Wild World: Ten Great Cat Stevens Moments. Happy Birthday to Yusef Islam (Previously Known as Cat Stevens), 67 Today.

1.  Cat Stevens ‘Matthew and Son’

(from the album Matthew and Son, 1967).

2.  Cat Stevens ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’

(from the album New Masters, 1967).

3.  Cat Stevens ‘Lady D’Arbanville’

(from the album Mona Bone Jakon, 1970).

4. Cat Stevens ‘I Think I See the Light’

(from the album Mona Bone Jakon, 1970).

5.  Cat Stevens ‘Wild World’

(from the album Tea for the Tillerman, 1970).

6.  Cat Stevens ‘Father and Son’

(from the album Tea for the Tillerman, 1970).

7.  Cat Stevens ‘Peace Train’

(from the album Teaser and the Firecat, 1971).

8.  Cat Stevens ‘Moonshadow’

(from the album Teaser and the Firecat, 1971).

9.  Cat Stevens ‘Morning Has Broken’

(from the album Teaser and the Firecat, 1971).

10. Cat Stevens ‘Oh Very Young’

(from the album Buddha and the Chocolate Box, 1974).

Song of the Day: Biography in Music (Day Three). “This is the Story of the Hurricane, The Man the Authorities Came to Blame”.

Hurricane is a protest song written by Bob Dylan for his 1976 album, Desire.  The song, co-written with Jacques Levy, is based on the imprisonment of American / Canadian boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter.  It compiles the alleged acts of racism and profiling against Carter, which led to his trial and wrongful imprisonment.  He was later freed via a petition of habeas corpus after spending almost twenty years in prison.

Carter (6th May, 1937 – 20th April 2014) was arrested in 1966, along with his friend John Artis, for a triple homicide committed in the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, New Jersey.  Police stopped Carter’s car and brought him and Artis, also in the car, to the scene of the crime.  When the police carried out their search of the car, they found ammunition which fitted the weapons used in the murder.  Police took no fingerprints at the crime scene and at that point in time, did not have the facilities to conduct a paraffin test for gunshot residue.  Carter and Artis were convicted twice for the murders, in 1967 and 1976, but after the second conviction was overturned in 1985, prosecutors chose not to try the case for the third time.

In 1975, Carter’s autobiography, The Sixteenth Round, was published by Warner Books.  In the book, Carter maintained his innocence.  The Sixteenth Round moved Dylan to such an extent that he visited Carter in Rahway State Prison in Woodbridge County, New Jersey and began to write what would become Hurricane.  At first, Dylan was unsure whether he could do justice to Carter and his predicament in song form but using the storytelling method previously used on other topical ballads such as The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (The Times They Are a-Changing, 1964) …

… he eventually found that the words flowed reasonably quickly, such was his contempt for those who had wrongfully imprisoned the former middleweight boxer.  Hurricane was one of Dylan’s few protest songs of the 1970’s and became his fourth most successful single of the decade, reaching number 33 on the US Billboard Chart.

Hurricane was first recorded in July 1975 with Scarlet Rivera on violin and Vinnie Bell on Danelectro Bellzouki 12-string guitar.  In October 1975, Dylan was forced to re-record the song with its lyrics altered, after concerns were raised by Columbia’s lawyers who feared a lawsuit regarding references to Alfred Bello and Arthur Dexter Bradley, petty criminals who were in the area to burgle a factory, robbing the bodies.  Bello and Bradley had never been accused of such acts.  Due to the amount of leakage on the multi-tracks, making it difficult to achieve a vocal ‘punch in’, Dylan decided to record the entire song.  The resulting final version of Hurricane is faster than the original cut and in addition to Rivera on violin, uses other musicians from Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue as the back-up band.  The final version was put together from two separate takes, both recorded on the 24th October, 1975, and clocks in at over eight minutes in length.

Despite the fact that some offending lyrics had been rewritten, the song still managed to attract legal action, from eyewitness Patricia Graham Valentine.  However, her case was dismissed by a federal district.  The dismissal was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  Other lyrics to receive criticism included the line “Number one contender for the middleweight crown” because according to the May 1966 issue of The Ring, Carter was ranked ninth at the time of his arrest and had never been placed higher than third.  Additionally, at the time of the song’s release, reporters for the Herald News, a New Jersey newspaper published not far from the scene of the crime, questioned Dylan’s objectivity and accused him of excessive poetic license.  Others noted that there was no reference to Carter’s criminal history or violent temper.  Another song from Desire, Joey, about the life and death of mobster Joey Gallo, received similar criticism.

