Theme Time Radio Hour: The Annotated “Death & Taxes” Episode

Fred Bals
23 min readJun 19, 2023

Episode 49. First broadcast April 11, 2007

The Lady in Red

It’s nighttime in the big city. A woman pulls out a 1099 form. A man lies about his deductions. It’s Theme Time Radio Hour with your host Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan

Well, it’s the middle of April, and if you’re like me, you’re up all night last night finishing your tax returns. As Benjamin Franklin once put it, “in this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes.” And one other thing is certain: for the next hour, we’re going to be covering both of those subjects with our usual musical abandon.

So call all the deductions into the room, gather around the radio, and enjoy the next 58 minutes. It would be 60 minutes, but the government wants its taste. We’ll be talking about income tax, capital gains tax, sales tax, suicides and early deaths.


There’s little new under the sun, and most of us stand on the shoulders of giants, whether our name is Fred Bals, Bob Dylan, or Ben Franklin. After the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, Franklin wrote to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Leroy…

“Our new Constitution is now established and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Franklin was quoting a line that appears to have originated with a 1716 play, “The Cobler of Preston,” but it’s probable he knew it from a later work by Daniel Defoe, he of “Robinson Crusoe” fame, who had used the “death and taxes” phrase in his 1726 book, “The Political History of the Devil.”

The line is often mistakenly ascribed to Mark Twain, but seldom to Albert Einstein, TTRH’s favorite go-to pundit, who Dylan regularly — and usually wrongly — quoted over the show’s three seasons.

[Jimmy Witherspoon —” Times Getting Tougher” (excerpt)]

Bob Dylan

Let’s start things off with a man who has a record 5 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and that doesn’t even include being a baseball team owner or a television tycoon. Here’s the original singing cowboy, Gene Autry, with a song written by Irving Berlin called, “I Paid My Income Tax Today.”

[Gene Autry — “I Paid My Income Tax Today”]

Bob Dylan

That was Gene Autry. He paid his income tax today, and I bet it was a healthy check. There are a lot of people don’t even realize that there was no constitutionally mandated federal income tax until 1913. There were temporary taxes to support war efforts, but in 1913, the income tax became the permanent part of the US government, or as I look at it, whenever my ship comes in the government. is there to help me unload it.

[Clip: “Death and taxes. Death and taxes.”]


The first personal income tax was imposed by Congress in 1861 in order to raise revenue for the Civil War. Congress repealed the tax in 1872. The law was brought back in the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which established Congress’ right to impose a federal income tax and took effect on Feb. 25, 1913.

The “Current Tax Payment Act of 1943” compelled employers to withhold federal income taxes from workers’ paychecks and pay them directly to the government on the workers’ behalf. Prior to that time, citizens were responsible for paying their federal taxes out of their own pocket on a quarterly basis — see my commentary on the “Spirit of ‘43.”

Bob Dylan

Over in England taxation has been positively overwhelming. A lot of English musicians wrote songs about the tax man, for example, the song “Sunny Afternoon” by The Kinks is all about the tax man taking everything but Ray Davies’ home.

[ “Sunny Afternoon” The Kinks (excerpt) “The Tax Man’s taken all my dough and left me in my stately home. Lazing on a sunny afternoon.”]

Bob Dylan

Here’s another one that you might be familiar with, written by George Harrison and recorded by his group, The Beatles, “Taxman.”

[The Beatles — “Taxman”]

Bob Dylan

That was “Taxman” by The Beatles. There’s a line in there, “there’s one for you, nineteen for me.” If you did the math, that’s like a 95% tax rate, which is pretty close to what they were paying back then, which is why The Rolling Stones went to France to record “Exile on Main Street.”

No matter where you go, though, the tax man is bound to find you. It’s like Will Rogers once said, “If you make any money, the government shoves you in the creek. All the money that don’t get wet, you can keep.”

