Saturday, August 21, 2010

SONG AND DANCE MAN




WHEN I WAS GROWING UP IN THE SEVENTIES, I (and most of my peers) thought of Bob Dylan as someone our parents listened to, along with others like Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, and the hundreds of bands popular in the 1960's. That in itself was enough to relegate Dylan to the "uncool" list, as far as we were concerned. Besides, most of us were busy listening to bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Foreigner, AC/DC, et al...and Dylan had an air of being highbrow, of being "relevant" and "meaningful", which alone was enough to make that fabled teen-age list of the uncool.



BUT WHEN I WENT OFF TO COLLEGE IN 1980, the year John Lennon of The Beatles died, I became interested in The Beatles. Before that, all I could recall of The Fab Four was the fact that my babysitter liked them, and was always playing their forty-fives. My eye caught the distinctive green apple logo that was on all of Donna's 45's, but that was about the extent of my interest. When Lennon was killed in the fall of 1980, a lot of people around me were saddened, and it was all they could talk about for a long time. So, curious, I bought some albums, loved them, and started reading up on their history. That's when I found out that Bob Dylan had been an influence on their music.



From there, it wasn't long until I found Dylan's single, Hurricane, about convicted murderer Ruben "Hurricane" Carter. I was literally entranced by it. It's a powerful song, more powerful than any amped up metal band. There is a distinctive feel of righteous anger in the melody, and in the way Dylan sings the tune. Supposedly, Carter was framed for murder. Bob's song is about injustice, about clearing the name of an innocent man. As I heard Bob snarl out these lyrics:



"...to see him obviously framed, couldn't help but feel ashamed, to live in a land, where justice is a game..."



I felt my emotions stir in that wonderful way only truly great music can do. I could identify, for hadn't I often felt the same way? Yes. I felt as if Dylan had written the song for me, as narcissistic as that sounds, but in truth, that's the magic of all exceptionally good music. Convinced now that Bob Dylan was an authentic genius, I discovered his albums Blood on the Tracks, John Wesley Harding, and Desire, three out of many others he has made, but three of his very best. Hauntingly beautiful songs like "All Along the Watchtower", "Sarah", "One More Cup of Coffee" and "Tangled Up in Blue" had my Walkman jamming for many a day as I walked about my life. I had, and still have enormous respect for this self-styled "Song and Dance Man", and I believe what he really is, is not a genius, but an individual passionately in love with excellance, a man who simply does a good job.



So when I heard that Ruben "Hurricane" Carter was in fact guilty of murder, and not framed, not railroaded, and not the victim of a racist plot, I was skeptical. Had not Dylan sang about the opposite with such convincing passion? But then, I came across the claim of Carter's guilt again...and again. I decided to check it out, and see what evidance was out there that Carter was guilty...and found it. Just do a simple Web search, you'll find it, too.



How could this be? How could Dylan have been so wrong? To make matters worse, Hollywood made an excellant movie starring a brilliant, well loved actor (Denzel Washington) about The Hurricane, which made the case that The Hurricane was innocent. I loved the movie. I've been a fan of Washington's ever since I saw Man on Fire.



Dylan was most likely just duped by a clever con man. It can happen to anyone. As for Hollywood, well, Hollywood sells dreams, after all. It's nice to see that a man wrongly accused was set free and exonerated, although in this case, Ruben "Hurricane" Carter was NOT exonerated. His conviction was overturned because of a legal error. And he was guilty. Still, it's a good story and an even better song.

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