Hurricane brought Carter’s case to the attention of the wider public and is credited with harnessing popular support to Carter’s defence.  Following the release of Desire, Dylan and the Rolling Thunder Revue played a benefit concert for Carter in New York’s Madison Square Garden.  The concert raised $100,000.  Dylan and his band also played another benefit at the Houston Aerodrome a year later, alongside Stevie Wonder, Ringo Starr and Dr John, whom Dylan had personally managed to get to play the concert after meeting with managers Richard Flanzer and Roy Silver.  Despite its all-star line-up, after expenses were paid, the Houston failed to raise any money.

Despite winning the right to a new trial, Carter and Artis were once again found guilty and on the 9th February 1976, Carter was sentenced to two consecutive life terms.  Dylan and Carter’s other high-profile supporters did not attend the trial.  In 1985, Federal Judge H. Sarokin of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey ruled that Carter had not received a fair trial and set aside the conviction, commenting that the prosecution had been “based on racism rather than reason and concealment rather than disclosure”.  Ironically, Sarokin had declined to listen to Dylan’s song when it was offered to him by his family.  In 1988, following the prosecution stating that they would not seek a third trial and filed a motion to dismiss, a Superior Court Judge dropped all charges against Carter.

Lyrically, Hurricane is a straight, or as straight as can be from a writer who wasn’t present at the scene of the crime, retelling of the events that led to Carter’s arrest and his incarceration.  The song sets the scene with its opening line, “Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night”, placing the listener at the crime scene.  The star witness, Patty Valentine, who was awoken by the sound of the gunshots, is mentioned in the second line, “Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall”.  Following this, we find Valentine’s view as she entered the bar:  “She sees the bartender in a pool of blood, Cries out, “My God, they killed them all”.  “All” refers to bartender, James Oliver and two customers, who were killed instantly.

The following section of the song and probably its most famous, “Here comes the story of the Hurricane, The man the authorities came to blame, For something that he never done, Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a-been, The champion of the world” finds Dylan lamenting on how Carter lost twenty years of his life along with his career and his chances of reaching the top of his profession in the process.

Following this, we once again find Patty Valentine’s view, “Three bodies lyin’ there does Patty see”.  The prosecution believed that the murders at the Lafayette Bar and Grill, particularly that of white bartender James Oliver, were motivated by the murder of black bartender, Leroy Holloway, who happened to be the stepfather of one of Carter’s friends.  The next lines, “And another man named Bello, movin’ around mysteriously, “I didn’t do it”, he says and throws up his hands, “I was only robbin’ the register, I hope you undertand, I saw them leavin’”, he says and stops”, refer to Bello’s testimony at the 1966 and 1976 trials, in which he stated that he saw Carter and Artis outside the Lafayette Bar and Grill with a shotgun and a pistol immediately after the triple murder.  He apparently came face to face with them on the sidewalk and saw their getaway car.

“”One of us had better call up the cops”, And so Patty calls the cops, And they arrive on the scene with their red lights flashin’, In the hot New Jersey night”.  Due to the murder taking place on the 17th June, the temperatures would most probably have been at an extreme high, common at that time of year.  It has been said that heat can cause people to be enough on edge to commit murder.  This idea was also famously used by Spike Lee in his 1989 film, Do the Right Thing.  In both Hurricane and Do the Right Thing, heat is portrayed as a major physical and psychological factor for rage and violence.

The next lines, “Meanwhile, far away in another part of town, Rubin Carter and a couple of friends are drivin’ around, Number one contender for the middleweight crown, Had no idea what kinda shit was about to go down”, find Carter and his friends driving through town, completely unaware of what was about to happen.  Carter, at this stage in his life, was in the middle of his career.  He had a record of two wins, twelve losses and one draw.  As several publications have noted since the song’s release, Dylan neglects to mention that Carter was far from a law abiding citizen, having done several stints in jail for mugging and assault.  However, on this occasion, Carter was wrongfully convicted by the US’s corrupt justice system.  In the following lines, “When a cop pulled him over to the side of the road, Just like the time before and the time before that”, Dylan suggests that the police continuously pulled Carter over as they were racist.  The idea of the police being racist is carried over to the next lines, “In Paterson that’s just the way things go, If you’re black you might as well not show up on the street”, which suggests that racism against black men like Carter was institutionalised and was readily practised by the local police.  In the following line, “’Less you wanna draw the heat”, “heat” is this time used to refer to the police.

