The Death and Life of a Hurricane


By  Norman Richmond aka Jalali

Published in The Nation
Colombo, Sri Lanka

1901941_692996490743665_1711604104_nSunday, 27 April 2014 00:00

I met Rubin Carter at a screening of Spike Lee’s film Malcolm X in 1993. Carter was with the Canadian who had successfully got him released from a New Jersey prison. A former middleweight boxing champion who was convicted for a triple homicide in a bar in Paterson, New Jersey, Carter immediately united with me for some reason. The next thing I knew I was spending every Sunday with Carter and the Canadians. They had satellite television and we would religiously watch Gil Noble’s “Like It Is”, discuss world affairs, eat good food and listen to music especially the Blues. We spent hours listening to Howlin’ Wolf, Koko Taylor, Muddy Waters, Dinah Washington, Willie Dixon and Clyde McPhatter.

Carterboxing1Carter was a huge fan of Clyde McPhatter. McPhatter was once a member of Billy Ward and the Dominoes, and with the Original Drifters. The man who was known for his furious boxing style told me he had never met McPhatter. However, I found out later that McPhatter was a Black patriot who influenced Sam Cooke’s thinking. McPhatter said his father was a preacher who was a hypocrite. He was also a lifelong member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Cooke loved McPhatter, as did Carter.

Hollywood wanted to do a film about Carter’s life. Carter and the Canadians planned to let me do the music for the film. Carter’s autobiography, The Sixteenth Round, was published in 1975. The script was adapted by Hollywood types from the books Lazarus and the Hurricane: The Freeing of Rubin “Hurraine” Carter (which was published in 1991), by Sam Chaiton and Terry Swinton, and The Sixteenth Round: From Number 1 Contender To #45472 (published in 1974), by Carter. The story inspired Hurricane, which Bob Dylan recorded in 1975. In 1999, Denzel Washington played Carter in film The Hurricane, directed by the Euro Canadian Norman Jewison.

Carter asked me several times who I thought should play him in the film. My choice was Michael Wright, who played Eddie in The Five Heartbeat, or Wesley Snipes. Carter said he’d think about those choices. Denzel Washington got the job. While Washington was nominated for an Oscar he did not win. Not surprisingly he WON for playing a corrupt cop in the film Training Days. I spent many Sunday’s with Carter while they worked on the script. I was shut out of having anything to do with the soundtrack.

Carter embraced me, my son and other relatives. In 1993, we spent Christmas with Carter and the Canadians. Carter dressed up as like Santa Claus and gave all the children and adults gifts. I had never seen before or since a Santa with that much melanin. The house was full with children from Canada, New Jersey, and my folks from Los Angeles.

I can remember when Carter told me he was breaking with the Canadians. I was not aware that 166_rubin_cartertheir contradictions were antagonistic. He broke with the Canadians and moved into his own place. Another thing I must mention was when Carter’s home burnt down, I gave him a call. I was concerned about his well being. He said he had lost everything but his cat. He was happy that his cat was still alive – he could get another wardobe.I continued to stay in touch with Carter until his death. On January 1st 2013 he left a message on my phone wishing me the best. Carter joined the ancestors at 4:30am April 20th in Toronto. He instructed John Artis that he wanted to be cremated – no funeral or memorial. –

 See more at:

Diasporic Music

Listen to Norman Otis Richmond’s interview  John Artis, who went to prison with the late famed boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (May 6, 1937 – April 20, 2014), and filmmaker and social activist. They speak about Rubin Carter’s Life. 

Click to Interview: Diasporic Music on Uhuru Radio




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