Hear the Uncensored Original Version of “Hurricane,” Bob Dylan’s Protest Song About Jailed Boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (1976)

Through­out his six-decade-long career, Bob Dylan has tak­en up quite a few caus­es in his songs. In the 1960s he was espe­cial­ly giv­en to musi­cal accu­sa­tions of mis­car­riages of jus­tice like “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” which he record­ed less than two months after the assas­si­na­tion of Medgar Evers. But he kept it up even in the 70s, as demon­strat­ed by his 1976 album Desire. “Here comes the sto­ry of the Hur­ri­cane,” he sings on its open­ing track, “the man the author­i­ties came to blame for some­thing that he nev­er done: put in a prison cell, but one time he could have been the cham­pi­on of the world.”

This “Hur­ri­cane” is, of course, for­mer star box­er Rubin Carter, who’d been con­vict­ed for a triple mur­der at a Pater­son, New Jer­sey bar a decade ear­li­er. Today, many know the sto­ry of the Hur­ri­cane from the epony­mous Den­zel Wash­ing­ton-star­ring Hol­ly­wood biopic. By the time that film came out in 1999, Carter had long since been exon­er­at­ed and made a free man, but when Dylan sang of his hav­ing been “false­ly tried,” and “obvi­ous­ly framed,” the man was still serv­ing a dou­ble life sen­tence. It was Carter’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy The Six­teenth Round, writ­ten in prison, that inspired the lit­er­ar­i­ly-mind­ed Dylan to cham­pi­on his release.

Writ­ten with song­writer-psy­chol­o­gist Jacques Levy, Dylan’s col­lab­o­ra­tor through­out Desire, “Hur­ri­cane” still today sounds as if it pulls no punch­es, deliv­er­ing a host of can-he-say-that moments in its sev­en min­utes. But in truth, says Far Our Mag­a­zine, “Dylan’s ini­tial vision for the track had been a lit­tle dif­fer­ent before the lawyers at Colum­bia Records began paw­ing over the lyrics. While many of Dylan’s claims of racial injus­tice are there in plain sight, the men in suits were more con­cerned with the lyrics imply­ing that Alfred Bel­lo and Arthur Dex­ter Bradley (the two lead wit­ness­es of the orig­i­nal case) as hav­ing ‘robbed the bod­ies’ ” of Carter and acquain­tance John Artis’ alleged vic­tims. Giv­en that they had­n’t been accused of steal­ing from any corpses, Colum­bia feared that the impli­ca­tion would draw a law­suit.

Dylan had pre­vi­ous­ly exhib­it­ed a dev­il-may-care atti­tude about such mat­ters in his protest songs: “I should have sued him and put him in jail,” grum­bled an aged William Zantzinger, the real-life attack­er in Dylan’s “The Lone­some Death of Hat­tie Car­roll.” But this time Dylan acqui­esced to the lawyers. Return­ing to the stu­dio with mem­bers of his Rolling Thun­der Revue, he laid down a new ver­sion of “Hur­ri­cane,” cen­sored but musi­cal­ly even hard­er-hit­ting (below), that did make it onto Desire. In the video at the top of the post, you can hear the orig­i­nal, which is longer, slow­er, and more raw in every sense. In the event, the expur­gat­ed “Hur­ri­cane” still got Dylan sued, but by a dif­fer­ent wit­ness: Patri­cia Valen­tine, who lived above the bar where the killings occurred and insist­ed that she did not, in fact, see “the bar­tender in a pool of blood.” Even a future Nobel Prize win­ner, it seems, isn’t safe to take a bit of poet­ic license.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Watch Bob Dylan Per­form “Only A Pawn In Their Game,” His Damn­ing Song About the Mur­der of Medgar Evers, at the 1963 March on Wash­ing­ton

“Tan­gled Up in Blue”: Deci­pher­ing a Bob Dylan Mas­ter­piece

Bob Dylan Releas­es a Cryp­tic 17-Minute Song about the JFK Assas­si­na­tion: Hear a “Mur­der Most Foul”

Bob Dylan Goes Punk on Late Night with David Let­ter­man, Play­ing “Jok­er­man” with the Lati­no Punk Band, the Plugz (1984)

How Bob Dylan Cre­at­ed a Musi­cal & Lit­er­ary World All His Own: Four Video Essays

Pop Songs with Nar­ra­tive: Pret­ty Much Pop (#69) Dis­cuss­es Tunes Rang­ing from Bob Dylan’s “Hur­ri­cane” to “The Pina Cola­da Song” with Songwriter/Author Rod Picott

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (15)
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  • Jonathan Collins says:

    “Hur­ri­cane” was as guilty as the day is long. Bob Dylan was suck­ered (prob­a­bly will­ful­ly) by his tale of woe. Wasn’t the first, won’t be the last!

