Dylan Covers Week No 7: Hurricane - Ani DiFranco
I've noticed that so far I have featured covers of earlier Dylan material up to and including the Basement Tapes, but some of his best work was on the middle period albums such as "Blood on the Tracks" and "Desire" which included this. One of the problems with this work is that Dylan's originals are so distinctive that it is always difficult for other artists to make them their own.
Dylan's "Hurricane" is powered from beginning to end by rage, a campaigning song, shouting out and popularising the cause of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, wrongly convicted for murder, and a factor in the overturning of his sentence in 1985, 18 years after his conviction in 1967. DiFranco, no shyer away from campaigning causes herself, released her version on her EP "Swing Set" in 2000, 15 years later.
Instead of campaigning, DiFranco takes the narrative of Dylan's song and tells it like film noir,
"Pistol shots ring out in the barroom night enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall she sees the bartender in a pool of blood cries out, "My God, they killed them all!....."
beginning with the atmospheric bass line, punctuated by the almost seething drumming and steamy lead guitar, creating the stifling feeling of the hot New Jersey night of the murder, and finishing with screeching outraged keyboards. What you get from DiFranco is not so much anger as a passionate account of injustice which is at the same time a resigned telling of a recurring tale. With Dylan the phrases jump out at you, but here you get the full story. But she doesn't fail to make use of the great lines like:
"You'll be doing society a favour that son of a bitch is brave and getting braver..."
"To the white folks who watched he was a revolutionary bum and to the black folks he was just a crazy nigger no one doubted that he pulled the trigger and though they could not produce the gun the D.A. said he was the one who did the deed and the all-white jury agreed....."
"Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties
are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise...."
The strength of her vocal attack is emphasised in contrast by the sunshine her voice injects into the moment of temporary relief in the words "paradise" and "trout streams"....
"...and when it's over I'd just as soon go on my way
up to some paradise
where the trout streams flow and the air is nice
and ride a horse along a trail....".
She finishes suddenly,
"....put in a prison cell, but one time he could have been the champion of the world."
with a despairing shout and whimper after the word "world", the band unrelenting, like the subject matter, then chopped of in mid flow. Like the subject matter.