The following lines feature further testimony from Bello and Bradley:  “Alfred Bello had a partner and he had a rap for the cops, Him and Arthur Dexter Bradley were just out prowlin’ around, He said, “I saw two men runnin’ out, they looked like middleweights, They jumped into a white car with out-of-state plates”.  Note the vague way in which the men say, “they looked like middleweights” expressed in Dylan’s lyrics.  Additionally, Bradley refused to cooperate with prosecutors, and neither prosecution nor defense called him as a witness.

The line “And Miss Patty Valentine just nodded her head” refers to the way that Valentine simply agreed with what other witnesses had seen without actually knowing anything.  Valentine provided a description of the car to the police, which changed at the second court case.  Valentine claimed that the lights “lit up like butterflies”.  However, on Carter’s car, this was not the case, as only the end two lights lit up.

“Cop said, “Wait a minute, boys, this one’s not dead”, So they took him to the infirmary, And though this man could hardly see, They told him, that he could identify the guilty man, Four in the mornin’ and they haul Rubin in, Take him to the hospital and they bring him upstairs, The wounded man looks up through his one dyin’ eye, Says, “Wha’d you bring him in here for?  He ain’t the guy!” refers to Willie Marrins who was not killed instantly and the police attempt to have Carter identified as the murderer.  Marrins told the police that Carter was not the murderer but his testimony was ignored.

Further into the song, we find the line “He ain’t no Gentleman Jim”, a reference to James J. Corbett, who is considered to be the father of modern boxing.  Carter is said not to be a “gentleman” because, unlike Corbett, Carter is black.  Other lines of interest in Hurricane include “And to the black folks he was just a crazy nigger, No one doubted that he pulled the trigger”.  Here, Dylan, a white man, single-handedly invented a rhyme (“trigger” and “nigger”) which today is one of the most popular rhymes in hip-hop.  For example, see Nas’s N.Y. State of Mind, from the album Illmatic (1994).

One wonders whether Hurricane’s closing lines, “Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been, The champion of the world” may have influenced Carter receiving an honorary World Champion title in 1993, five years after his release from prison.  Additionally, following his release and before his death in 2014, Carter headed the Association in Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted for twelve years and founded Innocence International in 2004.

Bring on the Dancing Horses: Ten Songs About Horses. Emily Davison, a Suffragette, Runs Out in Front of King George V’s Horse, Amner, at Epsom Derby. She is Trampled, Never Regains Consciousness and Dies Four Days Later. This Day in History, 04/06/1913.

1.  Johnny Cash ‘The Man Comes Around’

(from the album American IV: The Man Comes Around, 2002).

2.  Goldfrapp ‘Ride A White Horse’

(from the album Supernature, 2005).

3.  The Pogues ‘Bottle of Smoke’

(from the album If I Should Fall From Grace with God, 1988).

4.  Rolling Stones ‘Wild Horses’

(from the album Sticky Fingers, 1971).

5.  The Doors ‘Horse Latitudes’

(from the album Strange Days, 1967).

6.  Echo & The Bunnymen ‘Bring On the Dancing Horses’

(from the album Songs to Learn and Sing, 1985).

7.  U2 ‘Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses’

(from the album Achtung Baby, 1991).

8.  The Hold Steady ‘Chips Ahoy’

(from the album Girls and Boys in America, 2006).

9.  Patti Smith ‘Land: Horses / Land of a Thousand Dances / La Mer(de)’

(from the album Horses, 1975).

10. Belle and Sebastian ‘Judy and the Dream of Horses’

(from the album If You Are Feeling Sinister, 1996).

Song of the Day: Crime in Music (Day Six). “William Zantzinger Killed Poor Hattie Carroll …”

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll from Bob Dylan’s 1964 album The Times They Are a-Changin’ tells the story of the murder of Hattie Carroll, a 51 year old barmaid, by William Devereux “Billy” Zantzinger (referred to as “William Zantzinger” in the song).  The lyrics of the song are a commentary on 1960s racism.  At the time of Carroll’s murder, Charles County was still strictly segregated by race in public places such as restaurants, churches, theatres, doctor’s offices, buses and the county fair.  The schools of Charles County remained segregated until 1967.  William Zantzinger was then 24 years old and a wealthy young tobacco farmer from Charles County, Maryland.  Zantzinger was sentence to a mere six months in a county jail after being convicted of assault.

