I'd like to take you back to 1963 for today's Flashback Friday and hopefully catch a fresh glimpse at the incendiary Bob Dylan classic Only a Pawn in Their Game. The song is about the deplorable assassination of Medgar Evers by Byron De La Beckwith. Medgar was a WWII vet, a civil rights activist in Mississippi, and a NAACP field secretary. His main ambition at the time of his assassination was to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi. Meanwhile, in Alabama the newly elected Governor George C. Wallace called for "…segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever" in his inaugural address. Medgar Evers was murdered on June 12, 1963 and on that very morning President John F. Kennedy gave a nationally televised speech in support of the civil rights movement.
In this song Dylan indites the cowardice of the of the murderer while at the same inditing the entire southern political atmosphere that enabled men to hold their heads high in the Klu Klux Klan. Later in the year Bob Dylan would perform this song at the March On Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Martin Luther King gave his famous I Have a Dream speech. What I love so much about Bob Dylan's protest songs is that they are direct, accusatory, and informed. The were ripped from the headlines of newspapers and plainly stated facts before offering opinions. Even this far removed from the song's premier and the surrounding events I am moved by the plain language and the stark presentation of the man alone on stage with his guitar and his voice. You dig?