of venue to a court in Hagerstown, a three-judge panel reduced the murder charge to manslaughter. Following a three-day trial, Zantzinger was found guilty.For the assault on the hotel employees: a fine of $125. For the death of Hattie Carroll: six months in jail and a fine of $500. The judges considerately deferred the start of the jail sentence until September 15, to give Zantzinger time to harvest his tobacco crop.|TIME, [,9171,870451,00.html "Deferred Sentence"] |September 6, 1963

After the sentence was announced, the "New York Herald Tribune" conjectured he was given a sentence that short to keep him out of the largely black state prison, reasoning that his notoriety would make him a target for abuse there. Throughout the United States, sentences over a year are generally served in a state prison; sentences under a year are usually served in a county jail or city lockup. Zantzinger instead served his time in the comparative safety of the Washington county jail, some 70 miles from the scene of the crime.

In September, the "Herald Tribune" quoted Zantzinger on his sentence: "I'll just miss a lot of snow." His then-wife, Jane, was quoted saying, "Nobody treats his niggers as well as Billy does around here."

The song

Dylan wrote the song in Manhattan, sitting in an all-night cafe. He recorded it on October 23, 1963, when the trial was still relatively fresh news, and incorporated it into his live repertoire immediately, before releasing the studio version on January 13 of the next year. He also performed the song on Steve Allen's network television program soon after its release.

The wording of the lyrics, "a cane / That sailed through the air and came down through the room",either describe the arc of the cane's descent, or assert that the cane was thrown, or is a metaphor for the baselessness of the attack and its impact on society. And the next line, "doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle" presumably draws on poetic license as to the degree of malice evidenced.

The song juxtaposes Zantzinger's wealth and connections to the powerful with the brevity of that sentence. Despite the song's topical nature, Dylan continues to perform it in concert as of May 2008. [ [ Bob Dylan - Bob Links - Lewiston, Maine - set list - 05/17/08 ] ] His live-audience renditions of it appear on the albums "Live 1975" (2002) and "Live 1964" (2004).

In "Chronicles, Vol. 1", Dylan includes "Hattie Carroll" in a list of his early songs which he feels were influenced by his introduction to the work of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. He describes writing out the words of "Pirate Jenny" (or "The Black Freighter") in order to understand how the Brecht-Weill song achieved its effect. Dylan writes: "Woody had never written a song like that. It wasn't a protest or a topical song and there was no love for people in it. I took the song apart and unzipped it - it was the free verse association, the structure and disregard for the known certainty of melodic pattern to make it seriously matter, give it its cutting edge. It also had the ideal chorus for the lyrics" [Dylan, "Chronicles, Vol. 1", 273–276. [ partial version available online] ]

The prosody of 'Hattie Carroll' is unusual. In part because the names "Carroll" and "Zan(t)zinger" both end on unstressed syllables, the lines of the verses each use a feminine ending, although those of the chorus do not.

The song is cited in several accounts of the controversy surrounding Dylan's introduction of folk rock at the Newport Folk Festival.

Literary critic Christopher Ricks considers the song to be "one of Dylan's greatest" and the recording on The Times They Are A-Changin' to be "perfect." He devotes an entire chapter to it, analyzing both the meaning as well as the prosody in his book on Dylan's songs as poetry. "But here is a song that could not be written better." [Ricks, Christopher. "Dylan's Visions of Sin." New York: Ecco Books, 2003. p.15, 233. [ partial version available online] ]

Impact on Zantzinger

The song has continued to haunt Zantzinger in later controversies. After serving his sentence for manslaughter, Zantzinger returned to running the farm in Charles County. He also began selling real estate, and moved to more urban Waldorf, Maryland, still within Charles County. Eventually he moved to a two-acre home in Port Tobacco, where he lived throughout the 1990s until moving to a new home in St. Mary's County around 2001 [ Ancestry Database: U.S. Phone and Address Directories, 1993-2002] ] in Chaptico, Maryland, called Bachelor's Hope.

His conviction had little impact on his life in the white community. He was admitted to a country club. By 1983, he was elected chairman of the board of trustees of the Realtors Political Action Committee of Maryland. But 1983 also marked the beginning of serious legal trouble regarding Zantzinger's back taxes, which would explode into a new racial scandal in 1991.

