Bob Dylan is being sued for defamation of character by Patty Valentine, a witness in the Rubin “Hurricane” Carter murder case. Dylan used Valentine’s name in his 1975 song “Hurricane.” According to Valentine’s deposition, the song was widely played on radio and once on television during a Grammy Awards ceremony, destroying the witness’ anonymity and exposing her past. Judge Norman C. Roettger Jr. has ordered Dylan and codefendants CBS Incorporated and Warner Bros. Publications to disclose how much money was made by the song, part of the gold album Desire. Damage claims will be based on these figures.
In 1966, Valentine discovered two people dead and two wounded in a Paterson, New Jersey, bar and identified a white car leaving the scene that police later claimed belonged to Carter, then a middleweight boxing contender. She testified in Carter’s murder case the next year, and was the only one of three witnesses who did not recant their original testimony in 1974. Carter appealed his conviction in 1976 because two witnesses changed their testimony, but was again found guilty.
Valentine said in her deposition that “Hurricane,” which she believes implies that she lied, drove her to a hypnotherapist and to the brink of a breakdown. She filed suit against Dylan in 1976 and her lawyer was able to receive a deposition from the performer in Beverly Hills in May of this year. In his statement, Dylan said the song was written to help right what he thought was a wrong. “The purpose,” he said, “was to bring justice to a man we felt was falsely tried.”
Dylan said he never talked with Valentine and that the information used in the song was taken from press clippings sent him by a member of Carter’s defense committee. He said Valentine became part of the song because she discovered the bodies. “And,” he added, “she’s got a beautiful name . . . She’s just a piece of thread that holds the song together.” Dylan’s attorneys said Valentine’s Carter testimony “is reported accurately in ‘Hurricane.’ That report is not offensive to anyone’s ordinary sensibilities.”
The case may go to trial in July.
This story is from the February 4th, 1968 issue of Rolling Stone.