  • phil rigby says:

    You say Hur­ri­cane was ‘guilty’ yet the jus­tice sys­tem even­tu­al­ly came to under­stand that, he was inno­cent! He was ‘fit-up’ as they say in Britain. Maybe the guilty were those in the ‘jus­tice’ sys­tem ?

  • Tim says:

    Released due to pro­ce­dur­al errors is not exon­er­at­ed, so you are wrong actu­al­ly. Read up on the events of that night and draw your own con­clu­sion.

  • Anders Larsson says:

    So what were those pro­ce­dur­al errors. Pleas inform me.

  • Don Benevento says:

    Carter was tried twice and con­vict­ed both times. Then a left wing black judge said his rights had been vio­lat­ed and ordered a third tri­al. By then Carter was old and had served many years so office released him rather than go for No. 3.

  • Steve Bonser says:

    You are abo­lute­ly cor­rect. Rubin Carter was a twice con­vict­ed triple mur­der­er. He was NEVER exon­er­at­ed nor acquit­ed or found inno­cent. I’ve been try­ing for sev­er­al years to have a doc­u­men­tary fund­ed which tells the full and truth­ful account of why Carter killed three inno­cent peo­ple (one a grand­moth­er) and how an air­tight case against him was made by Pater­son, NJ police and the DA. Cal Deal, a for­mer jounal­ist in Pater­son has cru­sad­ed for DECADES try­ing to get the true facts out. Here is his excel­lent web­site: http://www.graphicwitness.com/carter/

  • Stephen Bonser says:

    No, the jus­tice sys­tem NEVER found Carter inno­cent. A fed­er­al judge, for rea­sons which are unfound­ed and inde­fen­si­ble, over­turned his two con­vic­tions.

    Cal Deal, a for­mer jounal­ist in Pater­son has cru­sad­ed for DECADES try­ing to get the true facts out. Here is his excel­lent web­site: http://www.graphicwitness.com/carter/

  • Alec says:

    It’s ille­gal to try some­one twice for the same crime. You mean that he was tried, than he appealed unsuc­cess­ful­ly. This seems minor, but it’s not. There’s a big dis­tinc­tion between those two types of tri­als.

  • phil rigby says:

    Hel­lo Tim
    at the time I only heard about his case through the bril­liant Dylan song. I then read the ‘Six­teenth Round’, and some time lat­er, ‘Hur­ri­cane, the life of Rubin Carter’ by James S. Hirsch which made me aware of the case. Even­tu­al­ly the ‘pro­ce­dur­al errors’ were enough to return Rubin Carters free­dom, the jus­tice sys­tem final­ly had to con­cede his case was flawed, did­n’t they? I mean, where’s the motive, what was the evi­dence? It was all ‘iffy’ and with great patience and per­se­ver­ance from a whole group of peo­ple Rubin Carter was giv­en his free­dom.
    phil Rig­by


    Was my first LP I bought of Dylan’s .When it came out 1976, heavy radio play and this was my favourite song on that great LP. Such great mem­o­ries of my younger self. I turned 70 recent­ly and always loved this tune The Hur­ri­cane. Thanks for play­ing both ver­sions. GYP

  • Septembersphere says:

    I sup­port­ed the Asso­ci­a­tion in Defence of the Wrong­ly Con­vict­ed (now Inno­cence Cana­da), when Rubin ‘Hur­ri­cane’ Carter was Exec­u­tive Direc­tor. In fact, I arranged a pri­vate reunion between Rubin and Bob Dylan, which I was hon­oured to attend. I also met John Artis, Rubin’s co-accused, who died last year. John was offered a deal, to avoid jail time, if he impli­cat­ed Rubin in tes­ti­fy­ing to being an accom­plice. Mr. Artis refused. Years lat­er he would return to Mr. Carter’s side, and care for him here in Cana­da, as he fought can­cer. I will nev­er under­stand the vit­ri­ol com­ing from those who nev­er knew either of these men, nor were they asso­ci­at­ed with the crime or those mur­dered. True Crime gos­sipers (and like­ly racists) who’ve decid­ed to jump on any inter­net sto­ry that men­tions Rubin ‘Hur­ri­cane’ Carter — May all those who suf­fered in this sto­ry be in peace.

