Bob Dylan hits dissected by academics

Bruce Green in The Telegraph (UK), April 06, 2011

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By James Lachno 9:25AM BST 06 Apr 2011

Scholars of law will today hold an academic session examining the implications of Dylan's social commentary in tracks such as Hurricane and The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.

Professor Bruce Green, one of the organisers of the conference from Fordham University, said: "We think it's important once in a while to have fun, and to free the scholarly imagination. It's a lens through which to look at the relationship between law, society and culture. We hope it leads some scholars to think things they haven't thought before."

Dylan's 1975 protest song Hurricane brought the plight of boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter into the public consciousness. Carter, a former middleweight boxer, was convicted in 1967 of a racially-motivated triple murder and given four consecutive life sentences. Dylan's track described him as "an innocent man living in hell", and alleged that the conviction was tainted by racial bias. A federal judge later came to the same conclusion, and Carter was released almost a decade to the day that Hurricane was released.

While Dylan was proved right in his defence of Rubin Carter, Richard H. Underwood, a law professor from the University of Kentucky, said the folk legend, now 69, didn't always get his facts entirely straight:

"[Dylan] wrote some very powerful songs about what happens to folks when the system and the law fail them. [But he] was not necessarily concerned with true facts. He took a lot of poetic license."

Abbe Smith, a professor from Georgetown Law School, added: "I must say, Dylan never lets the facts get in the way of a good story."