Cecil Bustamente Campbell — “Prince Buster”

Here’s our old friend, Prince Buster. We’ve talked about him a bunch. From 19 and 63 to the end of the decade Prince Buster released over 600 records. He didn’t sing on all of them, some he just produced, but that’s still two new singles a week every week from 1963 to 1970. You know he had to pay a lot of taxes on those. And like all great artists, he was able to turn things that bothered him into three minutes of musical pleasure… like here.

[Prince Buster — “Taxation”]

Bob Dylan

That was Prince Buster, “Taxation” from 1968. The B side of his single “Prince Rodney.”


Our Host did talk about Prince Buster a lot. By the end of Theme Time’s run, the popular and prolific Buster had appeared on the show seven times.

[Film clip: “The Spirit of ‘43” — “This year, thanks to Hitler and Hirohito, taxes are higher than ever before. Will you have enough money on hand to meet your payments when they fall due?”]


The clip is taken from the short, “The Spirit of ‘43,” a Disney war propaganda film designed to convince citizens that it was their patriotic duty not to blow their weekly salaries on low dives and fast women but to save for their quarterly tax payment to help fund the war effort and blow the hell out of the Axis.

By July ’43 the point had become moot for much of the populace. The Current Tax Payment Act of 1943 established a new withholding system that was effective as of July 1 mandating employer income tax withholding for salaries and wages. Now the American worker could womanize and booze as was his wont and the government would still get its cut.

It worked, too. Income taxes collected in 1939 equaled, on average, 1% of personal income. Following the introduction of the act, the figure rose to above 11%, raising over $7.6 billion.

Besides being a 80-year-old peek into the World War II era, it’s well worth the time to watch the full 6-minute film, if for no other reason than to see the precursor of he who would become Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge McDuck.

Bob Dylan

Next up on Theme Time Radio Hour, we have the bebop boy Hank Penney. He was a member of Spade Cooley’s band. You remember Spade. He killed his wife and died in prison, while Hank had a happier ending.

In 1952, he left Spade’s band to join Dude Martin’s program. He ran off with Martin’s wife and began hosting his own series, “The Hank Penny Show.” In 1954, he moved to Las Vegas. He played for many years thereafter, and Deke Dickerson remembers meeting him near the end of his life.

Deke Dickerson

“Hank Penny is an amazingly interesting guy. He was also a really friendly guy. I got to meet him right before he died in the early 90s and he had this purple Jazz Master Fender guitar that he had ordered custom in the early 60s. And you know, even at the time, it was a very valuable instrument and he put it in my hands and I played a song on it. And he grabbed her right back and said, ‘Son, give that thing back to me. You’re getting talent all over that neck.’”

Bob Dylan

Here he is. Hank Penny, “Taxes Taxes.”

[Hank Penny — “Taxes Taxes”]

Hank Penny with Spade Cooley


It’s impossible to exaggerate the grip the Western Swing dance craze had on Los Angeles during the 1940s, one of many dance crazes that has infected America over the decades, including the Jitterbug and Rhumba outbreaks in the 30s, the Mambo pandemic in the 50s, the Twist scare of the 60s, and the devastating Bump Ball frenzy of the 70s.

After Bob Wills and his band rode into town in 1940 to appear in the film “Take Me Back to Oklahoma” and to perform attendance-shattering gigs at the Venice Ballroom, the entire city seemed to don cowboy hats, boots, string ties, and rawhide vests and started practicing fancy dance steps. Texas Playboy clones sprung up like mesquite, and the biggest Los Angeles Western Swing band of them all was Spade Cooley’s, with Spade himself dubbed as the “King of Western Swing.”

The Spade Cooley Band was so popular that they couldn’t fill all the bookings offered to them, creating a market for Cooley-like alternatives who could deliver a reasonable facsimile of the King’s music. Hank Penny came to L.A. to front one of those bands, previously led by by ex-Spade Cooley bassist Deuce Spriggens.

You heard Mr. D. refer to ol’ Hank as “the bebop boy.” A lifelong fan of jazz, Penny recorded an instrumental, “Hillbilly Be-Bop,” on the King label. It was one of the first western swing numbers to incorporate bebop, the new sound in jazz.

