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The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

PostPosted: Tue May 18, 2010 4:53 am
by uiwangmike
Radio 4. How good can a 30-minute radio documentary be? I can't imagine they come better than this one by Howard Sounes, who packs an awful lot into a short time.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00s77wp
Sounes' blog:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcmusic/201 ... rroll.html

Re: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

PostPosted: Sun May 23, 2010 10:55 am
by garth cartwright
Thanks - this was worth listening to. Having read a Dylan biog that gave me the basic facts on the case I wondered if i would learn anything new. I certainly did. Zanzinger was almost a pantomime villain, a man so reprehensible that the fact he lived for 89 years reminds you that there is no God. Interestingly, Hattie Carroll's children remained angry not only about his short jail sentence but about Dylan profiting from the family's suffering - it turns out he has never once been in contact or made any offers of financial support to this very poor family whose children were orphaned by the evil Zanzinger. Dylan has long been accused of using the Civil Rights movement as simply a ladder to fame - considering his politics since have largely been gestural or to the right this seems accurate. Still, he wrote one of his greatest songs from this tragic incident and its power continues to resonate,

Re: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

PostPosted: Sun May 23, 2010 11:15 am
by Papa M
garth cartwright wrote: - it turns out he has never once been in contact or made any offers of financial support to this very poor family whose children were orphaned by the evil Zanzinger.


That has really distressed and disappointed me.

I've been enjoying a personal massive resurge of interest in Zim during the last couple of years and I now have a bitter taste in my mouth.

Re: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

PostPosted: Sun May 23, 2010 12:08 pm
by NormanD
See http://www.planetslade.com/hattie-carroll1.html for a long online account of the whole story, though nothing about Dylan's post-song behaviour.

(A really interesting site, by the way - well worth bookmarking for more leisurely reading. Has the author, Paul Slade, posted here? If not, I hope he does.)

Re: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

PostPosted: Sun May 23, 2010 1:33 pm
by Adam Blake
Very good short documentary, thanks for alerting me to it. Expecting people like Dylan to behave responsibly is a bit of a vain hope. You don't get to be that rich and famous by doing the right thing. The fact that he wrote the song in the first place, and that it was such a powerful and memorable song, perhaps that's all one can hope for from an artist.

Re: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 5:59 pm
by Paul Slade
NormanD wrote: "A really interesting site, by the way - well worth bookmarking for more leisurely reading. Has the author, Paul Slade, posted here? If not, I hope he does."

Happy to oblige, Norm, and thanks for the kind words. PlanetSlade is all about the true stories behind murder ballads like Stagger Lee, Knoxville Girl, Frankie & Johnny etc, so I'm glad you enjoyed the Hattie Carroll piece.

The rock critic Lester Bangs summed up the issue with Dylan and Hattie Carroll quite nicely when he wrote: “Dylan merely used Civil Rights and the rest of the Movement to advance himself in the first place. Which was actually not only kosher, but a fair deal, because the exchange amounted to symbiotic exploitation - the Movement got some potent anthems, Dylan got to be a figurehead and, even if he was using his constituency, art is more important than politics in the long run anyway.”

Re: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 6:19 pm
by Adam Blake
Hello Paul, hope your first post is the first of many here. Nice to see a fellow Bangs-ian too!
All of what you quote is true but it surely wouldn't have hurt Bob to have chucked a few grand in the direction of the Carroll family over the years. Set up a trust fund for the kids or something.

Re: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 7:05 pm
by NormanD
Welcome from me too, Paul. Good job I wrote complimentarily - one never knows who's reading, does one?

Adam (of previous post) recently passed on to me a copy of the James Mason film of Secret London, another area you cover on your Planet. Do keep 'em coming.

Re: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

PostPosted: Tue May 25, 2010 10:57 pm
by Papa M
Adam Blake wrote:....it surely wouldn't have hurt Bob to have chucked a few grand in the direction of the Carroll family over the years.


Exactly. Even a few hundred bucks might have been a sufficient gesture to show that he actually cares about the issues that have made him rich.

Re: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

PostPosted: Wed May 26, 2010 12:07 am
by garth cartwright
“Dylan merely used Civil Rights and the rest of the Movement to advance himself in the first place. Which was actually not only kosher, but a fair deal, because the exchange amounted to symbiotic exploitation - the Movement got some potent anthems, Dylan got to be a figurehead and, even if he was using his constituency, art is more important than politics in the long run anyway.”

Much as I admire Lester Bangs as a music writer I would never rely on him as a social commentator - too much of a mess and not really that passionate about anything but rock music (his early 80s attempts to write about the homeless and such see him spiraling downwards as a writer). This is illustrated by the above quote, especially the line "art is more important than politics in the long run anyway" - so Bob Dylan's early 60s albums are more important than Martin Luther King's (and the movement's) achievements? Not to me. But to Lester, whose thoughts on race were pretty silly (he admitted this in one of his late essays), it was. And you?

Re: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

PostPosted: Wed May 26, 2010 12:12 am
by Adam Blake
As Lester isn't around to explain himself - I'll have a go. I think the crucial phrase is "in the long run". I don't think he would for a moment have made such a contention as the one you suggest, Garth. I think he was talking about art with a capital A - like Da Vinci or Van Gogh, or J.S.Bach, or Dostoyevsky - which certainly has survived the politics of its day. Not necessarily Bob Dylan! (But it's still too early to tell whether or not any of Dylan's songs will survive in that way. We'll never know that.)

Also, it wasn't Lester's attempts to write about subject matter other than music that saw him spiralling downwards so much as his lamentable alcoholism and drug addiction.

Re: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

PostPosted: Wed May 26, 2010 4:52 pm
by Paul Slade
Another interesting question is how much responsibility Dylan, or any other songwriter, has to get his basic facts right when singing about something that really happened.

Should we assume that's a core part of the job, as it would be for any responsible journalist or historian? Or is he more like a novelist, who may take a newspaper story as his spinning-off point, but is then free to ignore or change any facts which don't fit where his imagination leads him?

I'm thinking here of facts like Zantzinger never actually being charged with "first degree murder" (as Dylan states) let alone convicted of it. Facts like Hattie herself being a barmaid rather than Dylan's humble "maid of the kitchen" at that night's function, and facts like her exact cause of death being considerably complicated by existing health problems.

That said, the song's certainly artistically true and it unquestionably captures the spirit of Zantzinger's revolting behaviour in a powerful and expertly-crafted way.

I'd be quite happy to put Dylan in the novelist's category and give him all the leeway that implies if it weren't for the fact that he frequently introduces Hattie Carroll as a true story on stage, and is happy to take the extra little frisson of excitement which this gives the song. He can't have it both ways, can he?

Re: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2016 3:16 pm
by Jarlath
uiwangmike wrote:Radio 4. How good can a 30-minute radio documentary be? I can't imagine they come better than this one by Howard Sounes, who packs an awful lot into a short time.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00s77wp
Sounes' blog:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcmusic/201 ... rroll.html


This programme was repeated on BBC Radio 4 Extra on the 17.3.16 and is still available to listen to on the BBCiplayer

Also Paul Slade, who is mentioned in this thread, has now published a book UNPREPARED TO DIE - America’s greatest murder ballads and the true crime stories that inspired them

http://www.soundcheckbooks.co.uk/unprepared-to-die/