“People can learn everything about me through my songs, if they know where to look. They can just juxtapose them with certain other songs and draw a clear picture”. (Bob Dylan(1))

 

Introduction

“The powerful operations of Gods spirit, quickening or reviving the heart towards God, are compared to the blowing of the wind“. (John 3:8(2))

 

I must state from the outset that I rate Caribbean Wind as one of Dylan’s most important works of the early eighties, mostly as an indicator of the position of his soul, as a man who was now bereft of his family life following the embittered divorce proceedings and who had at first totally embraced Jesus Christ, but was quickly falling out of His grasp – at least the dogmatic grasp of the Christian Vineyard Fellowship, and who would soon return to the religion of his forefathers, Judaism. The other important works of this period of inner conflict for Dylan are, Angelina, The Groom’s Still Waiting At The Altar and Every Grain of Sand and, listening to the three versions of Caribbean Wind that I have, the San Francisco, Fox Warfield Theatre live performance of 12 November 1980, the studio version of 31 March 1981, and the official Biograph studio performance of 7 April 1981, one is immediately struck by the urgency and energy of these performances, irrespective of whether or not one can discern what he actually sings in between the choruses and albeit that the Biograph version has apparently been watered down and lyrically rewritten, done, one presumes, to protect identities and to distance himself emotionally and religiously from the song. The storyline has been changed somewhat, although not entirely for the worst, and I feel that the Biograph version is less overtly Christian and that he has injected more Judaic themes into it. Enough has been written by others about the actual performance(s) of Caribbean Wind, particularly and very eloquently by the likes of Paul Williams in his book, Bob Dylan Performing Artist 1974-1986, and by Clinton Heylin in his books, Behind The Shades and The Recording Sessions 1960-1994, and I do not propose to go over previously covered ground but will try and provide new insight into the sources and interpretations of some of the song’s lines, many of which are drawn from Scipture, and I will attempt to collate as much information as has been previously written about this song. In fact, the very first two lines of this rewritten Biograph version are drawn directly from the Old Testament Book of Song of Songs(3) !

It is a reasonable assumption that Dylan does not use Biblical lines and passages just for effect and I believe that his intention is to lead us, through our perception of the meaning of that particular Biblical line or passage, to greater understanding and to further expand the meaning of that feeling that he is trying to invoke within us through the lines of that song, and I do not propose in this article to quote whole Biblical passages verbatim, but I will, where I feel it necessary and relevant, quote from corresponding lines or verses which I feel relate to that feeling and it should be borne in mind that this is purely my own personal opinion based upon my own studies and knowledge of both Christian and Judaic theological doctrines. A lot of Dylan’s Biblical preoccupation seems to be taken up by his almost total belief in the “Coming End of Days” as expounded in the New Testament Book of The Revelation of St. John the Theologian, which in itself is derived from a number of other Old Testament Books, including the Books of Daniel and Ezekiel.

Of one thing that I am sure, and that Dylan has an intimate and studied knowledge of Scripture amply demonstrated by his use of Scripture in his compositions from the very beginning of his career to the present and that he has a deep knowledge and understanding of their true anagogical meaning, and I will attempt in the following composition to reveal to you those lines, words or feelings, that I believe derive from Scripture as used by Dylan in this work.

It is most probable that Caribbean Wind was written after the end of the “79” tour which ended on 21/5/80 at Dayton, Ohio, and before the commencement of the “80” tour on 9/11/80, (the first version of Caribbean Wind was performed in the studio some time in October 1980). Dylan spent a lot of his spare time sailing around the Bahamas and the Caribbean on a yacht named The Water Pearl he co-owned, which was built on the Caribbean Island of Benquia and was launched in November 1979. Although the co-owner of the yacht most probably made it to the launch, Dylan was too busy touring at the time, from 1/11/79 until 9/12/79, mostly at his first sojourn at San Francisco’s Fox Warfield Theatre; “I’m usually either in New York or on the West Coast or down in the Caribbean. Me and another guy have a boat down there….”(4). In the Biograph, Cameron Crowe interview, Dylan elucidated further upon the song; “I started it in St. Vincent when I woke up from a strange dream in the hot sun….I was thinking about living with somebody for all the wrong reasons”.”Caribbean Wind is an important song in Dylan’s oeuvre, particularly as its synthesis of apocalyptic conceit and his familiar theme of disaffected love was more familiar terrain to his fans than anything explored on his previous two albums, suggesting that he was at least learning to assimilate rather than ignore his pre-Born Again work. That the song reflected Dylan’s own problems with women, given past history, seems extremely likely”(5).

