Friday, April 26, 2013

Phil Ochs reviewing Bob Dylan


an interesting blast from the past...

because of who is writing about who, certainly 
but also because of the issues and language 
raised in what was at the time 
a journal of record for musicians 
and listeners...

The Art of Bob Dylan's 

``Hattie Carroll''

by Phil Ochs

From Broadside 48 July 20 1964; page 2 


`After Judy Collins' N.Y. Town Hall concert in which she
performed Bob Dylan's ``Hattie Carroll'' (BROADSIDE #43),
I overheard a well-known commercial folk singer criticizing
it as ``another one of those black and white songs.'' Another
act I know said the song was no good because it was too preachy.

It's a sad comment on the folk community when normally
intelligent people can totally misunderstand such an
important work. I believe this song could add a new
dimension to topical songs that has been missing too often
in the past. I'd like to use the song as an example to some
of the writers who contribute to BROADSIDE.

There are many pitfalls that Dylan might have fallen into
while treating such a delicate and difficult subject. It would
have been easy to describe the event and ask, ``Wasn't that
a terrible shame, don't let her die in vain'', and put the usual
sarcastic ``land of the free'' line at the end. I think this all
too simple artless approach is what the LITTLE SANDY
REVIEW critics are rightfully opposed to.

In line after poetic line Dylan brings out all the pathos
and irony of a tragic crime. He never gets trapped trying
to fit a thought into a prescribed rhyme form. What more
effective beginning could he have chosen than to use the
sound of the name William Zantzinger and the description
of the weapon, ``with a cane that he twirled round his
diamond ring finger,'' to carry over to the man?

He gives the setting in the first verse and asks that those who
would shed a tear over the murder to wait and listen to more.
In the second verse he describes Zantzinger's connections
with ``high office relations in the politics of Maryland who
reacted to his deed with a shrug of the shoulder.'' Once again
he deftly understates the evil, never making the mistake
of calling him a brute or coward and ruining the narration.

Dylan describes Hattie Carroll as a ``maid of the kitchen'',
not a downtrodden maid or a poor Negro woman. He brings out the pathos or her life perfectly with ``she never sat once at the head of the table.'' 

The description of the murder has to be one or the classics
of American folk music: ``the cane sailed through the air
and came down through the room, doomed and determined
to destroy all the gentle, and she never did nothing to
William Zantzinger.'' I listened to Bob's third record with
him before it was released, and the song that moved him
most was Hattie Carroll. 

read the rest of the review here 

ps - the original review came with this PS..

Note: Bob Dylan is to be at Newport Folk Festival
workshop on topical songs Fri. afternoon, July 24, along
with Phil Ochs, Malvina Reynolds, Johnny Cash, Jimmy
Driftwood, Frank Proffitt, The Chad Mitchell Trio, and
others. Pete Seeger will host this workshop which will
deal with Broadsides old and new.'  

learn more about
Phil Ochs fast


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