Four months after kicking off Montauk Madness (with a Billy Joel song, appropriately), we have arrived at the Final Four. Lots of close calls and blowouts, laughers and hair-pullers, and a lot of entertaining debate culminate in three more votes to decide — well, I’m not sure what we’re deciding. The consensus best artist according to readers of this blog as chosen from a group of 64 bands and soloists I rather haphazardly pulled together?
My initial intention for this series of blogs was just to run through the brackets myself and use the format to conclusively come up with my own favorite artist. I quickly realized that such an approach would be incredibly boring for my readers, who would certainly want a chance to chime in with their own votes.
‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll’ is a traditional protest song typical of Bob Dylan’s first few albums. This one appears on The Times They Are A-Changin’, Dylan’s most socially and politically charged record, which he released when he was just 22.
The song chronicles the true story of racist tobacco farm heir William Zantzinger (Dylan changed the spelling) who assaulted a 51-year-old black maid with a cane, after which she died. Zantzinger was charged with first-degree murder but ended up serving only six months. This was in early 1963.
Apologies to Amy, who recently requested that I not post anymore Bob Dylan songs.
I’m not sure why she picked on poor Dylan, who hasn’t made many appearances on the blog lately (only two this year, though admittedly one was less than a week ago).
I hope today’s song, a standout from The Times They Are A-Changin’, will get a pass. If the Random iTunes Fairy serves up more Zimmerman tomorrow, that’s another story.
Arriving at an artist like Bob Dylan during this musical genome project, I find the script has flipped.
It suddenly doesn’t make much sense to talk about my appreciation for Dylan’s music in terms of how he fits into my five categories. Rather, it becomes pretty clear that Bob Dylan’s music is likely the reason I’m drawn to those categories in the first place.
Bob Dylan is without question the most important musical influence of my life. I discovered him in my mid-teens, when the reptilian centers of my brain were still evolving, when I was quickly becoming the person I would forever be.
One more, Bob, for old time’s sake…
First, let me say Happy Valentine’s Day to those of you who celebrate the holiday (my wife and I don’t, because every day is Valentine’s Day in our house, baby!). And more important, happy birthday to my daughter Fiona, who turned four today.
I dedicated a song to her last year so I don’t feel guilty about sticking with the Dylan theme this go-around. And if there was a song about hilarious, adorable, sweet, maddening little girls on The Times They Are A’Changin’, you can bet I’d pick it.
But there isn’t. So I’m going instead with a song that reminds me of my own childhood. Or my own adolescence, anyway.
Bob Dylan’s third album, and his first to contain only original material, was 1964’s The Times They Are A-Changin’. It’s fascinating to consider that Dylan’s reputation as a protest singer and the artistic face of the civil rights era is based almost entirely on the songs he cut for this album.
Yes, ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ appeared on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, but the rest of that album was a more good-humored and intimate affair. The Times They Are A-Changin’, by contrast, was folk singer medicine. Aside from the title track, which memorably warned of the coming revolution, declaring that “your sons and your daughters are beyond your command,” you have protest songs about specific injustices done to Medgar Evers, Hattie Carroll and others.