This is about Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a boxer who spent 19 years in jail for a murder Dylan felt he did not commit.
Carter was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of 3 white people who were gunned down at a bar in Paterson, New Jersey on June 17, 1966. Police were looking for 2 black men and pulled over Carter and his friend John Artis. They were sentenced to life in prison.
8 years into his incarceration, Carter sent Dylan a copy of his autobiography. Dylan visited him in prison, and convinced of his innocence, wrote "Hurricane."
Lawyers at Columbia Records made Dylan change some of the lyrics to avoid lawsuits.
Dylan went of Carter's prison in 1975 as a show of support. The visit brought a lot of attention to Carter's case.
Touring with the Rolling Thunder Revue, which featured Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Roberta Flack, Dylan raised over $100,000 for Carter's defense at a Madison Square Garden concert the day after visiting his prison. A month later, they held another charity concert, Hurricane II, in the Astrodome.
Dylan's efforts brought new publicity to Carter's case, getting him a new trial in 1976, where he was again convicted, with prosecutors claiming he killed the men in retaliation for a murder of a black man earlier that night. Carter was not freed until 1984, when his conviction was finally overturned.
Carter was the subject of the 1999 movie Hurricane, staring Denzel Washington as the boxer.
The A-side of single is titled "Hurricane (part 1)." The B-side is "Hurricane (full version)."
The characters mentioned in the song are real people.
The line "He ain't no gentleman Jim" is a reference to "Gentleman" Jim Corbett, a white boxer in the 1800s known for his manners.