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SoundTRAX: "The Hurricane"

The soundtrack cover of "The Hurricane" features Denzel Washington in a boxing pose.
MCA
/
Universal Pictures

SoundTRAX is a dive into notable music from iconic films and TV shows every Monday-Thursday at 8:10.

It was on this day in 1976 that Bob Dylan's Desire album started a five week run at #1, one of my favorite albums of his, in no small part due to the inclusion of one of the most powerful protest songs ever written.

Which inadvertently leads to today's film, The Hurricane, from 1999.

Denzel Washington stars as Rubin "The Hurricane" Carter, the former middleweight boxer wrongly convicted of committing a triple murder in 1966. As you can imagine, blatant racism, lying witnesses and police corruption were the true culprits.

Carter spent nearly 20 years behind bars, where he continued to proclaim his innocence and wrote his autobiography, The Sixteenth Round. And even after two alleged original witnesses recanted their testimony, Carter was still denied release.

A groundswell of support from the likes of a Brooklyn teenager, Canadian activists, and legal organizations, to Louisville's own Muhammad Ali, finally got some real traction, and eventually Carter was released without bail in November of 1985.

Washington, as usual, is excellent as Carter— albeit portraying a more saintly version of Carter than anyone could ever possibly be.

And the soundtrack is pretty damn good, too.

There are classics from Etta James, Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, and Gil Scott-Heron, as well as more modern tracks from Black Star, Meshell Ndegeocello, K-Ci & JoJo, plus Black Thought with Common, Mos Def, Dice Raw, Flo Brown, and the Jazzyfatnastees.

It was after reading Carter's autobiography that Bob Dylan felt compelled to visit Carter in prison in New Jersey, and then attempt to put his feelings into song, along with songwriter Jacques Levy. After a few edits to avoid lawsuits (which ended up happening anyway by one of the eyewitnesses) the final product was credited as being one of the biggest factors in keeping Carter's injustice alive and eventually helping get Carter released.

So for today's SoundTRAX selection, it's Bob Dylan— featuring the brilliant Scarlet Rivera on violin and Ronee Blakley on backing vocals— with "Hurricane."

**Song has NSFW and potentially offensive language**

Mel is the WFPK morning host. Email Mel at mfisher@lpm.org.