In October 1983, the IRS levied the income stream Zantzinger was receiving from a trust left to him by his mother and administered by Riggs Bank in order to satisfy an outstanding federal tax obligation slightly over $78,000. The bank sought to protect the assets of the trust and Zantzinger's right to benefit from it by claiming that he had forfeited his right to the income via a spendthrift trust provision, but that the bank itself nonetheless retained discretion over whether it could grant him benefits of the trust which would be protected from IRS confiscation. While the case was being litigated, Zantzinger's income stream from the trust stopped. When the case ended in 1986, Riggs Bank lost and the IRS was granted the right to all income Zantzinger would have received from the trust until such time as his federal taxes were caught up, or until his death, whichever came first. [ "United States of America, et al., Plaintiffs v. Riggs National Bank, et al., Defendants"] U.S. District Court, D.C., Docket #84-2889, April 30, 1986, 636 FSupp 172. Accessed January 6, 2008.]

In addition to his federal tax delinquencies, Zantzinger fell more than $18,000 behind on county taxes on properties he owned in two Charles County communities called Patuxent Woods and Indian Head, shanties he leased to poor blacks."'Md. Man Charged in Rental Scam," "Washington Post," June 7, 1991.] "'Landlord' Indicted in Rent Theft," "Washington Post," September 7, 1991.] In 1986, the same year the IRS ruled against him, Charles County confiscated those properties. Nonetheless, Zantzinger continued to collect rents, raise rents, and even successfully prosecute his putative tenants for back rent.

This went on until 1991. At that point, the Maryland Independent newspaper broke the scandal: in a hamlet about thirty miles from Washington, D.C., Zantzinger was charging black families rent to live in shacks he no longer owned. Even when he had owned them, prior to their confiscation by the county, the poorly-maintained properties in Patuxent Woods and Indian Head were in violation of county habitability codes, lacking water and sewer connections. Lacking even outhouses, the human waste dumped on the ground contaminated the water in the shallow wells. He was charging as much as $200 a month for these buildings, which also lacked modern heat. In one example, a four-room shanty contained at least six people."Ousted Landlord Kept Hand in Pockets of Poor," "Washington Post," May 13, 1991.]

The "Washington Post" picked up the story and reported that Zantzinger had won court judgments as late as 1990 for back rent against delinquent tenants on those properties, five years after they went into forfeiture in 1985 and four years after the county formally took title in 1986. He illegally collected amounts ranging from $600 to $10,364 per household after the county took title, reaching a total of more than $64,000."Former Landlord Guilty on 50 Counts," "Washington Post," November 19, 1991.]

After the "Post's" reportage, other national papers picked up the story; Dylan's 1964 song had made Zantzinger both infamous and newsworthy countrywide. The fact that the tenants exploited on these properties were black, combined with the white Zantzinger's earlier crime against Hattie Carroll, solidified his reputation for being racist and criminal among much of the community, though reportedly not among the white elite who were his social circle. Dylan's song was invoked as an anthem for those calling for Zantzinger's prosecution in the rental cases. A local fair housing group took the lead in organizing pressure on county officials. The NAACP and League of Women Voters joined in. Protest marches took place, demanding action. In June, 1991, Zantzinger was initially charged with a single count of "deceptive trade practices," and a trial was scheduled for September.

After some delay, Zantzinger pleaded guilty to 50 misdemeanor counts of unfair and deceptive trade practices. Prior to his guilty plea, the court was presented evidence that Zantzinger had hidden the income stream during his 1988 divorce, acknowledging in his divorce filings that he did not have title to the properties but not admitting he was still collecting rent. He was sentenced to 19 months in prison and a $50,000 fine. Unlike the judge in the Hattie Carroll case, the judge in 1991 refused his request to delay the start of his sentence to get his affairs in order."Landlord Sentenced," "Washington Post," January 4, 1992.] Some of his prison sentence was served in a work release program."A Neighborhood Lost - And Finally Found," "Washington Post," August 17, 1992.]

The Maryland Real Estate Commission fined him $2,000 in April, 1992, describing the Patuxent Woods houses as "ramshackle, primitive structures reminiscent of slave quarters."

In 2001, Zantzinger told Howard Sounes, in "Down the Highway, the Life of Bob Dylan", "It's actually had no effect upon my life," but expressed scorn for Dylan, saying, "He's a no-account son of a bitch, he's just like a scum of a scum bag ["sic"] of the earth, I should have sued him and put him in jail." Zantzinger claims the song is "a total lie", though it closely reflects the facts which led to his 1963 conviction. He has not attempted to prevent Dylan from performing it.

