Bob Dylan’s Song That Changed Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s Life

by Alisha Jackson

If you don’t know who Rubin “Hurricane” Carter is, here’s his story in a nutshell:

In 1967, middleweight boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was wrongfully convicted of murder for a triple homicide that happened in Paterson, New Jersey in 1966.

20 years later, he was freed via a petition of habeas corpus (recourse in law that may be applied before a court in cases where the unlawful detention or imprisonment of a person is suspected).

(Getty Images) (Photo by Allsport/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

On this day (March 21st) in 1976, after being in jail for 9 years, Carter was temporarily released from prison in order to be retried for murder.

According to Carter Alan’s Rock & Roll Diary, Rubin’s initial release from prison was largely due to publicity generated by Bob Dylan‘s song “Hurricane” and a benefit concert held at Madison Square Garden in 1975, where Dylan raised $100,000 for the prisoner.

While Dylan also held a star-studded benefit concert at the Houston Astrodome the following year (Stevie Wonder, Ringo Starr, Dr. John etc.), the concert unfortunately failed to raise any funds after all expenses were paid.

Why did Dylan care so much? After reading Carter’s autobiography, he decided to visit the convicted murderer in prison, a visit which inspired him to write the song “Hurricane”.

When looking at Rubin’s actual case, it’s safe to assume that someone only educated in Law & Order episodes could have came up with a better verdict.

While it’s awesome that Bob Dylan’s song had such a big impact on Carter finally being released from prison, it’s sad to think that the justice system couldn’t produce the result initially.

Even after a second trial, Carter was once again found guilty. It wasn’t until 1985 that he finally found justice.

Want to hear the 8-minute song that changed Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s life?

Listen to the song and read along to the lyrics below.

Pistol shots ring out in the bar-room night
Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall
She sees a 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’ve been
The champion of the world

Three bodies lying 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 said, “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 middle-weight 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 wanna 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 middle-weights
Jumped into a white car without 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, he could identify the guilty men

Four in the mornin’, and they haul Rubin in
They took him to the hospital and they brought him upstairs
The wounded man looks up through his one dyin’ eye
Says, “Why’d you bring him in here for he ain’t the guy”

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’ve 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
Remembered you said you saw the get away car
You think you’d like to play ball with the law
Think it might’ve 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”
The cops said, “A poor boy like you could use a break
We’ve got you for the motel job and we’re talkin’ to your friend Bello
You don’t wanta have to go back to jail, be a nice fellow”

You’ll be doin’ society a favor
That son of a bitch 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 a pay
And when it’s over 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 the trail
But then they took him to the jail house
Where they try to turn 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

Yes, 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’ve been
The champion of the world

More from Carter Alan

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