  • K.L. Stewart says:

    Sound like a Trump sup­port­ing big­ot..
    “Left wing” “Black judge”..
    Yeah def­i­nite­ly a big­ot. and of course a per­fect exam­ple why we frown on multi­gen­er­a­tional inbreed­ing.

  • k.l.stewart says:

    What’s your proof..

    I “left wing” then “black judge”

    Obvi­ous­ly a Klan mem­ber…

  • Nancy Fernandez says:

    Sep­tem­berspere has made an excel­lent point,I think a huge part of this is racism,easy to believe a black man was guilty,Paterson N.J is known for racist police espe­cial­ly in 60s and 70s,Dylan is very dis­cern­ing about peo­ple and he does love boxing,but Bob knew Rubin Carter and stud­ied his case, He knew Rubin was made an exam­ple, he was­n’t per­fect, none of us are.I love Bob Dylan, have my whole life,but I use my brain to study so think Rubin was framed.

  • Dudley Sharp says:

    Dylan’s “The Hur­ri­cane”, great song, with a false sto­ry.

    Huge fan, with favorites “All Along the Watch­tow­er”, “Heav­en’s Door” and “Tan­gled up in Blue”

    Dud­ley Sharp

    Guilty: Hur­ri­cane Carter
    Dud­ley Sharp, inde­pen­dent researcher, death penal­ty expert, for­mer oppo­nent, 832–439-2113, CV at bot­tom

    What the movie “The Hur­ri­cane” “missed”:

    All from “Media missed the real sto­ry of the late Hur­ri­cane Carter”, Paul Mul­shine, The Star Ledger, April 23, 2014 (1)

    Assault vic­tim “(Car­olyn Kel­ley) has this expla­na­tion for how Carter has got­ten the nation to ignore his thug­gish past and treat him as a hero. “He’s Satan, and Satan can fool a lot of peo­ple.”

    Carter: ”I could­n’t begin to tell you how many hits, mug­gings and stick­ups (I com­mit­ted). No use even try­ing to count them. We’d just use the guns like we had a license to car­ry them.”. ”If I com­mit­ted a crime in the eyes of soci­ety, I took no blame. I felt no more respon­si­ble for my actions than for the winds.”

    … “(Carter), the tough mid­dleweight box­er beat the 112-pound Kel­ley into uncon­scious­ness and left her lying in a fetal posi­tion on the floor of his hotel room. Kel­ley called me after she read my columns point­ing out that the movie (“The Hur­ri­cane”) dis­torts vir­tu­al­ly every fact of Carter’s life sto­ry.”

    ”If (Carter) could do that to me, a woman who was no threat to him, then he has erased in my mind any doubt that he could kill three or four inno­cent peo­ple,” Kel­ley says.

    “(Carter’s) rage was just bad tim­ing on my moth­er’s part; it could have been me. But his thing was always mug­ging women any­way.” — Michael Kel­ley on Carter’s beat­ing of Michael’s moth­er, Car­olyn (Kel­ley).

    “Chuck Stone, a colum­nist for the Philadel­phia Dai­ly News, broke the sto­ry of the beat­ing in a front-page arti­cle. Stone had been a strong sup­port­er of Carter’s. But he knew Kel­ley from oth­er civ­il rights strug­gles. He was trou­bled by the beat­ing. In his col­umn, Stone quot­ed Kel­ley: ‘Rubin used to tell me time and time again, ‘You’ve met Rubin and you know Carter, but you’ve nev­er met the Hur­ri­cane. The Hur­ri­cane’s bad. The Hur­ri­cane’s mean.’ ”

    “Juries twice found Carter guilty of a triple mur­der. The evi­dence against him was over­whelm­ing. He final­ly was grant­ed a third tri­al on a tech­ni­cal­i­ty, but no judge ever said or implied that he was framed or that he did not com­mit the mur­ders.”

    “There were a lot of lies at the last tri­al,’ tes­ti­fied ex-ali­bi wit­ness Cather­ine McGuire, who at the first tri­al had tes­ti­fied she was with Carter at the time of the killings.”

    “At Carter’s sec­ond tri­al, Hard­ney tes­ti­fied that Carter had asked him to back up a false ali­bi that had him drink­ing at a bar called the Nite Spot at the time of the killings. Three oth­er Carter ali­bi wit­ness­es also tes­ti­fied that they had lied at the first tri­al.”