In order not to become too confused with so many different lyrics and versions of one song, I will try to remain faithful to the song’s lyrics as published in the Bob Dylan Lyrics 1962-1985 book(6) which is, more or less, the Biograph version of the song and are the fourth and final set of lyrics for Caribbean Wind. I will also, later in this article, make passing references to the second set of lyrics and song from the San Francisco 12/11/80 live performance, and also with the third set of lyrics and song from the studio performance of 31 March 1981 (as yet I haven’t managed to locate a set of lyrics from the first studio performance of Caribbean Wind from October 1980, and those tapes that I do have which are marked ‘10/80’, are all this same 31/3/81 performance).

Caribbean Wind – Biograph – 7/4/81 (Rundown Studios, Santa Monica, California)

(https://soundcloud.com/scottrek5/bd-cw)

Musicians: Bob Dylan, vocals and piano; Fred Tackett, Guitar; Steve Ripley, Guitar; Tim Drummond, Bass; Carl Pickhardt, Keyboards; Jim Keltner, Drums; Clydie King, Carolyn Dennis, Madelyn Quebec and Regina McCrery, Backing Vocals.

 

verse 1

She was the Rose of Sharon, from paradise lost,

From the city of seven hills, near the place of the cross,

I was playing a show in Miami, in the Theatre of Divine Comedy.

Told about Jesus, told about the rain,

She told me about the jungle, where her brothers were slain,

By the man who invented iron and disappeared so mysteriously.

 

verse 2

Was she a child or an angel, did we go too far?

Were we sniper bait, did we follow a star?

Through the hole in the wall to where the long arm of the law cannot reach.

Could I been used and played as a pawn?

It certainly was possible as the gay night wore on

When men bathed in perfume, and practiced the hoax of free speech

 

chorus

And them Caribbean winds still blow, from Nassau to Mexico,

Fanning the flames in the furnace of desire.

And them distant ships of liberty, on them iron waves so bold and free,

Bringing everything that’s near to me, nearer to the fire.

 

verse 3

Sea breeze blowin’, there’s a hellhound loose,

Redeemed men, who have escaped from the noose,

Preaching faith and salvation, waiting for the night to arrive.

He was well connected, but her heart was a snare,

And she had left him to die in there,

He was goin’ down slow, just barely staying alive.

 

verse 4

The cry of the peacock, flies buzzing my head,

Ceiling fan broken, there’s a heat in my bed,

Street band playing ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’

We met at the station, where the mission bells ring,

She said ‘I know what you’re thinking, but there ain’t a thing,

You can do about it, so let us just agree to agree’.

repeat chorus

verse 5

Atlantic City, by the cold gray sea,

Hear a voice crying ‘daddy’, I always think it’s for me,

But it’s only the silence in the buttermilk hills that call.

Every new messenger bringing evil report,

‘bout armies on the march, and time that is short,

And famines and earthquakes and train wrecks and the tearin’ down of the wall.

 

verse 6

Did you ever have a dream, that you couldn’t explain?

Ever meet your accusers, face to face in the rain?

She had chrome brown eyes that I won’t forget as long as she’s gone.

I see the screws breakin’ loose, see the devil pounding on tin,

I see a house in the country being torn apart from within,

I can hear my ancestors calling from the land far beyond.

 

repeat chorus

 

(1985 Special Rider Music)

(Lyrics reproduced for the purpose of critical review)

 

The Song

Verse 1 – The Rose of Sharon

I suspect that Dylan’s changing personal relationships and his declining dependency and also disillusionment with the Christian Vineyard Fellowship influenced the lyrical changes to Caribbean Wind, the first lines of which from the 2nd version at San Francisco on 21/11/80, and the third version from 31 March 1981, remain virtually unchanged. The 31/3/81 ‘Shot of Love Sessions’ version (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQIpNPyOPW4) states; She was well rehearsed, fair brown and blonde, and the 12/11/80 San Francisco performance states; She was from Haiti, fair brown and intense, and from this one can deduce that she is a dark skinned Haitian from the West Indies. By the time of the Biograph (fourth) version, she had changed identity.