The murder in the song took place in the early hours of the 9th February, 1963 “At a Baltimore hotel society gathering”, the white tie Spinsters’ Ball at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore.  Zantzinger, in a drunken state, assaulted at least three of the Emerson Hotel workers: a bellboy, a waitress and at about 1.30am, Carroll.  The murder weapon was a toy cane, referred to in the line “William Zantzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll, With a cane that he twirled round his diamond ring finger”.  Carroll “who gave birth to ten children”, was president of a black social club.

Zantzinger was already drunk before reaching the Emerson Hotel that night.  The cane that the 6’2” inch tall killer used was a 25 cent toy.  At the Spinsters’ Ball, he called a 30 year old waitress a “nigger” and hit her with the cane.  The waitress ran out of the room in tears.  A few moments later, he ordered a bourbon from Carroll.  When he was displeased with the length of time that Carroll had taken fetching the bourbon, Zantzinger cursed her and called her a “nigger”, followed by “you black son of a bitch” and struck her on the shoulder and across the head with the cane.  In the court notes, it states:  “He asked for her a drink and called her ‘a black bitch’, and a ‘black son of a bitch’.  She replied ‘Just a moment’ and started to prepare his drink.  After a delay of perhaps a minute, he complained about her being slow and struck her a hard blow on her shoulder about half-way between the point of her shoulder and her neck”.  She handed him his drink.  After striking Carroll, he attacked his own wife, knocking her to the ground and hitting her with his shoe.

Within minutes of receiving the blow, Carroll leaned heavily against the barmaid next to her and complained of feeling ill.  Carroll told co-workers, “I feel deathly ill, that man has upset me so”.  The barmaid, along with another employee, helped Carroll to the kitchen.  Her arm became numb and her speech became thick.  She then collapsed and was taken to hospital.  She died eight hours after the assault.  Her autopsy revealed hardened arteries, an enlarged heart and high blood pressure.  A spinal tap confirmed that Carroll had died from a brain hemorrhage.  She died in Mercy Hospital at 9am on the 9th February, 1963.

Initially, Zantzinger was charged with murder.  His defence was that he had been extremely drunk and said he had no memory of the attack.  His charge was reduced to manslaughter and assault, based on the likelihood that it was her stress reaction to his verbal and physical abuse that had led to the intracranial bleeding, rather than blunt-force trauma from the blow that left no lasting mark.  On the 28th August, Zantzinger was convicted of both charges and given the six month sentence.  Time Magazine covered the sentencing on the 6th September, saying:

“In June, after Zantzinger’s phalanx of five top flight attorneys won a change of venue to a court in Hagerstown, a three-judge panel reduced the murder charge to manslaughter.  Following a three-day trial, Zantzinger was found guilty.  For the assault on the hotel employees: a fine of $125.  For the death of Hattie Carroll: six months in jail and a fine of $500.  The judges considerately deferred the start of the jail sentence until September 15, to give Zantzinger time to harvest his tobacco crop”.

Coincidentally, Zantzinger’s sentencing occurred on the same day as Martin Luther King led 250,000 civil rights marchers to Washington in what the New York Times called “the greatest assembly for the redress of grievances that this capital has ever seen” and made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington.  Bob Dylan was present as Martin Luther King made his speech and on the journey back to his home in New York, read about the conviction of Zantzinger in the New York Times.  The headline read “Farmer sentenced in barmaid’s death”.  This inspired Dylan to write a protest song about the case whilst sitting in an all night cafe in Manhattan.  Dylan had previously written about two other white-on-black murders, both in the 18 months prior to the writing of The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.  These songs were The Death of Emmett Till about the murder of a 14-year old African American by two white men in 1955 …

… and Only a Pawn in their Game (also from The Times They Are a-Changin’) about the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, shot in Jackson, Mississippi in June 1963.

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll tells of how Zantzinger’s wealth and connections aided the lenient nature of the sentencing.

In the second verse of the song, Zantzinger and the wealth and influence which helps him to get out of prison on bail quickly are described thus:  “William Zantzinger, who at twenty-four years, Owns a tobacco farm of six hundred acres, With rich wealthy parents who provide and protect him, And high office relations in the politics of Maryland, Reacted to his deed with a shrug of his shoulders, And swear words and sneering, and his tongue it was snarling, In a matter of minutes on bail was out walking”.

