Dylan, “Desire” and the (other) Story of Hurricane: A Lesson In Fatherhood
Reading of the death of former pro boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter today awoke an old memory which reminded me how lucky I was to have, what in retrospect, was a pretty cool father. I should add by “cool” I do not mean some kind of “over the hill hipster” who, in a desperate attempt at trying to stay relevant smokes pot or acts in some other immature, out of character way. No, I merely mean a father, that despite whatever busy schedule he may have, when he senses that something is of importance, at least to his kid, takes the time to listen and if possible, act on his child’s request or concern.
The time was the mid-late70’s (circa 1976-77) and my father had a new job working for the LEAA after years working as chief counsel of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee and later as a staff counsel for the full judiciary committee. The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) was a short-lived U.S. federal agency within the Justice Department. It administered federal funding to state and local law enforcement agencies, and funded educational programs, research, state planning agencies and local crime initiatives. My father really had no qualifications for working for the LEAA other than being one of the principal authors of the Senate’s Amendment to the Omnibus Crime Control Act and needing a job.
At the time I was a long haired, anti-establishment teenager with a new favorite lp, Bob Dylan’s “Desire”. My motivation for purchasing this album was the wordy but endearing protest song which was the album’s featured single, “Hurricane” written by Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy:
Like any teenager with a new record, “Desire” was in heavy rotation and much like the songs off my early Springsteen collection, “Hurricane” was one of those songs you had to memorize the lyrics to. (My poor parents!) So after about a month of this constant barrage I honestly can’t remember who approached whom, whether I asked my Dad or Dad came to me and said something like”…if you just stop playing that damn song, I’ll see what I can find out…”. Which ever it was, in retrospect it was pretty damn cool of the old man and I know it did not win him many friends at his new job poking around this subject with state and federal law enforcement officials.
Out of respect to the friends and family of Mr. Carter and in all fairness, I will not repeat the hearsay my father reported back to me other than to confirm the early acknowledgment by those in law enforcement (F.B.I.) of serious problems with the State’s case. The thing that is important to me today, some 15 years after my father’s passing, is what a cool thing that was for my Dad to do for his son. RIP Rubin. I’m so glad you got out of that cell.