Now Ain’t The Time For Your Tears: The Lonesome Death of William Zantzinger

The New York Times reports today on the death of William Zantzinger, whose murder of a black barmaid named Hattie Carroll inspired one of Bob Dylan’s most haunting and politically acute ballads.

hattie-carrol

On February 9, 1963, Zantzinger, the 24 year old son of a wealthy and politically well connected tobacco farmer, attended a white tie ball at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland.  Already drunk before he came to the hotel, Zantzinger became enraged when he thought that 51 year old barmaid Hattie Carroll did not bring him his drink faster enough.  Zantzinger called her a “nigger” and a “black son of a bitch” and hit her on the head with a cane. 

Carroll died eight hours later of a brain hemorrhage.

zantzinger1

Zantzinger was arrested and charged with murder. The change was later reduced to manslaughter and assault.  On August 28, 1963, Zantzinger was convicted and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and fined $500.

 

Dylan recorded the song “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” for his third album,  The Times They Are a-Changin’, on  October 23, 1963.

The song’s lyrics are:

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.
William Zanzinger, who at twenty-four years
Owns a tobacco farm of six hundred acres
With rich wealthy parents who provide and protect him
And high office relations in the politics of Maryland,
Reacted to his deed with a shrug of his shoulders
And swear words and sneering, and his tongue it was snarling,
In a matter of minutes on bail was out walking.
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain’t the time for your tears.
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.
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain’t the time for your tears.
In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel
To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level
And that the strings in the books ain’t pulled and persuaded
And that even the nobles get properly handled
Once that the cops have chased after and caught ’em
And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom,
Stared at the person who killed for no reason
Who just happened to be feelin’ that way without warnin’.
And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished,
And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance,
William Zanzinger with a six-month sentence.
Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now’s the time for your tears.
Zantzinger later said “I should have sued him [Dylan] and put him in jail.”

The Times article on Zantzinger’s death includes a six minute and twenty-seven seconds video clip from YouTube of Dylan singing “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” on the Steve Allen Show in 1964. 

Where on television today is there anything as politically or artistically powerful?

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