There have been a couple of boxing Sportsongs of the Week already. They are all songs that tell a story. Some happy, but more of them are sad stories. Sportsong of the Week #27 is also from the latter kind. It was on the list to get a feature for quite some time already. When a friend of mine was listening to Bob Dylan this weekend, heard the song and sent it to me, it was time to give it it's deserved place. So here it is: 'Hurricane' by living legend Bob Dylan.
(It was kinda hard to find a version on Youtube of the song, but this live version is the best I could find. You can listen to the song on Spotify.)
This song tells the tragic story of American middleweight boxer Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter. Rubin grew up in a rough surrounding and got a criminal record at a young age. He escaped from a juvenile reformatory in 1954 and joined the Army. This is where he got into boxing. After a while he was deemed unfit for service and shortly after his discharge he was convicted of two muggings and sent to prison. So Rubin Carter was by no means an angel. After his relase from prison in 1961 Carter became a professional boxer. His style was agressive and his punching was powerful. He quickly became a crowd favorite. He ended his career in boxing with 27 wins, 12 losses and one draw, with 19 total knockouts.
But his career could have been even more impressive if what happened in 1966 didn't take place. On June 17 1966 two males entered the Lafayette Bar and Grill in Paterson, New Jersey. The bartender and a male customer were killed instantly. A serverely wounded female customer died almost a month later. A third person survived the attack. During questioning, the survivors told police that the shooters had been black males. This night police stopped Carter's car and brought him and another occupant, John Artis, to the scene of the crime. There was little physical evidence. Police took no fingerprints at the crime scene and lacked the facilities to conduct a paraffin test for gunshot residue. None of the eyewitnesses identified Carter or Artis as the shooters. Carter and Artis were tried and convicted twice (1967 and 1976) for the murders, but after the second conviction was overturned in 1985, prosecutors chose not to try the case for a third time. Though a substantial amount of controversy emerged from the beginning and the trial was deemed racially motivated form the start, 'Hurricane' spent 20 years in prison.
After Dylan read his autobiography, he visited Carter in prison. After that meeting he decided to write a protest song. The result: an almost film script like song telling the story of Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter. The song was one of his few "protest songs" during the 1970s and proved to be his fourth most successful single of the decade, reaching #33 on the Billboard chart. There was also controversy about the song. He re-wrote it, because of concerns of possible lawsuits by people named. The final version of the song, which runs over eight minutes, was spliced together from the two separate October 24, 1975 takes.
It's a true sportsong and one with a tragic story, a story which still happens a lot in America today unfortanetely. Especially at the moment with the altercations between police and US citizens. After coming out of prison Carter served as executive director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted.from 1993 to 2005. On April 20 2014 he died of terminal prostate cancer.
Man, what a story and what a song. Please listen to it, read more about the story, and be happy you can walk around free this weekend!
Full lyrics "Hurricane" - Bob Dylan
Pistols 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 something that he never done Put him in a prison cell but one time he could-a been The champion of the world.
Three bodies lying there does Patty see And another man named Bello moving around mysteriously "I didn't do it" he says and he throws up his hands "I was only robbing the register I hope you understand I saw them leaving" 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 flashing In the hot New Jersey night.
Meanwhile far away in another part of town Rubin Carter and a couple of friends are driving 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 Patterson that's just the way things go If you're black you might as well not shown up on the street 'Less you wanna draw the heat.
Alfred Bello had a partner and he had a rap for the corps Him and Arthur Dexter Bradley were just out prowling around He said "I saw two men running 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 morning and they haul Rubin in Take him to the hospital and they bring him upstairs The wounded man looks up through his one dying eye Says "Wha'd you bring him in here for ? He ain't the guy !" Yes here comes the story of the Hurricane The man the authorities came to blame For something 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 fighting for his name While Arthur Dexter Bradley's still in the robbery game And the cops are putting the screws to him looking 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 you saw running that night ?" "Don't forget that you are white".
Arthur Dexter Bradley said "I'm really not sure" Cops said "A boy like you could use a break We got you for the motel job and we're talking to your friend Bello Now you don't wanta have to go back to jail be a nice fellow You'll be doing society a favor That sonofabitch is brave and getting 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 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 DA 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 him in a prison cell but one time he could-a been The champion of the world.