Now compare this description of Zantzinger with the description of Hattie Carroll in verse three:  “Hattie Carroll was a maid of the kitchen, She was fifty one years and gave birth to ten children, Who carried the dishes and took out the garbage, and never once sat at the head of the table, And didn’t even talk to the people at the table, Who just cleaned up all the food from the table, And emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level, Got killed by a blow, lay slain by a cane, That sailed through the air and came down through the room, Doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle, And she never done nothing to William Zantzinger”.

In complete contrast to Zantzinger, a swearing, sneering and snarling tongued rich young white man who was given a silver spoon by his parents, Carroll is described as a gentle poor black woman who spent her life caring for others, whether it was her family or the people whom she served in the Baltimore hotel in which she was killed but was discriminated against because of the colour of her skin.

The fourth verse of the song tells of how the judge presiding over the trial stresses that all are equal in the court of law, but also of how this will be of no help because of the wealth of the accused: “In the courtroom of honour, the judge pounded his gavel, To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level, And that the strings in the books ain’t pulled and persuaded, and that even the nobles get properly handled, Once the cops have chased after and caught ‘em, And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom, Stared at the person who killed for no reason, Who just happened to be feelin’ that way without warnin’, And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished, And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance, William Zantzinger with a six-month sentence”.

The chorus of The Lonesome death of Hattie Carroll, “But you who philosophise disgrace and criticize all fears, take the rag away from your face, Now ain’t the time for your tears”, refers to the way in which upper class women would hide their faces with a veil or some sort of cloth (a “rag”) when experiencing strong emotional outbursts like tears which were not considered proper in public.  However, burying your face in a cloth over-dramatically, implying tears, was also a way to fake emotions.  In the chorus, Dylan purposely uses very elaborate words such as “philosophise disgrace” and “criticise fears” in order to describe their actions, further supporting the impression that Dylan is addressing the upper-class public with these lines, criticizing them for the very shallowly condemning such acts without caring to find the real cause and root of the problem:  The particular tragedy of the case not being the murder of an innocent woman, or that the perpetrator got out on bail so quickly, but that he was only sentenced to six months in prison.  Therefore, in The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, Dylan makes the point that the main tragedy is not that upper class people treat the lower class badly; it is the ease with which they get away with it.

In 2001, talking to Howard Sounes for Down the Highway, the Life of Bob Dylan, Zantzinger dismissed the song as a “total lie”, going on to say, “It’s actually had no effect on my life”.  He also expressed his disdain for Dylan saying, “He’s a no-account son of a bitch, he’s just like a scum of a scum bag of the earth, I should have sued him and put him in jail”.  Zantzinger died on the 3rd January 2009 at the age of 69.

“This is a true story, it’s taken out of the newspapers”

– Bob Dylan introducing The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll at Manchester Free Trade Hall in May 1965.

Song of the Day: Movies in Music (Day Four). “And Here’s to You, Mrs Robinson …”

Mrs Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel, from the album Bookends (1968) is famous for its inclusion in the movie The Graduate (1967) and has become inseparable from the character in the film.  However, the roots of Mrs Robinson came from a song completely unrelated to the movie that Paul Simon had written called Mrs Roosevelt, about Eleanor Roosevelt.

In the years previous to The Graduate, Simon & Garfunkel had risen to national fame in the United States touring colleges and releasing a string of hit singles and albums.  At the same time, director Mike Nichols was in the early stages of making his movie, The Graduate.  Nichols had become an instant fan of the duo, listening to them constantly before and after filming.  So infatuated with the duo was Nichols that he met with Columbia Records chairman Clive Davis to ask permission to use their music in his new film.  Davis saw the idea as potentially lucrative and envisioned a best-selling soundtrack album.  Paul Simon, however, was dubious, considering movie soundtracks to be selling out.  After careful consideration and being impressed by Nichols’ wit and script, the songwriter agreed to write at least one or two songs for the film.

After a few weeks, Simon presented two new tracks, Punky’s Dilemma and Overs, neither of which particularly impressed Nichols.  Nichols asked the duo whether they had any more songs to offer, and after a break in the meeting, they returned with an early version of what would become Mrs Robinson, then still named Mrs Roosevelt.  Nichols was instantly ecstatic about the song and could envision its use in the film instantly.

