dinsdag 8 mei 2012

Bob Dylan - The Ballad Of Donald White (I guess you’ll feel much better when I’m on that hanging tree)

Woody Guthrie zou tegen Dylan gezegd hebben tijdens een van diens bezoekjes : “The words are the important thing. Don’t worry about tunes. Take a tune – sing high when they sing low, sing fast when they sing slow, and you’ve got a new tune.”

Dylan heeft dit goed begrepen, en alles wat op hem afkwam als een spons opgenomen.

Voor de song horen we Dylan zeggen : “I took this from Bonnie Dobson’s tune, “Peter Amberly”, I think the name of it is….”

My name is Donald White you see, i stand before you all
I was judged by you a murderer, the hangman’s knot must fall
I will die upon the gallows pole, when the moon is bright an’ clear
An’ these are my final words that you will ever hear.

If i had some education to give me a decent start
I might have been a doctor or a master in the arts
But i used my hands for stealin’ when i was very young
An’ they locked me down in jailhouse cells, that’s how my life begun.

Oh the inmates an’ the prisoners i found they were my kind
It was there inside the bars, i found my peace of mind
But the jails they were too crowded, institutions overflowed
So they set me loose to walk upon life’s hurried tangled road.

An’ there’s danger on the ocean where the salt sea waves split high
An’ there’s danger on the battlefield where the shells of bullets fly
An’ there’s danger in this open world where man fight to be free
An’ for me the greatest danger was in society.

So i asked them to send me back to the institution home
But they said they were too crowded, for me they had no room
I got down on my knees an’ begged, “Oh please put me away”
But they would not listen to my plea or nothin’ i would say.

An’ so it was on christmas eve in the year of ’59
It was on that night i killed a man, i did not try to hide
The jury found me guilty an’ i don’t disagree
For i knew what would happen if i wasn’t put away.

But i’m glad i’ve had no parents to care for me an’ cry
For now they will never know the horrible death that i die
An’ i’m also glad i’ve had no friends to see me in disgrace
For they’ll never see that hangman’s hood wrap around my face.

Farewell to the old north woods which i used to roam
Farewell to the crowded bars which have been my home
Farewell to all you people that think the worst of me
I guess you’ll feel much better when i’m on that hangin’ tree.

But there’s just one more question before they kill me dead
I’m wonderin’ just how much to you i really said
Concernin all the boys that walk a road just like me
Are they enemies or victims of your society?

Toch heeft Dylan er nog een strofe bij geschreven die op deze uitvoering van de Broadside Ballads NIET staat:

My name is Donald White you see, i stand before you now
I was judged by you a murderer, the hangman’s knot must fall
I will die upon the gallows pole, when the moon is bright an’ clear
An’ these are my final words that you will ever hear.

De Broadside Show van Mei 62 bevatte een versie van deze song door “Blind Boy Grunt” (zie ook : 1972 Folkways release “BROADSIDE REUNION” (FOLKWAYS FR 5315).

Dylan zei :

“I’d seen Donald White’s name in a Seattle paper in about 1959. It said he was a killer. The next time I saw him was on a television set. My gal Sue said I’d be interested in him so we went and watched… Donald White was sent home from prisons and institutions ’cause they had no room. He asked to be sent back ’cause he couldn’t find no room in life. He murdered someone ’cause he couldn’t find no room in life. Now they killed him ’cause he couldn’t find no room in life. They killed him and when they did I lost some of my room in life. When are some people gonna wake up and see that sometimes people aren’t really their enemies but their victims?”

Wat meer plausibel lijkt staat in Scudato’s biografie :

“Sue Zuckerman, who occasionally slept over in the apartment on Fourth Street with Suze and Bob, recalls watching television with them one night (February 12, 1962). The program was about crime and capital punishment — a film called ‘A Volcano Named White.’ A 24-year-old black man was sitting in his prison cell in Texas talking about his life, its oppression, his cries for help that were ignored, until he finally killed somebody and was now waiting to be executed. ‘Bobby just got up at one point,’ Miss Zuckerman says, ‘and he went off in the corner and started to write. He just started to write, while the show was still on, and the next thing I knew he had this song written, Donald White.”

“Peter Amberly”  is het  verhaal van een jonge man uit Prince Edward Island, die dodelijk verwond wordt in de bossen van Miramichi en die naar huis wordt gebracht.

My name 'tis Peter Emberley, as you may understand.
I was born on Prince Edward's lsland near by the ocean strand.
ln eighteen hundred and eighty-four when the flowers were a brilliant hue
I left my native counterie my fortune to pursue.

I landed in New Brunswick in a lumbering counterie,
I hired to work in the lumber woods on the Sou-West Miramichi.
I hired to work in the lumber woods where they cut the tall spruce down
While loading teams with yarded logs I received a deadly wound.

There's danger on the ocean where the waves roll mountain high,
There's danger on the battlefield where the angry bullets fly.
There's danger in the lumber woods, for death lurks sullen there,
And I have fell a victim into that monstrous snare.

I know my luck seems very hard since fate has proved severe,
But victor death is the worst can come and I have no more to fear.
And he'll allay those deadly pains and liberate me soon.
And I'll sleep the long and lonely sleep called slumber in the tomb.

Here's adieu to Prince Edward's lsland, that garden in the seas,
No more I'll walk its flowery banks to enjoy a summer's breeze.
No more I'll view those gallant ships as they go swimming by,
With their streamers floating on the breeze above the canvas high.

Here's adieu unto my father, it was him who drove me here.
I thought he used me cruelly, his treatments were unfair.
For 'tis not right to oppress a boy or try to keep him down.
'Twill oft repulse him from his home whcn he is far too young.

Here's adieu unto my greatest friend, I mean my mother dear,
She raised a son who fell as soon as he left her tender care.
'Twas little did my mother know when she sang lullaby,
What country I might travel in or what death I might die.

Here's adieu unto my youngest friend, those island girls so true.
Long may they bloom to grace that isle where first my breath I drew.
For the world will roll on just the same when I have passed away,
What signifies a mortal man whose origin is clay?

But there's a world beyond the tomb, to it I'm nearing on.
Where man is more than mortal, and death can never come.
The mist of death it glares my eyes and I'm no longer here,
My spirit takes its final flight unto another sphere.

And now before I pass away there is one more thing I crave,
That some good holy father will bless my mouldering grave.
Near by the city of Boiestown where my mouldering bones do lay.
A-waiting for my saviour's call on that great Judgement Day.

De melodie zou waarschijnlijk nog veel ouder zijn en teruggaan op een Schotse  traditional – “Tramps and Hawkers” – waarop Dylan later ook “I pity the poor Immegrant” zal baseren. Dit is trouwens wat Bonnie Dobson zegt in de intro voor de song.

Het lied is vooral bekend langs de oostkust … en Ontario (Canada) . Bonnie Dobson is Canadeese.

Dylan : Ballad of Donald White

Bonnie Dobson : Peter Amberly

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