After stints as band leader, deejay, and club owner, Penny joined Cooley’s wildly popular television program in 1948 as a comic backwoods type known as “That Plain Ol’ Country Boy.” Penny later would become a co-owner of the legendary Palomino Club, hosted his own television series, The Hank Penny Show, and had a successful seven-year run at the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas. He’d later move to Nashville and audition for the hosting slot of “Hee Haw,” a job he’d lose to Roy Clark. He passed away in 1992.

And what of the King of Western Swing, Spade Cooley? As Our Host noted, Spade murdered his wife and died a prisoner a few months before his scheduled release. I tell his story here…

Bob Dylan

That was Hank Penny, “Taxes Taxes.” And if you’re getting ready to file your taxes let me give you a couple of tips. There’s a telephone tax credit for anyone who paid long distance taxes after February 28th, 2003. Make an extra payment, or even two, on your student loan. Doing this allows you to take the deduction on your taxes this year. Pay your state taxes before December 31st. You could deduct them in the current tax year. Good luck, I hope you don’t get audited.

[Clip: “The Untouchables” — “You know he’s making over $3,000,000 a year. But he’s paid no taxes. Nothing’s in his name. If we can establis that any of these coded entries indicate payment to Capone, then we can put Capone away.” “What?” “I said, we can prosecute him for income tax evasion.” “A murderer, for not paying his taxes?” “Oh, it’s better than nothing.”]

Bob Dylan

J.B. Lenoir was always politically charged and in 1954 he wrote a song called “Eisenhower Blues,” which wasn’t totally complimentary.

[Excerpt: J.B. Lenoir — Eisenhower Blues”]

Bob Dylan

There were so many complaints that it was pulled off the shelves. Then rewritten and re-released with a less controversial title, “Tax Paying Blues.” The names were changed to protect the guilty. Here’s J.B. Lenoir, the “Tax Paying Blues.”

[J.B. Lenoir — “Tax Paying Blues”]

Bob Dylan

That was J.B. Lenoir, and the “Tax Paying Blues.” We told you that Will Rogers’ one about taxes. He actually has another one I like, “The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has.” Barry Goldwater said pretty much the same thing. “The income tax created more criminals than any other single act of government.” And our old buddy Mark Twain poses the question, “What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only his skin.”

Bob Dylan and Jack White

Alright, it’s time for a little bit of e-mail. Today’s e-mail comes from Jack White, Nashville, TN, formerly of Detroit, Michigan. Jack writes,

“I’m sending you an e-mail, but I have a theory. The ones read on the show are all fake anyway.”

Hold on a second there, Jack. If all the emails were fake, how would I be reading this one? Ah-ha! Got you there, didn’t I? I have half a mind not to read the rest of it. Aww, alright, I’ll read it.

“My legally acquired copy of your Theme Time episode titled ‘Tennessee’ is one hour and 12 seconds long. Yet my copy of your episode, entitled ‘Sleep,’ is 59 minutes and 59 seconds long. Am I to understand that you like Tennessee more than you like sleep?” Jack White, Nashville, TN.”

Well, Jack, I appreciate the fact that you’re listening, but maybe you’re listening a little too closely. We love all the themes equally and sometimes some songs are just longer than others. Maybe you should get a hobby instead of timing radio shows, but we love the fact that you’re listening and listen so closely. Give our best to Meg. And we’ll see you soon.


Jack White may hold the record for the only TTRH hat trick, providing commentaries on three separate episodes over Season 2, appearing with his band The White Stripes on Episode 33, “Countdown” with “Seven Nation Army” and getting his definitely non-fake email read on “Death and Taxes.” Even champion TTRH appearance-maker Tom Waits can’t claim that.

Although they appeared to have pledged to be BFFs during 2007, with White even joining Dylan onstage, their relationship may have cooled somewhat by 2009, with White pointing out during a lecture at Trinity College that in her own way Britney Spears was more “authentic” than either Tom Waits or Bob Dylan. On the other hand, that’s the sort of off-the-wall opinion that you wouldn’t be surprised to hear expressed by Bob Dylan himself.

