George Jackson

Album: The Essential Bob Dylan (1971)

Songfacts®:

  • As he later did with "Hurricane," Bob Dylan wrote this song about a convict who went through a controversial trial.

    George Jackson, born in 1941, was sent to a Catholic school but was soon running with street gangs. At the age of 18, he was sentenced to one year to life for robbing a gas station. During his time in prison, Jackson set about furthering his education and joined the Black Panthers. In 1970, his critically acclaimed book of prison letters, Soledad Brother, was published.

    Jackson won himself an indictment (along with two other inmates) for the murder of a prison guard. Shortly before standing trial for that alleged murder, and still only 29, he was shot dead in a bizarre escape attempt from the infamous San Quentin Prison in August 1971. During this attempted break out, five people were murdered by other inmates: three prison guards and two inmates. Dylan recounts Jackson's story in this song, singing that prison guards shot down Jackson because "they were scared of his love."
  • In 1972, John Lennon released "Angela," which relates to George Jackson's case. That song is about Angela Davis, who was the registered owner of the guns involved in the courthouse shootout. When she was charged with murder, she drew support from many musicians and members of the counterculture. Davis was later acquitted.

Comments: 1

  • Mark from Chicago, IlLeaders of militant movements are commonly from the upper classes. Their educational backgrounds - as Jackson's - gives them a developed intellect helpful for such an undertaking.
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