Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bob Dylan: Hurricane (1975)


One of my favorite Bob Dylan songs (co-written by Jacques Levy)—in a catalog that has many great songs—is dedicated to the case of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a boxer falsely accused and framed for the 1966 triple murder in Paterson, New Jersey. Racism played a prominent role in Carter’s arrest, prosecution and incarceration, which Dylan makes clear in the song. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

I can still remember hearing the song for the first time in late 1975, when it was released as a single, and how much it stirred a passion for justice. So it remains, as it should. (You can hear another version, with Emmylou Harris singing backup, [here].)

It, the song, is the first track on the album Desire, which was released in January 1976, Wikipedia says, “making the Carter case known to a broad public. ‘Hurricane’ is credited with harnessing popular support to Carter’s defense.” Carter was freed in 1985 after spending almost 20 years in prison. Soon after he moved to Toronto. Rubin Carter died of prostrate cancer on April 20, 2014; he was 76.

I saw Bob Dylan in concert at the (old) Montreal forum on October 30, 1981, when he and his music showed definite influences of Christianity. For some, this was Dylan’s dark age of music creativity, but I disagree. The opening song of this concert was “Gotta Serve Somebody” (1979), which is as true as it was then and is as good as it gets in the department of creativity. In a simple word, the song is “masterful.” This song can never get old, since its meaning forever stays young.

The story of Dylan and his search into both Christianity and Hasidism (to wit, the Chabad-Lubavitch sect of Judaism) has already been told and analysed, and is not worth recounting here. Only his intimates know some of the story; only the people that were there during the time can ascertain what happened. Even so, this does not mean that they do “know;” only Dylan himself knows and appreciates the complete story. Others can only speculate, What we do know is that Dylan’s music changed then, and that he had a spiritual experience or awakening, which is not a bad thing but always a good thing.

Like many searchers, myself included, Dylan wants to find his place.