Outside of poking fun at anal listeners — present company excluded, of course — White’s email also includes a running gag about fans having “legally acquired” (or not) their copies of TTRH, with Dylan growling in another episode for people to “stop downloading my show!”

“Am I a Garage Band?”

While the provenance of emails like Mr. White’s are problematic, Our Host did occasionally read and answer mail from real listeners. For example, on the “Friends and Neighbors” episode a listener brought the crack TTRH research team to task on getting the date of Billy Stewart’s death wrong. He knew Stewart had died in January, not June, of 1970, the listener wrote, because his high school senior class in Brookland-Cayce, South Carolina had booked Stewart to perform at its prom and had to scramble to find a last-minute replacement.

As it turned out, Brookland-Cayce High School and the emailer were both real, as was his story. The listener went on to ask Our Host for a TTRH episode on the subject of garage bands, a subject that Mr. D. didn’t sound all that enthused about.

Our Host

“Garage bands? Well, first off, Guy, thank you for your note. I’d like to point out that there is already a program that focuses on garage music. I think that guy from The Sopranos does it. Not the Big Soprano, but one of the little Sopranos…

“By the way, Guy, what is a garage band? I’ve recorded songs in my garage. Am I a garage band?”

Now back to our regularly scheduled transcript.

Bob Dylan

This is Theme Time Radio Hour, your home for themes, dreams and tax-free schemes. There’s all kinds of taxes. One of the most common is the sales tax. And here’s a song all about that subject. It’s called “Sales Tax on Women.” It was originally recorded by the Dixon Brothers, but here it’s recorded by the New Lost City Ramblers from their third album, “Songs from the Depression,” “Sales Tax on Women.”

[New Lost City Ramblers — “Sales Tax on the Women”]

Bob Dylan

That was “Sales tax on the Women,” the New Lost City Ramblers with Mike Seeger, John Cohen and Tom Paley. They never made the big time, like The Kingston Trio, but they never did wear striped shirts. One of the things that the New Lost City Ramblers did was uncover great old songs, songs that you could only find in those days in piles of 78s in somebody’s barn. They breathed new life into those songs and their records stand the test of time, just like the originals.

Now as bad as taxes are, you will eventually recover. On the other hand, death is something that you’ll never come back from. It’s the subject we visit in every episode of Theme Time Radio Hour, but right now we’re going to shine the spotlight on it for just a few songs.

Here’s a man who wasn’t just a Blues singer. He also was a sportsman. He played in the Negro Baseball League and for a while was a boxer. He was born Booker T. Washington White, but on his records he was known as Bukka White. Supposedly, he met Charlie Patton and was greatly influenced by him. In 1930, he met a furniture salesman named Ralph Lembo, who was also a talent scout for Victor Records. I think I like the world better when record company talent scouts also sold furniture.

Anyway, Bukka traveled to Memphis, where he made his first recordings. He got himself into some trouble and served a little bit of time in jail down at Parchman Farm. When he got out he returned to Chicago with 12 new songs that he recorded for Lester Melrose’s Bluebird label. This is one of them, “Fixin’ to Die Blues.”

[Bukka White — “Fixin’ to Die Blues”]

Bob Dylan

That was Bukka White, “Fixin’ to Die Blues.” After these recordings, Bukka disappeared. He was actually working in a Memphis factory. Two Blues enthusiasts, John Fahey and Ed Denson were looking for him. They addressed the letter to Bukka Wright and then in parentheses, “Old Blues singer c/o General Delivery Aberdeen, MS.” Coincidentally, one of Bukka’s relatives was working in the post office in Aberdeen and forwarded the letter to him. He was rediscovered and ended up recording new material for the Arhoolie label. He managed to have a second career playing at folk festivals and coffee houses throughout the 60s and into the 70s.

