Bob Dylan: Who Killed Davey Moore? (1963)

 |   |  4 min read

Bob Dylan: Who Killed Davey Moore? (1963)

Bob Dylan's Hurricane in '75 is one of the best known songs about a boxer -- but very early in his career Dylan also sang another about a boxer, the fighter Davey Moore who was knocked out by Mexico-based Sugar Ramos from Cuba during a bout in March 1963.

Moore spoke to the media afterwards (the illustration is taken from a famous post-fight photo) but then complained of headaches, slipped into a comatose state and subsequently died.

At the time Dylan was taking many of his social-conscience stories from current events and just 18 days after Moore's death, Dylan played this song for the first time at concert in the New York Town Hall.

As a song about those involved in the fight game side-stepping responsibility it is pointed and his tone - somewhere between sadness, questioning and accusatory -- is increasingly engrossing as the song unfolds leading to the quite chilling, "I hit him, I hit him yes that's true -- but that's what I am paid to do . . . don't say 'murder', don't say 'kill'. It was destiny, it was God's will."

The song became quickly popular in folk circles and was covered by Pete Seeger and Phil Ochs but then, as with the death of Moore, it faded into the past.

But even now, with the events so distant, it still has power. This version was recorded in late '63 and is taken from the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Vol 1-3.

And as he so often did, DYlan changed a few lyrics when he played it live . . . 

Who killed Davey Moore,
Why an' what's the reason for?


"Not I, " says the referee,
"Don't point your finger at me.
I could've stopped it in the eighth
An' maybe kept him from his fate,
But the crowd would've booed, I'm sure,
At not gettin' their money's worth.
It's too bad he had to go,
But there was a pressure on me too, you know.
It wasn't me that made him fall.
No, you can't blame me at all."

Who killed Davey Moore,
Why an' what's the reason for?

"Not us, " says the angry crowd,
Whose screams filled the arena loud.
"It's too bad he died that night
But we just like to see a fight.
We didn't mean for him t' meet his death,
We just meant to see some sweat,
There ain't nothing wrong in that.
It wasn't us that made him fall.
No, you can't blame us at all."

Who killed Davey Moore,
Why an' what's the reason for?


"Not me, " says his manager,
Puffing on a big cigar.
"It's hard to say, it's hard to tell,
I always thought that he was well.
It's too bad for his wife an' kids he's dead, 
But if he was sick, he should've said.
It wasn't me that made him fall.
No, you can't blame me at all."

Who killed Davey Moore,
Why an' what's the reason for?


"Not me, " says the gambling man,
With his ticket stub still in his hand.
"It wasn't me that knocked him down,
My hands never touched him none.
I didn't commit no ugly sin,
Anyway, I put money on him to win.
It wasn't me that made him fall.
No, you can't blame me at all."

Who killed Davey Moore,
Why an' what's the reason for?


"Not me, " says the boxing writer,
Pounding print on his old typewriter,
Sayin', "Boxing ain't to blame,
There's just as much danger in a football game."
Sayin', "Fist fighting is here to stay,
It's just the old American way.
It wasn't me that made him fall.
No, you can't blame me at all."

Who killed Davey Moore,
Why an' what's the reason for?


"Not me, " says the man whose fists
Laid him low in a cloud of mist,
Who came here from Cuba's door
Where boxing ain't allowed no more.
"I hit him, yes, it's true,
But that's what I am paid to do.
Don't say 'murder, ' don't say 'kill.'
It was destiny, it was God's will."


Who killed Davey Moore, Why an' what's the reason for?

For more unusual music or songs with a back-story see From the Vaults.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Milva: Chi Mai (1972)

Milva: Chi Mai (1972)

On November 10, 2016, the great Italian  composer Ennio Morricone will be 88 and celebrating the day with his wife of 50 years. Both of those are remarkable achievements, and so is the... > Read more

The Beach Boys: Wouldn't It Be Nice (vocals only, 1966)

The Beach Boys: Wouldn't It Be Nice (vocals only, 1966)

In our recent interview with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of their classic Pet Sounds album, we noted that while accepting he was the genius in the band he... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Trade . . .Me? A story of failed entrepreneurialism

Trade . . .Me? A story of failed entrepreneurialism

The new poster boy for entrepreneurs is 26-year old Canadian Kyle MacDonald: he’s the guy who traded a red paperclip for a fish-shaped pen, then traded that for a doorknob, that for a... > Read more

THE OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST DVD REVIEWED (2007)

THE OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST DVD REVIEWED (2007)

If you want to capture the essence of the 70s in a word it's "hair". At the start of the decade there were Afros and cascades of curls halfway down backs (that's the men) and the long... > Read more