William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll
With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger
At a Baltimore hotel society gathering
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 fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain't the time for your tears

Hattie Carroll was a maid in 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
And 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


Lyrics submitted by Jack, edited by Mellow_Harsher

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll Lyrics as written by Bob Dylan

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll song meanings
Add Your Thoughts

20 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +2
    General Comment

    This is Dylan's powerful version of a true story; see this link (users.powernet.co.uk/barrett/The-Telegraph/extracts/zanzinger42.html) for the full details.

    stephon January 20, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Great song, I love the way Bob gets the ultimate point of the song across. I highly recommend the live version of this song from The Rolling Thunder Review.

    larchon May 04, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Yeah - Wikipedia has a good article on it too. The real guy, Zantzinger, has gotten into loads of trouble in recent years and is serving more time now then he did when he killed her...but it seems like Mr. Z is so hated just for being mean cause some reports say he didn't hit her & others say if he did it wasn't near hard enough to kill the lady...that she was literally scared to death by him & died of a heart condition.

    i love the juxtaposition of this song with Percy's song on biograph, even though bobby probably wasn't responsible for that

    CoryGreenwellon June 24, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    This song here is a masterpiece. The last verse is pure genius cuz Dylan doesn't say there was any fault in the trail - he just leaves the conclusions to the listener. And i love the built up in the choruses and the first time i heard the song i was surprised at the last one.

    Isn't it funny that later Zanzieger spent 19 months in jail for misdemeanor, but for killing the poor woman he was sentenced 6... Well now he's dead and i'm kinda glad - one bad man lesser.

    OnlyAPawnInTheirGameon November 24, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    very easy to play on guitar.

    miseraon June 09, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Yep larch ive got that on video, black n white copy really good

    Detectiveon April 06, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    what an excellent song, even though the live version is much better on the DVD "Don't Look Back." On the DVD it is much faster, which sounds so much better. I hear the live version first, then the studio second, and i thing the studio doesn't compare to the live one.

    adam1986on July 24, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    I love this song but since my english isn't perfect I don't really understand the meaning of "But you philosophize disgrace and critizise all fears...and so on". I mean, I understand the words but not the meaning. So, what does it mean?

    Leviathan1on December 18, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    dylan is not rubbish live now, unless ur a new fan who just wants him to play his greatest hits

    fight_the_waron December 31, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Comment

    Its not even about him playing his hits or not...its just that his voice is pretty much gone.

    songofishon May 22, 2006   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

More Featured Meanings

Album art
Light Up The Sky
Van Halen
The song lyrics were written by the band Van Halen, as they were asked to write a song for the 1979 movie "Over the Edge" starring Matt Dillon. The movie (and the lyrics, although more obliquely) are about bored, rebellious youth with nothing better to do than get into trouble. If you see the movie, these lyrics will make more sense. It's a great movie if you grew up in the 70s/80s you'll definitely remember some of these characters from your own life. Fun fact, after writing the song, Van Halen decided not to let the movie use it.
Album art
Holiday
Bee Gees
@[Diderik:33655] "Your a holiday!" Was a popular term used in the 50s/60s to compliment someone on their all around. For example, not only are they beautiful, but they are fun and kind too ... just an all around "holiday". I think your first comment is closer to being accurate. The singer/song writers state "Millions of eyes can see, yet why am i so blind!? When the someone else is me, its unkind its unkind". I believe hes referring to the girl toying with him and using him. He wants something deeper with her, thats why he allows himself to be as a puppet (even though for her fun and games) as long as it makes her happy. But he knows deep down that she doesnt really want to be serious with him and thats what makes him.
Album art
Head > Heels
Ed Sheeran
“Head > Heels” is a track that aims to capture what it feels like to experience romance that exceeds expectations. Ed Sheeran dedicates his album outro to a lover who has blessed him with a unique experience that he seeks to describe through the song’s nuanced lyrics.
Album art
Amazing
Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran tells a story of unsuccessfully trying to feel “Amazing.” This track is about the being weighed down by emotional stress despite valiant attempts to find some positivity in the situation. This track was written by Ed Sheeran from the perspective of his friend. From the track, we see this person fall deeper into the negative thoughts and slide further down the path of mental torment with every lyric.
Album art
American Town
Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran shares a short story of reconnecting with an old flame on “American Town.” The track is about a holiday Ed Sheeran spends with his countrywoman who resides in America. The two are back together after a long period apart, and get around to enjoying a bunch of fun activities while rekindling the flames of their romance.