By. Patrick Ortiz

 

So, intense storms have been the main topic of conversation in the news for the past few weeks. Our thoughts and concerns go out to the victims of the devastating floods and damage brought by hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas. They need as much help and support as we can offer during this trying time and we must help to build them back up and support them as much as possible.

Now, as hurricane Irma looms threateningly in the Atlantic, it is a main topic and has everyone scrambling and taking necessary precautions. Of course, we hope everyone remains safe during the storm. Therefore, we have had hurricanes on the brain lately as we prepare to fight this incoming battle.

Upon searching for titles with ‘hurricane’ in them on Spotify to create a playlist to go along with our preparations and storm stories, I was reminded of the song ‘Hurricane’ by one of the greatest and most prolific songwriters in history, Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan has written some of our favorite tunes of all time. Even if you don’t think you know one, just turn to Hendrix playing “All Along The Watch Tower,” I’m sure we have all heard his killer version by now. Dylan has written songs that inspire entire generations and that one that “became anthems for the Civil Rights Movement and Anti-War Movement.”

Upon listening to his song “Hurricane” it isn’t much about the tropical combination of wind and rain that affects various coastal areas. Instead, it is about the popular middleweight boxing champion Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Besides being a well-known fighter, Carter was in the spotlight in the later 60’s when he and his friend were arrested and charged with a triple-homicide in a bar in Paterson, New Jersey. The men were tried and convicted twice and the second conviction was overturned in 1985.

After all that time served, Carter’s attorney filed for a petition of habeas corpus, citing unlawful detention. Turns out that Carter and his friend John Artis were wrongfully accused of the murders and were detained because a witness saw two black men with guns leaving the area.

Being a major advocate for Civil Rights and writing music that served as major protest songs, Bob Dylan did not take this event lightly. In fact, the song “Hurricane” which was released in November of 1975, was a protest song about that wrongful imprisonment of Carter. In Dylan’s view, and probably the views of many others, Carter was a victim of ‘racism and profiling.’

After his initial recording in 1975, Dylan was forced to rerecord the song by his record label Columbia Records. The lyrics made references to the witnesses, Alfred Bello and Arthur Bradley, and Columbia was worried the men who seek a lawsuit.

This song gained a lot of respect and recognition, even going Gold in both Australia and Italy. According to Rolling Stone Magazine, it was Dylan’s “landmark 1975 song and his relentless promotion of Carter’s case.”

Dylan actually went to visit Carter in prison because he did not feel right about the situation, noting that “The first time I saw him, I left knowing one thing … I realized that the man’s philosophy and my philosophy were running down the same road, and you don’t meet too many people like that.”

Bob Dylan isn’t just a songwriter. He is an activist that truly believes in causes and his music helps to bring people together and fights injustices of all kinds.

 

 

 

Lyrics

 

Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night
Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall.
She sees the bartender in a pool of blood, 
Cries out, “My God, they killed them all!”
Here comes the story of the Hurricane, 
The man the authorities came to blame
For somethin’ that he never done.
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world.

Three bodies lyin’ there does Patty see
And another man named Bello, movin’ around mysteriously.
“I didn’t do it,” he says, and he throws up his hands
“I was only robbin’ the register, I hope you understand.
I saw them leavin’,” he says, and he stops
“One of us had better call up the cops.”
And so Patty calls the cops
And they arrive on the scene with their red lights flashin’
In the hot New Jersey night.

Meanwhile, far away in another part of town
Rubin Carter and a couple of friends are drivin’ around.
Number one contender for the middleweight crown
Had no idea what kinda shit was about to go down
When a cop pulled him over to the side of the road
Just like the time before and the time before that.
In Paterson that’s just the way things go.
If you’re black you might as well not show up on the street
‘Less you want to draw the heat.

Alfred Bello had a partner and he had a rap for the cops.
Him and Arthur Dexter Bradley were just out prowlin’ around
He said, “I saw two men runnin’ out, they looked like middleweights
They jumped into a white car with out-of-state plates.”
And Miss Patty Valentine just nodded her head.
Cop said, “Wait a minute, boys, this one’s not dead”
So they took him to the infirmary
And though this man could hardly see
They told him that he could identify the guilty men.

Four in the mornin’ and they haul Rubin in, 
Take him to the hospital and they bring him upstairs.
The wounded man looks up through his one dyin’ eye
Says, “Wha’d you bring him in here for? He ain’t the guy!”
Yes, here’s the story of the Hurricane, 
The man the authorities came to blame
For somethin’ that he never done.
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world.

Four months later, the ghettos are in flame, 
Rubin’s in South America, fightin’ for his name
While Arthur Dexter Bradley’s still in the robbery game
And the cops are puttin’ the screws to him, lookin’ for somebody to blame. 
“Remember that murder that happened in a bar?”
“Remember you said you saw the getaway car?”
“You think you’d like to play ball with the law?”
“Think it might-a been that fighter that you saw runnin’ that night?”
“Don’t forget that you are white.”

Arthur Dexter Bradley said, “I’m really not sure.”
Cops said, “A poor boy like you could use a break
We got you for the motel job and we’re talkin’ to your friend Bello
Now you don’t wanta have to go back to jail, be a nice fellow.
You’ll be doin’ society a favor.
That sonofabitch is brave and gettin’ braver.
We want to put his ass in stir
We want to pin this triple murder on him
He ain’t no Gentleman Jim.”

Rubin could take a man out with just one punch
But he never did like to talk about it all that much.
It’s my work, he’d say, and I do it for pay
And when it’s over I’d just as soon go on my way
Up to some paradise
Where the trout streams flow and the air is nice
And ride a horse along a trail.
But then they took him to the jailhouse
Where they trialed a man into a mouse.

All of Rubin’s cards were marked in advance
The trial was a pig-circus, he never had a chance.
The judge made Rubin’s witnesses drunkards from the slums
To the white folks who watched he was a revolutionary bum
And to the black folks he was just a crazy nigger.
No one doubted that he pulled the trigger. 
And though they could not produce the gun, 
The D.A. said he was the one who did the deed
And the all-white jury agreed.

Rubin Carter was falsely tried.
The crime was murder “one,” guess who testified?
Bello and Bradley and they both baldly lied
And the newspapers, they all went along for the ride.
How can the life of such a man
Be in the palm of some fool’s hand?
To see him obviously framed
Couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game.

Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties
Are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise
While Rubin sits like Buddha in a ten-foot cell
An innocent man in a living hell.
That’s the story of the Hurricane, 
But it won’t be over till they clear his name
And give him back the time he’s done.
Put in a prison cell, but one time he could-a been
The champion of the world.

353