January 12, 2009 13:05
Bob Dylan's 'Hattie Carroll' killer dies
Billy Zantzinger inspired one of Dylan's most political songs
The real life killer who was the subject of Bob Dylan's song 'The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll', has died.
Billy Zantzinger, a wealthy tobacco farmer from Charles County, Maryland, first rose to notoriety in February 1963 after he was charged with the murder - later reduced to manslaughter and assault - of a 51 year-old black barmaid called Hattie Carroll.
Zantzinger, who was 24 at the time of the incident, is said to have hit Carroll with a toy cane at a white-tie ball in Baltimore - because she took too long to serve him a drink.
She later died from her injuries.
After claiming in court that he was drunk and had no memory of striking Carroll, Zantzinger was sentenced to just six months in prison.
Dylan, outraged at the story, wrote 'The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll' while sitting in an all-night coffee shop on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, New York, in October 1963.
He changed Zantzinger's name to read "William Zanzinger", allegedly to avoid libel action.
The song's lyrics include:
"Hattie Carroll was a maid of the kitchen / She was fifty-one years old and gave birth to ten children / Who carried the dishes and took out the garbage / And never sat once at the head of the table / And didn't even talk to the people at the table / Who just cleaned up all the food from the table / And emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level / Got killed by a blow, lay slain by a cane / That sailed through the air and came down through the room / Doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle / And she never done nothing to William Zanzinger".
Although the song became one of Dylan's most revered - and one he still performs today - Zantzinger told Dylan biographer Howard Sounes that it had "had no effect upon my life" in 2001.
In the same interview Zantzinger poured scorn on Dylan, claiming that the song was "a total lie".
"He's a no-account son of a bitch," Zantzinger said of Dylan. "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 died on January 3, reports The Times, aged 69.
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