Umm Kalthoum

After you die, people want to remember you, they throw big parties. One of the biggest funerals in history was for an Egyptian singer named Umm Kalthoum. Three decades after her death, she is still recognized as the Arab world’s most famous and distinguished singer. Her funeral was to be held at the Oman Magdan Mosque in central Cairo. More than four million mourners attended her funeral. Pandemonium broke out as millions of Egyptian mourners took the body from the shoulders of its official bearers and took it by themselves, carrying her for three hours through the streets of Cairo. Finally, the body was recovered and returned to its originally intended place of burial.

Let’s listen to a little bit of Umm Kalthoum and see what inspired that kind of fervor.

[Umm Kalthoum singing]

Bob Dylan

That was Umm Kalthoum here on Theme Time Radio Hour, where we’re talking about the only two things that you can be certain about, death and taxes.

Here’s an unusual record for you. It’s by Carolyn Sullivan. Well, at least the vocal is. The backing music was originally recorded by a group called The Mark II. It was a ghostly instrumental put out on a record label owned by the eccentric Fort Worth record producer Major Bill Smith. Major Bill used the instrumental release and put at least two vocalists on it: One by Cresa Watson and this one by Carolyn Sullivan. One of the darkest, saddest songs ever recorded, here’s “Dead!” by Carolyn Sullivan.

[Carolyn Sullivan — “Dead!”]

Bob Dylan

Kind of a jaunty organ on such a sad song. That’s another one of those records that’s you’re only gonna hear on Theme Time Radio Hour. Caroline Sullivan and “Dead!”.


Unless you happen to be in tight with Eddie G., you’re unlikely to hear “Dead!” anywhere else but through your legally acquired copy of the 49th episode of TTRH.

For such an obscure song there sure are lots of different recordings of “Dead!”— I counted as many as 20 by 15 different artists on eight different labels before I gave up. There are variants where the line “razor in my hand” is substituted for the milder “phone in my hand”; versions where strings have been added to the Mark II’s original instrumental; one with an organ solo heard on no other version; even spoken word recordings using the instrumental as a backing track. The only thing that remains consistent throughout is that jaunty organ.

Eddie G. may have picked up Carolyn Sullivan’s original Phillips 45 in some back-alley Texas flea market, but he might have found it on “Dead! The Grim Reaper’s Greatest Hits” a 2006 compilation put out by Ace U.K., the same label that would later release the only sanctioned “Best of…” TTRH music compilations.

Not all those 20-odd recordings of “Dead!” were on one of Major Bill Smith’s many record labels, but most of them were. William Arthur Smith was a Fort Worth record producer and music impresario, described at various times by those who worked with him as a “con man, “hustler,” and “crooked old bastard.” During his music career Smith wrote the Sonny James hit, “Twenty Feet of Muddy Water,” claimed to have made “So Tough” by The Casuals a rock-and-roll hit by bribing Dick Clark’s producer with a box of steaks to get the song played on American Bandstand; and refused to sign a singer named John Deutschendorf who later took the stage name “John Denver.”

Even though he missed out on John Denver, Smith’s labels had several major hits during the early ‘60s, including “Hey! Baby” by Bruce Channel; “Hey Paula” by “Jill and Ray” (later renamed to ”Paul and Paula” when the song was picked up for national distribution by Philips); and “Last Kiss,” a song written and originally performed by Wayne Cochrane and later covered by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers on Smith’s Josie label. Just to complete the circle, Mr. D. played that version of “Last Kiss” on the lost episode of TTRH, “Kiss.

All these things connect, as Our Host liked to say.

If Major Bill reminds you a bit of the higher-ranked Colonel Tom Parker, Smith does have an Elvis connection. In the 1980s, Major Bill began insisting that Elvis Presley had faked his death in 1977 and was living incognito with Smith as his manager. He eventually self-published a book, “Memphis Mystery (Requiem for Elvis)” detailing his claims.

