Monday, November 8, 2021

Thaddeus Stevens Chronicles No. 11

Thaddeus Stevens inspired iconic singer-songwriter Bob Dylan

November 2021

By Ross Hetrick

Bob Dylan, the troubadour to a generation and Nobel laureate is a great admirer of Thaddeus Stevens. In fact, you could say that Stevens inspired Dylan.

In his 2004 memoir, Chronicles: Volume One, Dylan wrote: "I read the biography of Thaddeus Stevens, the radical Republican. He lived in the early part of the 1800s and was quite a character. He's from Gettysburg and he's got a clubfoot like Byron. He grew up poor, made a fortune and from then on championed the weak and any other group who wasn't able to fight equally. Stevens had a grim sense of humor, a sharp tongue and a white hot hatred for the bloated aristocrats of his day. He wanted to confiscate the land of the slaveholding elite, once referred to a colleague on the floor of the [House of Representatives] chamber as 'slinking in his own slime.' Stevens was an anti-Mason and he denounced his foes as those whose mouths reeked from human blood. He got right in there, called his enemies a 'feeble band of lowly reptiles who shun the light and who lurk in their own dens.' Stevens was hard to forget. He made a big impression on me, was inspiring." (Italics added)

Obviously, the Thaddeus Stevens Society was thrilled to find such a famous admirer of the Great Commoner. But alas, Dylan is also famously reclusive, declining in 2016 to even pick up his Nobel prize in literature. But Dylan will be in Thaddeus Stevens country when he performs at the Hershey Theater on November 16.

So the Thaddeus Stevens Society plans to spread the word about the Great Commoner outside the concert by having a Stevens re-enactor (Ross Hetrick) stroll around with a sign requesting Bob meet his inspiration. He will be accompanied by an entourage of people in nineteenth century garb. They will also be bearing a Thaddeus Stevens bobble head and the new Stevens biography as gifts to Bob.

They will be handing out leaflets quoting Bob's admiration of Thad and informing Dylan's fans about the Stevens's 230th birthday celebration next April when a Stevens statue will be dedicated in Gettysburg. Perhaps they will even be able to persuade some people to join the Society which promotes Dylan's idol. 

Will Bob Dylan meet with them? The answer is blowing in the wind.

Ross Hetrick is president of the Thaddeus Stevens Society, which is dedicated to promoting Stevens's important legacy. More information about the Great Commoner can be found at the society's website: