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Carroll, Hattie

Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll / The Times They Are A- Changin' / 1964

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.
I can't say how accurate Dylan's presentation is, but there was a real incident involving the murder of a woman named Hattie Carroll; in fact, Jonathan Cott's book "Dylan," which Rolling Stone Press/Doubleday published in 1984, has a picture of her. (I worked as a researcher on the book project, and I vaguely recall that somehow we came up with that, and perhaps some contemporanous newspaper items; I don't have a copy of the book at hand, and I don't recall what eventually appeared in print.)

The killing did take place in Maryland, and there is an apocryphal story that Dylan happened to read about it in the local newspaper when he was in Washington to sing at the March on Washington in August of 1963 (at which Dr. King made his famous "I have a dream..." speech).

Perhaps someone with more resources at their disposal could state whether the timing would have been right for that to have happened; in any event, while he may have used some poetic license, there is factual basis to the song.

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