Did Bob Dylan Really Write “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” About the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Bob Dylan wrote “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” about the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Since today is Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday, I thought it only right to do a legend about Dylan. This one is about one of his earliest classics, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”…

The song was written in 1962 and its lyrics are striking and, at times, quite bleak:

I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

In the liner notes to the 1963 album that had the song on it, Dylan’s breakout hit album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Nat Hentoff quotes Dylan about the song, talking about how he wrote it at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, where the United States seemed like it might be involved in a nuclear war with the Soviet Union over the presence of missiles in Cuba:

“Every line in it is actually the start of a whole new song. But when I wrote it, I thought I wouldn’t have enough time alive to write all those songs so I put all I could into this one.”

So that seems like it addresses it evenly, right? Or no?
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What Bob Dylan Song Was Surprisingly Inspired by Prince?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Bob Dylan’s “Dirty World” was an attempt to write a song “like Prince.”

During the height of Prince’s fame during the late 1980s, he and Bob Dylan did not have a whole lot in common (outside of them both being from Minnesota, of course).

However, when Bob Dylan began writing songs for the Traveling Wilburys in 1988, he found inspiration for Prince in an unlikely song.
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How Did Bob Dylan Respond to the Byrds Changing the Lyrics of One of His Songs?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Bob Dylan had an amusing response to The Byrds changing the lyrics to one of his songs.

Late in 1967, Bob Dylan and the Band got together in the basement of “Big Pink” (a house in Woodstock that a few members of the band owned) and recorded a dozen or so songs. Dylan and the Band had been jamming for most of 1967, mostly recording cover songs of other artists, but as time went by, Dylan soon began coming up with new songs of his own (including a couple of songs he co-wrote with members of the Band).

These songs were generally intended to be demos for other artists to hear to see if they wanted to do their own versions of the songs.

These almost mythological jam sessions were officially released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes.

In early 1968, the cover versions from the album soon began pouring in, most notably with Manfred Mann’s cover of “Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn),” which was a smash hit for the British group (it went to #1 in England) under the name “The Mighty Quinn.”

Most of the songs were given to other artists at Columbia (Dylan’s record company at the time), like the Byrds, who recorded two of the songs on their classic country rock record Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

The Byrds recorded “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and “Nothing Was Delivered.”

On “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” however, the Byrds changed a line in the song (seemingly by accident, as it is a small change that would seem too slight to be purposeful).
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Did Bob Dylan Have to Re-Record “Hurricane” Because of Legal Threats?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Bob Dylan had to re-record a song due to worries about slander/libel.

How could I make it past the start of Music Legends Revealed without featuring a legend about Bob Dylan?

“Hurricane” is one of Bob Dylan’s most famous songs from the 1970s.

It was co-written by Jacques Levy, and tells the story about the false imprisonment of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.

Carter was a boxer from New Jersey who was accused of committing a triple homicide in a bar in Paterson, New Jersey in 1966.

Some time around 2am on June 17, two black men entered a bar and shot and killed the bartender and a customer, with a second customer also dying a month later from her wounds. A third customer survived the assault, even though he was shot in the head (and lost an eye).

A petty criminal, Alfred Bello, was the first man on the scene, followed by a woman named Patty Valentine (then Patty Graham). They described two black men driving off in a car.

Their descriptions led to the police pulling over Rubin Carter and a friend, John Artis, about a half hour later. In their car, the police found a live .32 caliber pistol round and a 12-gauge shotgun shell – they both matched the two calibers used in the shootings

Carter and Artis were released, but about a month later, Bello came forward with the fact that he was actually with a partner in crime that night, Arthur Dexter Bradley. The police re-questioned both men and they both independently identified Carter and Artis.

And that was really about it – the guns from the car stop and the testimony of Bello and Bradley. That kept Carter and Artist locked up in jail for over 20 years (for Carter) and 15 years (for Artis).

In any event, in the early 70s, there began to be a bit of a movement to try to get Carter freed.

One person who was intrigued by it all was Bob Dylan, who wrote the aforementioned song, Hurricane, in 1975, which appeared on his 1976 album, Desire.

Right from the get go, Dylan did not exactly spend a whole lot of time getting the facts all the way correct. However, one specific line scared the suits at Dylan’s record company, Columbia (this actually was Dylan’s second album in a return to Columbia after a short-lived excursion with David Geffen’s Asylum Records for two albums), so much that they actually made him re-record the song!

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