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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