Bob Dylan

Here’s a poem by E.E. Cummings, for my money the most profound poet of the 20th century. This one is called “dying is fine) but death” and goes like this.

dying is fine)but Death


wouldn’t like

Death if Death

when(instead of stopping to think)you

begin to feel of it,dying
’s miraculous

cause dying is

perfectly natural;perfectly
it mildly lively(but


is strictly
& artificial &

evil & legal)

we thank thee
almighty for dying
(forgive us,o life!the sin of Death

Bob Dylan

E.E. Cummings, capital poet.

Let’s try to cheer things up a little bit with a little bit of Western Swing courtesy of Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies, and “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You.”

[Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies — “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You” (excerpt)]

[Our Host suddenly jerks the needle off the record!]

Bob Dylan

You know what? I gotta stop this record. I love it. But when I started playing it I was looking through my other records and I realized I brought this one. It’s the same exact song, but done by Louis Armstrong, along with Louis Jordan. What I love about this record is it’s the place where jazz meets R&B, meets Jump Blues and you hear the beginnings of rock’n’roll. Louis Armstrong recorded this song back in the 30s and he even appeared in the Betty Boop cartoon singing it.

But here it is 1951, and he’s singing it with Louis Jordan, who had a number of hits through the 40s and both of them at the beginning of the 1950s at the height of their powers having nothing but fun singing the Sam Theard classic. “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You.” Here’s two guys named Louis.

[Louis Armstrong w/ Louis Jordan and his Tympani 5 — “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You”]

Bob Dylan

That was Louis Armstrong and Louis Jordan, and they’ll both be glad when you’re dead, you rascal, you.

This is Theme Time Radio Hour, your home for themes, dreams and post-mortem screams.

[Background music — “Funeral March of a Marionette”]

There’s many different ways to die, some of them more unusual than others. Here’s a couple of unique ones. Isadora Duncan, the famous dancer, was strangled to death when her long scarf became tangled up in the wheels of her motor car. The Greek playwright Aeschylus was killed when an eagle dropped a tortoise on his head. That’s the second time I’ve heard of that happening.

In 1923, Frank Hayes, a jockey, suffered a heart attack during a horse race. The horse, Sweet Kiss, went on to finish in first place making Hayes the only deceased jockey to win a race. The Chinese poet Li Bai died when on a boat he leaned over the side to kiss the moon’s reflection on the water. He fell in and drowned. Obviously, he never heard Aesop’s fable about the dog and the bone.

There’s no shortage of stories, poems and songs about death. One movie that had a great song about death is the movie “Super Fly” where all the music was composed and performed by Curtis Mayfield. Here’s one of the songs from that movie. It tells the story of a good-hearted and weak-willed man caught up in the life of the pusher. It talks about the people who see and hear about it sometimes just don’t care. He’s not an important man, but he’s a man, nonetheless. Here’s Curtis Mayfield, “Freddies Dead.”

[Curtis Mayfield — Freddie’s Dead”]

Bob Dylan

That was Curtis Mayfield from the Gordon Parks Jr. movie “Super Fly.” Curtis was a great singer and musician. On August 13th, 19 and 90 he was paralyzed from the neck down after stage lighting equipment fell on him at a concert in Brooklyn. He died on the 26th of December 1999. Curtis Mayfield, one of the greats.

There’s premature deaths and there’s deaths that take too long and some people can’t wait to die. Here are some famous suicides. Johnny Ace did it while playing Russian roulette. Cleopatra put an asp to her breast. Hart Crane drowned himself, as did Virginia Woolf. Vincent van Gogh shot himself, as did Ernest Hemingway. Sylvia Plath died inhaling natural gas. Socrates took hemlock. Lupe Valez, the Mexican Spitfire, took sleeping pills, and Sigmund Freud took morphine. Hmmm. I wonder what that means.

Here’s a poem by Dorothy Parker called “Resumé.”

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Bob Dylan

Wise words from Dorothy Parker. Here’s someone who has no shortage of wise words themselves, David Bowie, along with the Spiders from Mars featuring Mick Ronson, “Rock’n’roll Suicide.”

