5 Bob Dylan Songs Based On True Events
via Paul Best / Youtube
Bob Dylan, a well-known songwriter, has made a lot of really amazing songs throughout his career. Some of these songs are about things that really happened in our history. Here are five examples of the people and events that have inspired his music.
‘Murder Most Foul’ Is Bob Dylan’s Longest Song
In 2020, Dylan came out with his 39th album, Rough and Rowdy Ways. The album had a long song called “Murder Most Foul,” the longest song he had ever made. It lasted almost 17 minutes and was all about the killing of John F. Kennedy.
‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll’ Drew Criticism for Being Inaccurate
Some time ago, Dylan put out a song called “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” on his album from 1964 called The Times They Are a-Changin’. The song tells the story of Hattie Carroll, a Black waitress killed in 1963 due to a brutal and racist attack by a man named William Zantzinger.
Zantzinger was found guilty of causing her death by a group of judges and was given a short prison term as punishment. “And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance/William Zanzinger with a six-month sentence,” Dylan sang.
Although the things described in the song happened, there were some mistakes regarding historical accuracy. Dylan got Zantzinger’s last name wrong and didn’t accurately portray certain aspects of the trial.
Dylan’s biographer, Clinton Heylin, pointed out that Dylan was fortunate to avoid being sued for these errors. During a Rolling Stone interview, Heylin said:
“He’s very lucky that he didn’t get his a** sued. I love the song, but it’s a shameful piece of writing.”
‘Only a Pawn in Their Game’ Was 1 of the Songs Bob Dylan Played at the March on Washington
In the album, Dylan included a song called “Only a Pawn in Their Game.” This song talks about the killing of Medgar Evers, who fought for civil rights in 1963. During that time, Dylan was known for singing songs to support protests, and he even sang this particular song at the March on Washington in 1963.
Dylan said in the documentary No Direction Home, per Rolling Stone:
“I looked up from the podium and I thought to myself, ‘I’ve never seen such a large crowd.’
“I was up close when King was giving that speech. To this day, it still affects me in a profound way.”
‘Hurricane’ Is One of His Few Protest Songs From After the 1960s
Dylan stopped writing songs about protesting by the mid-1960s, but in 1975, he returned to that style with the song “Hurricane.” In the song, he talks about boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter being put in jail and says he thinks Carter was wrongly accused of murder because of racism.
“Here comes the story of the Hurricane/ The man the authorities came to blame/ For somethin’ that he never done/ Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been/ The champion of the world,” Dylan sang.
Dylan started writing the song after meeting face-to-face with Carter.
‘Roll on John’ Follows the Life of Dylan’s Friend
In 2012, Dylan put out a revised edition of a song he had sung back in the 1960s. The song “Roll On John” was now about the story of John Lennon’s life and his passing. Dylan and Lennon were pals during the 1960s, and Dylan wrote a special song as a way to honor the former member of the Beatles many years later.
“From the Liverpool docks to the red-light Hamburg streets/ Down in the quarry with the quarrymen/ Playing to the big crowds, playing to the cheap seats/ Another day in the life on your way to your journey’s end,” Dylan sang about Lennon’s early days as a musician.