    “Then there was the mat­ter of the alleged recan­ta­tion of Alfred Bel­lo, the eye­wit­ness who in the first tri­al tes­ti­fied that he had seen Carter leav­ing the mur­der scene but who lat­er said he had made up that sto­ry. At the sec­ond tri­al, he recant­ed his recan­ta­tion, say­ing he had been offered mon­ey by peo­ple close to Carter. The jury quick­ly con­vict­ed Carter and co-defen­dant John Artis once again.”

    Carter’s ali­bi involves Artis in a com­pli­cat­ed sto­ry of how the two men spent the night of the mur­ders dri­ving from one bar to anoth­er… Artis said he had no idea what Carter was doing dur­ing the hours when, accord­ing to Carter, the two were togeth­er.” “I asked Artis whether it is pos­si­ble Carter could have killed three peo­ple in the moments before he offered Artis a ride home.” ”Good ques­tion,” Artis said.

    Thus, “Carter was the nat­ur­al choice for exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Asso­ci­a­tion in Defence of the Wrong­ly Con­vict­ed.” (2) Incred­i­ble.

    It’s a well-known pat­tern (3).


    “The Carter case fits a famil­iar pat­tern, one that might be called the cult of the avenger. There is always one of these cas­es in the news. There’s always some guy who claims he was unjust­ly con­vict­ed of killing some­one. And there’s always a cult of true believ­ers devot­ed to prov­ing their hero was denied a fair tri­al.”

    “The inter­est­ing thing is that the weight of evi­dence against the hero is irrel­e­vant. In fact, the guilti­er the bet­ter.”

    “That is proven by the case of the man who has suc­ceed­ed Carter as a cult hero, Mumia Abu-Jamal. Unlike Carter, who at least had the good sense not to be stopped at the scene of the crime, Jamal was lit­er­al­ly caught with a smok­ing gun. He was sit­ting just a few feet away from the Philadel­phia cop he had shot to death.”

    “But Jamal’s lack of an ali­bi put him at no dis­ad­van­tage. In the years since his con­vic­tion in 1982, Jamal has assem­bled what may be the largest such cult in his­to­ry. From his cell on death row in Penn­syl­va­nia, Jamal inspired a riot in San Fran­cis­co. He is idol­ized in Paris, Lon­don and Ams­ter­dam.”

    “But Jamal has vir­tu­al­ly no sup­port in Philadel­phia, just as Carter has few sup­port­ers in New Jer­sey. Those who know the real­i­ty are not prone to buy the myth.”

    “Per­haps the only one of these char­ac­ters who has­n’t become the sub­ject of a cult of inno­cence was a man spawned by Hol­ly­wood itself. This guy had it all. An intrigu­ing look, a non­con­formist lifestyle, a charis­mat­ic mes­sage. And there were quite a few holes in the pros­e­cu­tion’s case that sent him to prison.”

    “But this guy made one cru­cial mis­take: Instead of killing a cop, he killed an actress. If not for that minor over­sight, we might have been treat­ed to the spec­ta­cle of a Sheen or a Bald­win up there on stage tonight with one hand clutch­ing a stat­ue and anoth­er wrapped around the waist of Charles Man­son.”

    This pat­tern is end­less (3).

    See also

    “The Hur­ri­cane: the facts of Rubin Carter’s life sto­ry are beat­en to a pulp” His­to­ry grade: D–, Alex von Tun­zel­mann, The Guardian, 24 April 2014


    Hur­ri­cane Carter: The Oth­er Side of the Sto­ry,


    1)” Media missed the real sto­ry of the late Hur­ri­cane Carter”, Paul Mul­shine, NJ.com, April 23, 2014, http://www.nj.com/opinion/index.ssf/2014/04/spare_us_the_lies_about_the_late_hurricane_carter_mulshine.html

    2) Rubin “Hur­ri­cane” Carter dead at 76, By RACHEL MENDLESON, “Inves­tiga­tive Reporter”, The (Toron­to) Star, April 20, 2014

    3) The Inno­cent Frauds: Stan­dard Anti-Death Penal­ty Strat­e­gy

    updat­ed 10/2022 with

    The Death Row “Exonerated”/“Innocent” Frauds
    71–83% Error Rate in Death Row “Inno­cent” Claims, Well Known Since 2000


    Par­tial CV, Dud­ley Sharp

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