I started making plans to kill my own kind…

As I mentioned in my first post, “Ballad of Hollis Brown” was presented and received as a sad story about something that happened to a man, not about what that man did to six other people. The song brings us into the man’s head as things are happening to him, … → read more

The limits of empathy

The Times They Are a’Changin’ included numerous songs that addressed current events and real crimes. “Only a Pawn in their Game” deals with the assassination of civil rights worker Medgar Evers by Byron De La Beckwith; “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” deals with the murder of a young black … → read more

Nobody Sings Dylan like Dylan

At the end of this week, I’ll return to the key issues that Dylan addresses in “The Ballad of Hollis Brown.” As part of that, I’ll look at one of if not the worst versions of the song ever sung — by Dylan himself of course — and how that … → read more

The Ballad of Hollis Brown

“Ex-Farm Family, now on WPA.” Photo credit: Dorothea Lange. Farm Security Administration, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library Archives. In regard to “Fair Ellender” – the subject of this blog’s first post – I suggested that the Brown Girl’s murderous act might be motivated not by jealousy but by a sense … → read more