Archive for June 1st, 2011

Top Five: Bob Dylan’s histories

1 June 2011

By Kevin O’Sullivan

I use the term ‘histories’ loosely. For, as any of you who have seen No Direction Home, read Dylan’s own brilliant Chronicles, Vol. 1, or had the urge to peruse any of the myriad biographies produced over the last forty years or so will know, Bob Dylan is a man well versed in the art of bending the truth. (And no stranger to others doing the same for him, as he recently commented: ‘I’m encouraging anybody who’s ever met me, heard me or even seen me, to get in on the action and scribble their own book. You never know, somebody might have a great book in them.’) Since he turned 70 last week, and since we haven’t had a ‘Top Five’ in a while, I thought it would be fitting to have an American history as told by Bob Dylan list. All corrections, suggestions, contradictions and admonitions gratefully accepted via the comments box below.

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

The opening lines say it all: ‘William Zantzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll / With a cane that had twirled round his diamond-ringed finger / At a Baltimore hotel society gathering’. Here was Dylan at his storytelling best: basic history combined with active mind and a genius for storytelling, with a twist of racial injustice – Carroll was a black waitress – thrown in for good measure. Zantzinger, who served a six-month prison sentence for manslaughter, died in 2009 still bitter at what he viewed as Dylan’s distorted picture of the events.  Read More