Since I first put up the post in 2011, I have discovered that "Hurricane" was even more ethically scurrilous and careless with the facts than I first thought. According to Wikipedia, "Dylan was forced to re-record the song, with altered lyrics, after concerns were raised by Columbia's lawyers that references to Alfred Bello and Arthur Dexter Bradley as having `robbed the bodies` could result in a lawsuit. Neither Bello nor Bradley were(sic) ever accused of such acts." Now, here's my list. It contains some damn fine Dylan and also "Hurricane."
1) "All Along the Watchtower." One of Dylan's best and most chill-inducing songs. "Two riders were approaching / And the wind began to howl." If only all weathermen could deliver their forecasts with such apocalyptic flair. But then ...
2) "Subterranean Homesick Blues." You don't need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.
3) "Shelter From the Storm." I divide Dylan's career in three, with the 1975 album Blood on the Tracks marking the climax of the more introspective middle period, just before he veered off into overblown story songs (See #9) or, as Lester Bangs said of one song from the period, "repellent romanticist bullshit." "Shelter From the Storm" is the highlight of one of Dylan's best, most mature, most affecting records.
4) Before the Flood. Spectacular 1974 double live album with The Band backing Dylan. Its version of "Like a Rolling Stone" may be the most exuberant rock and roll song ever recorded, a worthy companion to the song's 1965 original version.
5) "Idiot Wind." More appropriate to the ritual pre- and post-storm television and newspaper overkill than to the storm itself.
6) "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." An obvious choice, but a fine song nonetheless.
7) "Blowin' in the Wind." See comment for #6. This ranks lower because the action in its title is not quite as violent as a hurricane ought to be. Of course, neither was Irene once it got to where I was.
8) "Buckets of Rain."
9) "Hurricane." Nicely arranged in its original appearance on the 1976 album Desire, but full of strained rhymes and ungainly allusions ("We want to put his ass in stir / We want to pin this triple MUR / der on him. He ain't no Gentleman Jim.") Gentleman Jim? Gentleman Jim Corbett fought his last bout in 1903. Would anyone have invoked him at the time of the killings that landed Carter in prison? Is he in the song for any reason other than the cheap, easy rhyme?
"Hurricane" also falsifies history. Carter was not the "number-one contender for the middleweight crown" at the time of the killings. He was on his way downhill as a boxer at the time. He lost three of four fights against contenders in 1965, the year before the murders.
Any further contenders for this list, even if they are not the number-one contender?
© Peter Rozovsky 2011, 2014