A History of Violence: Murder and Justice in Bob Dylan Songs

Bob Dylan in the film 'Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid' Credit: MGM Studios/Moviepix/Getty Images

Victim: A Man Named Gray
Song: "Idiot Wind" (1975)
Motive: Wife-stealing; crossing international borders
Verdict: Dylan totally shot that hombre

Victim: Ramon, the Dead Man in the Cantina
Song: "Romance in Durango" (1976)
Motive: Mad love for the beautiful maiden Magdalena
Verdict: Dylan killed him but will probably die for his deed

Victim: Three Dudes in a Bar
Song: "Hurricane" (1976)
Crime Scene: Paterson, New Jersey
Motive: Framing the champion of the world; making Dylan sad
Verdict: Not the Hurricane

Victim: Joey Gallo
Song: "Joey" (1976)
Crime Scene: Umberto’s Clam House in New York
Motive: Because if they didn’t kill him the damn song would never end
Verdict: Not the Hurricane

Victim: The Brown Family
Song: "Ballad of Hollis Brown" (1964)
Crime Scene: A South Dakota farm
Method: Shotgun
Motive: Hunger; desperation; desire to perpetuate theories of reincarnation
Verdict: Hollis presumed guilty; Bad Bad Leroy never charged

Victim: Big Jim
Song: "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" (1975)
Method: A penknife in the back
Motive: Doing one last good deed before she died; increasing erotic tension between Lily and the Jack of Hearts
Verdict: Rosemary found guilty, but possibly taking the fall for someone

Victim: Gregory Peck
Song: "Brownsville Girl" (1986)
Method: Shot in the back in the movie The Gunfighter
Motive: Some hungry kid was trying to make a name for himself
Verdict: He nobly forgave the killer with his dying breath

Victim: Slim Pickens
Song: "Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door" (1973)
Method: Shot in the movie Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid
Motive: Who cares? That long black cloud is coming down, bitch
Verdict: Billy the Kid guilty

Victim: The Guy in Paradise
Song: "Spirit on the Water" (2006)
Motive: Impressing women
Verdict: Dylan guilty, but flees and cannot return

Victim: Hattie Carroll
Song: "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" (1964)
Motive: No reason; just happened to be feeling that way without warning
Verdict: William Zanzinger guilty – what a dick

Victim: Dishonest Men
Song: "John Wesley Harding" (1967)
Method: A gun in every hand, i.e., two guns
Motive: Money; straightening out situations; avoiding foolish moves
Verdict: No charge held against him could they prove

Victim: Everybody
Song: "Masters of War" (1963)
Method: Bombs, planes, guns, etc.
Motive: Money; planning to purchase forgiveness; making Dylan sad
Verdict: The guilty parties will eventually feel shame when Dylan
attends their funeral

Victim: The Barroom Man
Song: "Hand of Fate" (1976)
Method: He shot the killer once, but the killer shot him twice
Motive: The wheel of fortune keeps turnin’ round
Verdict: Wait, that was a Stones song, right?


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