[David Bowie — “Rock ‘N Roll Suicide”]

Bob Dylan

That was “Rock’n’Roll Suicide” by David Bowie. This song was given an additional resonance when Bowie decided to end his shows with this song crying, “Give me your hands” to the audience. This emotional connection was especially important because Bowie told everyone he was going to retire from the stage after the Ziggy Stardust Tour.

I remember that. I told him not to do it.

We’re gonna do a second e-mail this show today because we get so many. Our second e-mail is from Floyd Bennett of, ahhh, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Floyd writes in,

“Dear Theme Time Radio Hour, I enjoy listening to your show on the radio, but I also enjoy going out to hear live performances. Lately it seems that many of my favorite bands, some of whom I thought I would never get to see again, are once again touring. Should I go see them or are they just going through the motions? Do you think they reunited just for money?”

Wow, Floyd, that’s a tricky question because even if they are doing it just for the money they must really want the money, and if you really want it, you better get out there and work for it. So my advice is go out and see them, and if they’re not any good, tell your friends and maybe your friends won’t go see him and they won’t get that money they want so much.

But back to the subject at hand, Death, because we’ve already covered taxes. Here’s a song you may have heard before. It’s kind of a roots music greatest hit ever since its appearance in the Coen Brothers movie, “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou.” In that movie It was sung by Ralph Stanley. But I can’t help but have a soft spot for Ralph when he’s singing with his brother Carter. Here they are. The Stanley Brothers, “Oh Death.”

[The Stanley Brothers — “Oh Death”]

Bob Dylan

There was “Oh Death” by The Stanley Brothers here on Theme Time Radio Hour. We have time for just one more and then I’m gonna run out to the post office and mail off my returns. Let’s end with Richard and Linda Thompson and a beautiful song that Richard wrote and Linda sings. It’s from their album, “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight.”

After this album they had a terrible divorce and then she had one solo album, but she came down with a rare condition known as hysterical dysphonia, a cryptic sort of stage fright. It renders the anxious sufferer unable to speak, let alone sing. She had it in the early 70s. But it became totally debilitating by the late 80s.

She retired from music and ran an antique dealer shop in London and had some successes as a songwriter. But finally, in 2002 she released her first album in 17 years; her stage fright was under control and the album was well received. Here she is, along with her husband at the time, Linda Thompson, “Withered and Died.”

[Richard and Linda Thompson — “Withered and Died”]

Bob Dylan

That was Richard and Linda Thompson. Withered and Died.” I’m looking at the clock on the wall and I can see it’s time for us to go.

Poet Dylan Thomas wrote the following for his father as he was dying:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

We’ll see you next week, and I want to leave you with the words of Willie Nelson and Redd Foxx. “Pay your taxes!”

[Credits: Theme from “Sanford and Son”]


Even with the segments on death and suicide, which I suspect would have needed a trigger warning disclaimer from SiriusXM if “Death and Taxes” were released today, the episode has everything that made Theme Time Radio Hour a joy to listen to.

Halfway through TTRH’s 100-show run, you can tell Mr. D., Eddie G. and Season 1’s associate producer, “Sonny Webster” (a pseudonymous Jeff Rosen), have their mojo working full time. We get great music you’re unlikely to hear anywhere else. We get not one, not two, but three Def poetry readings, and we get an absolutely legit email from Jack White.

One of the delights of the episode is the “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead You Rascal You” segment. If you were lucky enough to be sitting in a room listening to music with Eddie G. you can guess this is what he’s like, with him suddenly ripping his Musical Brownies 45 off the turntable and crying out…

“You know what? I gotta stop this record. I love it. But when I started playing it I was looking through my other records and I realized I brought this one. It’s the same exact song, but done by Louis Armstrong, along with Louis Jordan. What I love about this record is it’s the place where jazz meets R&B, meets Jump Blues and you hear the beginnings of rock’n’roll…”

… and in those sentences you get what Theme Time Radio Hour was all about.

Hope you liked the show. I’ll be back real soon.



Fred Bals

Corporate Storyteller. Tech enthusiast. Mini Cooper fanboy. One-time chronicler of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour. Husband of Peggy. Human of Lily Rose.