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."