Bob Dylan Song Inspiration Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter Dies
Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, the boxer that inspired Bob Dylan's 1975 song 'Hurricane' passed away this morning in Toronto after a battle with prostate cancer. Carter was 76 years old.
Although Carter never held a world championship title, his record was impressive as he rose through the ranks of the boxing world. But his life was forever changed in 1966 when three white people were shot at the Lafayette Bar and Grill. Carter and his friend John Artis were questioned in association with the murders after having been spotted in the area of the murders in Carter's white car. Despite offering plausible alibis, both men were arrested months later and were subsequently convicted of the crime by an all-white jury largely based on the testimony of two thieves who later recanted their stories.
Carter's story came to Dylan's attention after the boxer sent the singer a copy of his 1974 autobiography. The illustrious songwriter met Carter and co-wrote 'Hurricane' with Jacques Levy. Dylan performed the song on his Rolling Thunder Revue Tour and included a studio version of the song on his 1976 record 'Desire'.
The lyrics of 'Hurricane' pointedly confront the injustice faced by Carter during his trial:
"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"
Carter ended up being given a new trial in 1976 but ended up being convicted for the crime a second time. Nine years later, thanks to the notoriety his case had been given, Carter's case was heard for the first time in a federal court. Citing that prosecutors had "fatally infected the trial" by promoting a theory of racial revenge without evidence, and withheld evidence that disproved the witness's identifications, Carter saw his charges formally dismissed in 1988.
Carter moved to Toronto soon after his release. He went on to serve as the executive direction of the Association In Defence Of The Wrongly Convicted from 1993 to 2004. His story was made into the 1999 Hollywood movie 'Hurricane,' starring Denzel Washington.
In a 2011 interview with PBS, Carter said, "I wouldn't give up. No matter that they sentenced me to three life terms in prison. I wouldn't give up. Just because a jury of 12 misinformed people ... found me guilty did not make me guilty. And because I was not guilty, I refused to act like a guilty person.''