A few years ago one of my sons asked me if I knew anything about Bob Dylan’s song “Hurricane” – of course I did.
In 1975 Bob Dylan co-wrote a song about the false imprisonment of the American boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Carter and another* were charged with murder in 1966 and were subsequently found guilty of murder by an all-white jury. For years later controversy surrounded the case with alleged racialism, faulty evidence, questionable witnesses and even an unfair trial.
The American press didn’t help matters by referring to Carter as ‘murderer,’ ‘criminal’ and ‘a killer of white people.’ Carter was a contender for the world middleweight title at the time.
Apparently, Dylan visited Carter in prison and later penned a song about the wrongdoing against “Hurricane” – what prompted Dylan to do this is unclear although he had previous – “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”…
The song was released in 1976 and featured Scarlet Rivera on violin, it was Dylan’s 4th most successful in the ’70s.
Despite a retrial Carter was again found guilty. However, in 1985 a Federal judge ruled that Carter had not received a fair trial resulting in his release. All charges were eventually dropped in 1988.
Carter died in 2014 aged 76.
*Carter got most of the press coverage because his boxing put him in the public eye but his ‘accomplice’ – John Artis, was offered a ‘freedom deal’ by the prosecution if he implicated Hurricane. He didn’t and duly served 14 years.