Critical Analysis Of Bob Dylan's Song Hurricane

1232 words - 5 pages

Bob Dylan's iconic songwriting, unique and distinctive singing voice, as well as his controversial and thought-provoking lyrics has undoubtedly placed Dylan among the elites of modern, American musical history. This is not to say there are those who dislike and generally do not care for his songwriting, but almost everyone has come in contact with his expansive body of work. Born Robert Allen Zimmerman in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota, he moved to New York City in 1961 and legally changed his name to Bob Dylan in 1962. In the onset of his career Dylan focused on politically charged themes and acoustic/folk type guitar playing. Protest songs written in the 1960's established a reputation as a free-thinking songwriter engrossed in the trials and tribulations of the times. After a break from this style, his 1976 album Desire contained the eight and a half minute mega-track "Hurricane," which saw a return to the societal-minded songwriting that had helped him make his name. "Hurricane," is a narrative that describes Dylan's own account of the events in New Jersey bar in June of 1966, which lead to the arrest and imprisonment of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, an American middle-weight boxer. Although this is one of his most popular songs, Dylan no longer incorporates it in his live sets. Also, despite its popularity, "Hurricane," is truly a masterpiece and a wonderful lens with which to examine this great artist's literary style and influence. Through the exploration of several critics' analysis coupled with a detailed examination of the actual song lyrics, it is clear that the song "Hurricane" by Bob Dylan intertwines modern social elements of race and equity, the literary aspects of genre, language and metaphor, and his own unique and individualistic songwriting that has established him on a plateau of excellence rivaled by no other modern artist.The racial aspects of the song ring out louder than any other theme. Upon listening to the song, Dylan's emotionally charged singing and sharp lyrics clearly display that fact that Rubin Carter's skin color had a major influence in his arrest and conviction. This, of course, is just Bob Dylan's interpretation however. Evan Schlansky, a critic from American Songwriter.com, explores the issue of race and social equity in his analysis. '"Hurricane" functions like a real live detective story. It's a song that peppers the listener with rich details and impolite truths, many of which are enough to make the hairs at the back of your neck stand up' (Schlansky, 1). Paterson, New Jersey in the 1960's was a hotbed of racism and racial issues, and the lyrics explain the direness of the situation. Dylan sings, "In Paterson that's just the way things go/If you're black you might as well not show up on the street, 'less you wanna draw the heat" (Metrolyrics.com, 1). Dylan is obviously critiquing the law enforcement and judiciary system, as well as striking a chord with racial and political activists everywhere. As mentioned...

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