Of the song’s content, the “dee de dee dee de dee dee dee” section of the introduction of the song occurred when Simon and Garfunkel presented the unfinished song to Nichols and didn’t have lyrics to sing over the music.  Nichols suggested that this should be part of the finished song and Simon used it in the introduction.  Similarly nonsensical is the inclusion of the “coo-coo-ca-choo” phrase in the chorus, which is Simon’s homage to The Beatles’ I Am the Walrus, which was also released in 1967.

Parts of the song are very much still in line with the original subject matter of the song, Eleanor Roosevelt. Wife to US President Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt survived an orphaned and loveless childhood, a faithless husband and domineering mother-in-law, emerging as an independent personality after her husband was paralysed from the waist down after contracting polio in 1921.  Due to her husband’s paralysis and the many bouts of ill health which he had suffered from birth, the First Lady was transformed from shy wife into an autonomous public leader due to having to serve as her disabled husband’s eyes and ears.  This triumph of what women were capable of in a time when women were expected to be subservient to men came into even fuller effect in 1945 after Franklin Roosevelt’s death and was sustained through worldwide acclaim until her death in 1962.

In the first verse, lines such as “We’d like to know a little bit about you for our files, We’d like to learn to help you help yourself” could refer to Eleanor Roosevelt in conversation with her psychiatrist.  Eleanor Roosevelt suffered from depression throughout most of her life, mostly stemming from her tragic childhood.  Her mother had died from diphtheria when Eleanor was just 8 years old and her brother Elliott Jr died from the same disease just 5 months afterwards.  Her father was an alcoholic who was confined to a sanatorium and died just two years after Eleanor’s mother after he jumped out of a window during a fit of delirium tremens.  He survived the fall but died after suffering a seizure shortly afterwards.  Similarly, the lines “Look around you all you see are sympathetic eyes, Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home” represent Eleanor Roosevelt being at a mental health facility with the workers and patients worrying for her.

The second verse, “Hide it in the hiding place where no one ever goes, Put it in your pantry where no one ever goes, Put it in your pantry with your cupcakes, It’s a little secret, just the Robinsons’ affair, Most of all you’ve got to hide it from the kids” are reference to Eleanor living in a time where strong women had to repress their feelings and emotions, hiding them away completely out of sight.  Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt had many marital problems, with Franklin having many affairs.  Women who he allegedly had affairs with include Princess Martha of Sweden, his secretary, Missy and Eleanor’s social secretary, Lucy Mercer.  These affairs would eventually lead to the couples’ separation and ended any intimacy in their relationship.  There are also rumours that Eleanor was a lesbian and had a relationship with Lorena Hickock.

In the third verse of the song, “Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon, Going to the candidates’ debate, Laugh about it, shout about it, When you’ve got to choose, Every way you look at it you lose”, Eleanor watches her husband’s debate in which he won he presidential election.  Due to her husband’s paralysis and ill health, Eleanor did most of the work.  Eleanor therefore would have been more than capable of running for the presidency herself but could not because she is a woman.

The song’s chorus could be read in many ways.  The references to “Jesus”, “Heaven” and “God” could be suggestive of mourners at Eleanor’s funeral or simply Eleanor being prayed for by those with the “sympathetic eyes” mentioned in the first verse of the song.  When used on the film’s soundtrack, the chorus takes on a new meaning, telling the listeners that Mrs Robinson should not cheat and sin on her daughter’s boyfriend and encouraging Mrs Robinson to become a holy and moral person.

The final verse of the song is perhaps the most talked about verse of the entire song.  The lyrics, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you, What’s that you say Mrs Robinson, Jolting Joe has left and gone away”.  In the context of a song about Eleanor Roosevelt, lines about a New York Yankees Major League Baseball centre-fielder may appear to be slightly out of place when analysing the lyrics.  However, Joe DiMaggio is referenced in the song as he represented traditional American values with the lines being a tribute to his unpretentious heroic stature in America in a time when popular culture magnifies and distorts how we perceive our heroes.  It is widely known that Paul Simon was a huge fan of baseball player Mickey Mantle and when asked during an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show in 1970 why he chose to talk about Joe DiMaggio instead, Simon replied, “It’s about syllables, Dick.  It’s about how many beats there are”.  DiMaggio initially had reservations about his name being used in the song, wondering why Simon had written the line, “Joltin Joe has left and gone away” when he hadn’t gone anywhere.  DiMaggio soon dropped his complaint after Simon explained what the lines meant.  In a New York Times op-ed in March 1999, shortly after DiMaggio’s death, Simon said of the DiMaggio reference:  “In these days of Presidential transgressions and apologies and prime-time interviews about private sexual matters, we grieve for Joe DiMaggio and mourn the loss of his grace and dignity, his fierce sense of privacy, his fidelity to the memory of his wife and the power of his silence”.  Simon later performed Mrs Robinson at Yankee Stadium in honour of DiMaggio a month after his death.

