WBAI broadcast

May 1962

Ballad of Donald White
The Death of Emmett Till
Blowin' In the Wind

This FM radio show was recorded but for some reason never actually broadcast. It's sort of an informal chat and hootenanny involving Dylan and Pete Seeger, who allows Dylan to come up with some famous and amusing answers to his fawning questions. Seeger asks how he comes up with his songs, asking if he spreads newspapers out and picks out stories to sing about, and Dylan comes up with the famous line about how he doesn't really write the songs, they were always there waiting for him to put them down with pen and paper. Two of the three songs on this tape are not among Dylan's best, but he performs them well enough considering their lack of sophistication. The Ballad of Donald White appears officially on the album Broadside Reunion , and is about a man released from prison who finds he can't cope with the outside world and longs to go back to prison where he fits in. He commits murder (which seems a little extreme) in order to go back to jail, but finds himself marked for execution instead (well, what did he expect?). The point seems labored and completely out of focus, or else I'm missing something here. Anyway, a very forgettable song. The Death of Emmett Till is even worse. This has to be one of his all-time worst songs, and it should have been much better considering the subject matter: Emmett Till's death was one of the catalytic events of the early civil rights movement and deserves much better than the treatment given here. The lyrics are lurid and always leave me with a feeling of disgust, which I suppose if the intention. The final verse, which tries to bring some hope to the despairing mood of the song, is totally contrived. Interestingly, Dylan admits that he stole the tunes for both of these songs from other songs. At least he wasn't trying to pass off traditional song structures as something brand new. Not recommended to anyone but diehard fans.


  • Broadside
  • LPs:

  • Ballad of Donald White appears on Blind Boy Grunt and The Kindest Cut (both the same albums under different names)
  • The Death of Emmett Till appears on Great White Wonder

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