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Friday Five – Power to the People

March 7, 2008

This morning as I read Art’s Friday Five asking that we list songs that reference real people I thought to myself, “I’ll bet you could fill that up with just Dylan songs.”  So I did.

  1. The Death of Emmett Till
  2. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
  3. Hurricane
  4. Only a Pawn in Their Game

Okay, those four make a great case for Dylan as a civil rights activist and kind of a depressing songwriter.  Although he has written more than his fair share of angry, depressing songs about real life injustice Bob can be quite funny.  So for a moment of levity, let’s all listen to “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues.”

(Bonus points if these songs made you think of Who Killed Davey Moore, Blind Willie McTell, High Water (for Charley Patton), John Wesley Harding, Billy, or, well you get the idea).

Then do yourselves a favor and read up on Emmett Till, Hattie Carroll, Medgar Evers, and Hurricane Carter.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2008 9:23 am

    Good one, Will.

  2. March 7, 2008 10:17 am

    Steve Earle: Christmas in Washington (“come back Woody Guthrie,” and others); Dixieland (Joshua Chamberlain); Over Yonder (Jonathan’s Song)

    John Prine: Come Back To Us Barbara Lewis Hare Krishna Beauregard; Sabu Visits the Twin Cities Alone; The Late John Garfield Blues

    Weezer: Buddy Holly

    The Beatles: Revolution (Chairman Mao)

    John Lennon: John Sinclair

    John Mellencamp: ROCK in the USA (too many to mention)

    Van Morrison: (Jackie Wilson Said) I’m In Heaven When You Smile

    The Police: When the World Is Running Down (James Brown on the TAMI show….)

  3. Layman Erik permalink
    March 7, 2008 7:51 pm


    I think the Rolling Thunder review version of Hattie Carol is the good one.

    R.E.M – Man on the moon.

    Kentucky Headhunters – Dumas Walker

    If you include musicians mentioning other musicians it is easy. There are probably a bazillions songs about Elvis…

    David Allen Coe – If that Ain’t country – mentions Johnny Cash.

    This category is too easy, you have to put some kind of restriction on it to make it fun (like your Bob Dylan list, but still too easy…)

    For example, just real quick off the top of my head it would be fun to make a chain.

    Gretchen Wilson, in “Redneck woman” sings about:

    Charlie Daniels who in “The South’s Gonna Do It Again.” sings about everyone including:

    Lynyrd Skynyrd who in: Sweet Home Alabama sings about:

    Neil Young who in: Out of the Blue sings about Johnny Rotten:

    I don’t know enough Sex Pistols songs to have any clue if Johnny Rottens sings about any other singers.

    I bet with just a little effort I could get five. Or even better would be a loop with like 10 songs or so.

  4. March 7, 2008 9:09 pm

    I agree that the Rolling Thunder version is excellent, but I was a fan of the acoustic folkie Bob first (via my dad’s old LPs) and I like having video of the performances when I can.

    Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You probably benefited the most from the Rolling Thunder treatment.

    Yeah, restricting the list would be a good thing. Great categories might be celebrities, other musicians, actors, historical figures, authors, literary characters, etc.

  5. March 7, 2008 10:41 pm

    I wish that I had something brilliant and witty to contribute. Let me just say, I enjoyed reading this post, and I like the “tweak” you did on Art’s post. Have a Happy Weekend – Jen

  6. Pastor Josh permalink
    March 8, 2008 1:35 am

    I thought about repeating this in my blog, and maybe I will, but I can think of one song that names many, many real people, right off the top of my head: Simon and Garfunkels’ “A Simple Desultory Phillipic.” (My favorite line is, “I’ve been Ayn Randed, nearly branded a communist ’cause I’m left-handed, and that’s they hand they use, well, nevermind. And the man’s brain’s so small, he couldn’t think of nothing at all. He’s not the same as you and me. He doesn’t dig poetry. He’s so unhip when you say ‘Dylan’, he thinks you’re talking about Dylan Thomas, whoever he was. The man ain’t got no culture.” I didn’t mean to type that much of the song, but I couldn’t help myself once I started. At least I didn’t try to render the harmonica parts.)

  7. March 8, 2008 1:48 am

    Buddy Holly by Weezer! Duh! Why didn’t I think of that one?

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