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100 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs

From "Just Like a Woman" to "John Wesley Harding," we count down the American icon's key masterpieces

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35. "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" (1964)

"It's a true story, but I changed the reporter's view," Dylan said of this chilling murder ballad. Dylan had read a story in Broadside, his favorite folk-music zine, about Hattie Carroll, a black hotel employee and a mother of nine from Baltimore, who died after she was allegedly struck by William Zantzinger, a white tobacco-farm owner. Zantzinger subsequently served six months in jail for manslaughter, though evidence later cast doubt on his guilt.
 Zantzinger is certainly guilty in "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," a deceptively gentle-sounding song, in which Dylan tweaked some of the facts of the case while keeping the details thick and vivid (the murder weapon is "a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger"). The result was a compelling story-song that doubled as an indictment of racism and class division. "The pacing is punctuated by that lovely, lilting chorus," says Tom Morello. "It feels like you're walking toward her grave."

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