THE DEATH OF EMMETT TILL

(BOB DYLAN) (1962)

Emmett Till & his mother, Mrs. Mamie Bradley

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HISTORICAL BACKGROUND (on my Bob Dylan "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" site):

The tune is, IMO, a variant of "House of the Risin' Sun."

Lyrics as performed by Bob Dylan at Finjan Club, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Jul 2, 1962; several variations to published lyrics, "Highway 61 Interactive" CD ROM, © 1963, 1968 Warner Bros. Inc; © Renewed 1991 Special Rider Music.

Transcribed by Manfred Helfert.

'Twas down in Mississippi not so long ago,
When a young boy from Chicago walked through a Southern door.
This boy's fateful tragedy you should all remember well,
The color of his skin was black and his name was Emmett Till.

Some men they dragged him to a barn and there they beat him up.
They said they had a reason, but I disremember what.
They tortured him and did some things too evil to repeat.
There was screamin' sounds inside the barn, there was laughin' sounds out on the street.

Then they rolled his body down a gulf amidst a blood red rain
And they threw him in the waters wide to cease his screamin' pain.
The reason that they killed him there, and I'm sure it was no lie,
Was just for the fun of killing him and to watch him slowly die.

And then to stop the United States of yelling for a trial,
Two brothers they confessed that they had killed poor Emmett Till.
But on the jury there were men who helped the brothers commit this awful crime,
And so this trial was a mockery, but nobody seemed to mind.

After acquittal: Roy Bryant, Carolyn Bryant, Juanita Milam, J. W. Milam (left to right)
I saw the mornin' papers but I could not bear
To see the smiling brothers walking down the courthouse stairs.
For the jury found them innocent and the brothers they went free,
While Emmett's body floats the foam of a Jim Crow southern sea.

If you can't speak out against this kind of thing, a crime that's so unjust,
Your eyes are filled with dead men's dirt, your mind is filled with dust.
Your arms and legs they must be in shackles and chains, and your blood it must refuse to flow,
For you'd let this human race fall down so God-awful low!

This song is just a reminder to remind your fellow man
That this kind of thing still lives today in that ghost-robed Ku Klux Klan.
But if all of us folks that thinks alike, if we give all we could give,
We'd make this great land of ours a greater place to live.

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manfredh@mainz.netsurf.de