After its inclusion in The Graduate, Mrs Robinson was awarded two Grammy Awards at the 11th Annual Grammy Awards in 1969.  It became the first rock song to win Record of the Year and was also awarded the Grammy for Best Contemporary-Pop Performance – Vocal Duo or Group.  The duo declined to perform the song at the ceremony, instead shooting a video which consisted of them at the Yankee Stadium in reference to the song’s final verse about Joe DiMaggio.  Mrs Robinson was ineligible for the Academy Award for Best Original Song because as a nominee, a song must have been written exclusively for the film in which it appeared.

The song has also seen the accolade of being covered several times, including by Frank Sinatra on his 1969 album My Way.  Sinatra’s version of My Way changes a number of lines, including replacing the word “Jesus” with “Jilly”, perhaps motivated by the refusal of some radio stations to play a song including the word “Jesus”.  Sinatra’s version also includes a new verse directly referring to The Graduate.  These changes make for a rather odd version of the song and is not one of Sinatra’s more successful covers.

More successful was The Lemonheads’ cover of Mrs Robinson, recorded to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of The Graduate in 1992 and featured on their 1992 album It’s A Shame About Ray.

The Love of Richard Nixon: An Historical Drama in Twenty Songs. Richard Nixon Announces The Release of Edited Transcripts of White House Tape Recordings Relating to the Watergate Scandal. This Day in History, 29/04/1974. / Richard Nixon Takes The Rap For The Watergate Scandal, 30/04/1973.

1.  Manic Street Preachers ‘The Love of Richard Nixon’

(from the album Lifeblood, 2004).

2.  Stevie Wonder ‘He’s Misstra Know-it-all’

(from the album Innervisions, 1973).

3.  Randy Newman ‘Mr President (Have Pity On The Working Man)’

(from the album Good Old Boys, 1974).

4.  The Undisputed Truth ‘Smiling Faces Sometimes’

(from the album The Undisputed Truth, 1971).

5.  Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ‘Ohio’

(single A-side, 1970).

6.  Phil Ochs ‘How High’s The Watergate’

(from the album Live 1974, 1974).

7.  Neil Young ‘Campaigner’

(from the album Decade, 1977).

8.  Lynyrd Skynyrd ‘Sweet Home Alabama’

(from the album Second Helping, 1974).

9.  Frank Zappa ‘Son of Orange County / More Trouble Every Day’

(from the album Roxy & Elsewhere, 1974).

10. Elton John ‘Postcards From Richard Nixon’

(from the album The Captain & The Kid, 2006).

11.  Curtis Mayfield ‘(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below, We’re All Going To Go’

(from the album Curtis, 1970).

12. David Bowie ‘Young Americans’

(from the album Young Americans, 1975).

13.  John Lennon ‘Gimme Some Truth’

(from the album Imagine, 1971).

14.  Gil Scott Heron / Brian Jackson ‘H²Ogate Blues’

(from the album Winter in America, 1974).

15.  Bill Horwitz ‘If I Had A Friend Like Rosemary Woods’

(from the album Lies Lies Lies, 1975).

16.  Robyn Hitchcock ‘1974’

(from the album A Star For Bram, 2000).

17.  James Taylor ‘Let It All Fall Down’

(from the album Walking Man, 1974).

18.  Billy Joel ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’

(from the album Storm Front, 1989).

19. Pink Floyd ‘The Fletcher Memorial Home’

(from the album The Final Cut, 1983).

20.  Mono Puff ‘Nixon’s The One’

(from the album Unsupervised, 1996).

Belfast Child: Ten Songs About The Troubles. Nearly Blind and Close to Death, Bobby Sands Refuses to Meet with Human Rights Activists. He is on Hunger Strike Until the British Government Recognise Him As A Political Prisoner, Not As A Criminal. This Day in History, 25/04/1981.

