Now Ain't The Time For Your Tears

I see that William Zantzinger is reported to have kicked the bucket. Zantzinger, a racist, tax dodger, fraudster and, not least, murderer was the subject of Bob Dylan’s classic “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”*. Music folklore has it that it was composed one long night in a coffee shop on Manhattan’s Seventh Avenue. It appeared on 1964’s seminal The Times They Are A-Changin’ and conferred unwanted musical immortality on Zantzinger.

Hattie Carroll was a 51yr old black barmaid and mother of eleven. She was unlucky enough to be on duty in the early hours of Feb 9th, 1963 at the Emerson Hotel, Baltimore. Zantzinger was a 24 year’s old, 6’2’’ wealthy tobacco farmer. And a notorious drunk. Having already assaulted several of the hotel staff, he became enraged when Carroll was slow delivering his bourbon and struck her with his 25 cent cane. Shortly afterwards, she became ill and collapsed, dying eight hours later.

At his trial, Zantzinger was convicted of manslaughter and, mindful of his possible treatment in the state penitentiary, given a mere 6 months in the local gaol. Of course, this didn’t affect his standing in the local community and, after his release; he went into real estate and became a pillar of local commerce. In later years he was pursued by the IRS and finally, in 1991, the law caught up with him. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail for the little matter of collecting rent from black tenants for property he didn’t actually own. He continued to bemoan his musical notoriety until the end and complained that Dylan was a “no-account son of a bitch”.

I wrote to him once to tell him what a wanker he was. I never did get a reply.

*Billy Bragg later used the melody for his own poignant “The Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie”, which stands alongside Dylan’s as a testament to the forgotten fallen.


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