Contradicting contemporary news reports, Bob Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin defends Zantzinger and chastises Dylan: "Dylan's portrait of William Zantzinger verges on the libelous... That the song itself is a masterpiece of drama and wordplay does not excuse Dylan's distortions, and thirty-six years on he continues to misrepresent poor William Zantzinger in concert." [Heylin, Clinton. "Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Take Two". New York: Viking, 2000. (first published in 1991) [ partial version available online] p.124-125]

Though Zantzinger states the song has not affected his life, it inevitably comes up whenever his name is in the news. At midafternoon on February 11, 2005, his garage burned down in an accidental workshop fire at his most recent home in Chaptico, Maryland, a new "manor home" called Bachelor's Hope. The local paper which covered the news provided two small photos: one, of the barn burning; and one, above that, of Zantzinger at 24 in the paddy wagon with two officers after his arrest for killing Hattie Carroll. The brief news item, headlined "Fire Scorches Garage of High Society Killer," gave more than half its space to the death of Hattie Carroll and the rent fraud scandal, and mentioned the Dylan song which has kept him notorious more than forty years after the crime. [ "Fire Scorches Garage of High Society Killer"] , St. Mary's Today community news bulletin. Accessed January 7, 2008.]

Pop culture

"Blood Ties: Part 3," a 1997 episode of the Baltimore television serial "", recites some lyrics of the song in reference to a case in which a wealthy black person is investigated for the murder of a Haitian domestic choked to death in a hotel washroom. She had gone to the party at the hotel to beg the killer to let her keep her job as the family housemaid. The actors having the dialog were Andre Braugher and James Earl Jones, who played her employer.

The comic strip "Three Panel Soul" (by the creators of "Mac Hall") includes a 2006 strip in which a "City of Villains" character is modeled and named after William Zantzinger.cite web |url= |title=On the City of Villains |accessdate=2007-02-25 |last= McConville |first= Ian |authorlink=Ian McConville |coauthors=Boyd, Matt |date=2006-11-15 |year= |month= |format= |work=Three Panel Soul |publisher= |pages= |language= |archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote= ]

On his album A Larum, Johnny Flynn mentions Hattie Carroll in his song "Shore to Shore," about a bus accident that resulted in the death of a young girl:

I am the masked rider, give me some grace/ You've never seen me and you don't know my face/ She was no Hattie Carroll, it was cold, it was blue/ And it only happened despite me or you/ Me or you, me or you

Cover versions

Billy Bragg wrote a song using the same melody called "The Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie."when

The reggae-influenced progressive rock band Rx Bandits recorded a cover of the song in 2005 for the Drive-Thru Records compilation "Listen To Bob Dylan - A Tribute".

The reggae singer Michael Rose, formerly of Black Uhuru, also did a cover of this song for a compilation produced by Dr. Dread titled "Is It Rolling Bob?."when

The singer/songwriter folk artist Christy Moore performed a cover of the song on the "2006 Live in Dublin" album. He released a studio version of the song on his album "Burning Times."

The Minnesota-based singer/songwriter Mason Jennings does a cover of the song in the biographical Bob Dylan movie "I'm Not There" released in November 2007.

The English folk singer Martin Carthy recorded the song on his "Signs Of Life" album in 1998.

Robert Levon Been, bassist and guitarist of the band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, often performs this song live.

Phranc, an American folk singer, covered the song on her debut album "Folksinger" (Island Records, 1985).


* Frazier, Ian, "Legacy of a Lonely Death". "Mother Jones", November/December 2004, 42-47; [ partial version on line] . Reprinted by "The Guardian" February 25, 2005, as " [,,1424244,00.html Life after a lonesome death] " (full version with the full song lyrics).
* "Farmer Convicted in Barmaid's Death", "New York Times" June 28, 1963. p. 11
* "Farmer Sentenced in Barmaid's Death", "New York Times" August 29, 1963. p. 15

External links

* [ Legacy of a Lonesome Death] Mother Jones November/December 2004 Issue
* [ Maryland Court Records]
* [ "Rich Brute Slays Negro Mother of 10"] , August 29, 1963 article by Roy H. Wood as transcribed from book "Absolutely Dylan" by Patrick Humphries and John Bauldie, (1991). ISBN 0140168230 and ISBN 978-0140168235
* [ Song Lyrics and Meaning]
* [ "The Art of Bob Dylan's "Hattie Carroll"] , 1964 critique by Phil Ochs in Broadside Magazine.
* [ "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll"] Lyrics from Columbia Records
* [ "Whatever Happened to William Zantzinger?"] material published by "The Telegraph" in 1991 as "The true story of William Zantzinger," as transcribed by Mudcat Cafe blog.
*YouTube.Com, search on "Hattie Carroll"

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