1.  Simple Minds ‘Belfast Child’

(from the album Street Fighting Years, 1989).

2.  U2 ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’

(from the album War, 1983).

3.  Fun Boy Three ‘The More I See (The Less I Believe)’

(from the album Waiting, 1983).

4.  The Undertones ‘It’s Going To Happen!’

(from the album Positive Touch, 1981).

5.  The Pogues ‘Streets of Sorrow / Birmingham Six’

(from the album If I Should Fall From Grace With God, 1988).

6.  Stiff Little Fingers ‘Alternative Ulster’

(from the album Inflammable Material, 1979).

7.  Paul McCartney & Wings ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’

(single, 1972).

8.  Francie Brolly ‘The H-Block Song’

(written and recorded in 1981).

9.  John Lennon ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’

(from the album Sometime in New York City, 1972).

10. The Divine Comedy ‘Sunrise’

(from the album Fin de Siecle, 1998).

The Dreaming: Ten Songs About Australia. Captain Cook ‘Discovers’ Australia. This Day in History, 19/04/1770.

1.  Midnight Oil ‘Beds Are Burning’

(from the album Diesel and Dust, 1987).

2.  Kate Bush ‘The Dreaming’

(from the album The Dreaming, 1982).

3.  U2 ‘Van Diemen’s Land’

(from the album Rattle and Hum, 1988).

4.  Men At Work ‘Down Under’

(from the album Business As Usual, 1981).

5.  The Go-Betweens ‘Darlinghurst Nights’

(from the album Ocean’s Apart, 2005).

6.  Manic Street Preachers ‘Australia’

(from the album Everything Must Go, 1996).

7.  Johnny Cash ‘Ned Kelly’

(from the album Man In Black, 1971).

8.  The Kinks ‘Australia’

(from the album Arthur (or The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 1969).

9.  Crowded House ‘Four Seasons In One Day’

(from the album Woodface, 1991).

10. The Pogues ‘South Australia’

(from the album If I Should Fall From Grace With God, 1988).

Heart As Big As Liverpool: Ten Songs About Liverpool and Hillsborough. 96 Die At Hillsborough Stadium, This Day in History, 15/04/1989

1.  The Mighty Wah! ‘Heart As Big As Liverpool’

(from the album Songs of Strength and Heartbreak, 2000).

2.  The Bangles ‘Going Down To Liverpool’

(from the album All Over The Place, 1984).

3.  Gerry and The Pacemakers ‘Ferry Across The Mersey’

(from the album Ferry Across The Mersey, 1964).

4.  The Pogues ‘The Leaving of Liverpool’

(from the album Red Roses For Me, 1984).

5.  The Stone Roses ‘Mersey Paradise’

(B-side of She Bangs The Drums, 1989).

6.  The Beatles ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’

(from the single Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever, 1967).

7.  Shack ‘Streets of Kenny’

(from the album HMS Fable, 1999).

8.  Amsterdam ‘Does This Train Stop On Merseyside’

(from the album The Journey, 2005).

9.  Cilla Black ‘Liverpool Lullaby’

(B-side of the single Conversations, 1969)

10. Manic Street Preachers ‘SYMM’

(from the album This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours, 1998).

The Titanic: A Nautical Nightmare in Ten Songs. The Titanic Hits An Iceberg, This Day in History, 14/04/1912.

1.  Leadbelly ‘The Titanic’

(from the album Leadbelly’s Last Sessions, 1948).

2. The Walker Brothers ‘My Ship Is Coming In’

(from the album Take It Easy With The Walker Brothers, 1965).

3.  Cardiacs ‘Big Ship’

(from the album Big Ship, 1987).

4.  Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds ‘The Ship Song’

(from the album The Good Son, 1990).

5.  Patti Smith Group ‘Citizen Ship’

(from the album Wave, 1979).

6. John Cale ‘Ship of Fools’

(from the album Fear, 1974).

7.  The Beach Boys ‘Sloop John B’

(from the album Pet Sounds, 1966).

8.  The Doors ‘Horse Latitudes’

(from the album Strange Days, 1967).

9.  The Pogues & The Dubliners ‘The Irish Rover’

(Single, 1987).

10. Echo and the Bunnymen ‘Ocean Rain’

(from the album Ocean Rain, 1984).