Lines 1 & 2 state; She was the Rose of Sharon from Paradise Lost, from the City of Seven Hills near the Place of the Cross. The Rose of Sharon is drawn directly from the Old Testament Book of Song of Songs (or, Song of Solomon) Ch. 2:1. She is also the Lily Among Thorns, as mentioned by Dylan in Someone’s Gotta Hold of my Heart, (later rewritten to become Tight Connection to my Heart). She is Israel, the daughter of Zion, the Rose of Sharon, the Lily Among Thorns. If you read back to Ch. 1:6 in Song of Songs then this she, the Rose of Sharon, is revealed as being black, as is the original she from the 31/3/81 and 12/11/80 versions of Caribbean Wind. By the time of the Biograph version, she appears to have changed both colour and religion! Incidentally, Song of Songs is a parable about the love between Israel and her God told in terms of a woman and her lover. From Paradise Lost could refer to either the Garden of Eden from the Book of Genesis, or to the Land of Milk and Honey – Israel, (or/and to Milton’s poem). From the City of Seven Hills near the Place of the Cross, identifies the location as being the now joint Israeli/Palestinian City of Hebron, which is indeed built upon seven hills and is very near to the Place of the Cross, identified in Luke 23:33 as being Calvery, near Jerusalem. So it appears that the rewritten version of 7/4/81 has either Israel, or more likely, an Israeli/Jewish woman replacing this brown Haitian Lady as the opening character! What I find even more intriguing is the fact that Hebron is also the burial place of the Biblical character Sarah (Dylan’s ex-wife spelt her name without the ‘h’ at the end), and also of Sarah’s husband, Abraham (Dylan’s father was called ‘Abe’, which is short for Abraham ); ‘Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre; the same is Hebron’ (Genesis 23:19), and; ‘The field which Abraham purchased, there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife’ (Genesis 25:10). So perhaps Dylan has changed the identity of the she from his black Haitian woman lover to that of his ex-wife Sara – thereby perhaps charting the beginnings of his move back to Judaism from Christianity, and with a stroke of his pen, not only confusing the plot, but also apparently making his love life appear more stable than perhaps it actually was!

Line 3 states; I was playing a show in Miami in the Theatre of Divine Comedy, and is identified by Paul Williams as being the final show of the 1978 tour at Hollywood, Florida on 16/12/78(7). A silver cross had been thrown onto the stage at San Diego on 17/11/78, and Dylan, uncharacteristically, picked it up and kept it and it would, as he later revealed in a 1979 interview in San Diego, help to influence and fuel that ‘slow train’ that he was starting to ride upon !! During these last concerts of the 1978 tour Dylan started to introduce Biblical lines to his concert songs, inserting into his performance of Tangled up in Blue such rewritten lines as; She opened up the Bible and started quoting it to me, the Gospel according to Matthew, verse 3, Chapter 33 (which incidentally does not exist, as the Book of Matthew ends at Ch. 28:20!). The New Testament Book of Matthew is Christianity’s attempt to convince the Jews that Jesus Christ was The Messiah for whom they longed.

Line 4 states; Told about Jesus, told about the rain, thus indicating that he was told by her, the Rose of Sharon, about Jesus and the rain, (both earlier versions of 31/3/81 and 12/11/80 contain different words). Was it thus, at this 16/12/78 Florida show, that she told him all about Jesus? It would of course be of great interest to try and identify her, the she of this song whom Dylan has apparently gone to great lengths to hide the identity of, particularly with his final rewrite changing her from a black Haitian (on the live 12/11/80 version) to a Jew (on the Biograph version)! Helena Springs had been a backing singer with Dylan since the 1978 tour started in Japan on 20/2/78(8), and he reportedly become very ‘close’ to her; ‘He turned to those in his band who had discovered peace with Christ, notably Helena Springs, the lady with whom he had been writing songs of betrayal and loneliness……..and who, of all the musicians, was closest to Dylan at this point’(5). Helena Springs – “We were together in Brisbane one evening (between 12-15/3/78) he started strumming his guitar and I started to sing and that was when we got Walk Out in the Rain”(5). This song appears on page 589 of The Lyrics 1962-1985 book(6) as a joint Helena Springs/Dylan composition – thus from where the line in Caribbean Wind; She told me about Jesus and the rain comes from ? Another revealing line from Walk Out in the Rain is; I have come from so far away, just to put a ring on your finger ! A similarly revealing line also emerges from the co-written Helena Springs/Dylan/Greg Lake composition, Coming From the Heart the Road is Long; Of all my loves you’ve been the closest! In fact, Helena Springs would depart from Dylan and the band’s company during the winter of 1980, perhaps one of the reasons for the rewrites and for changing the opening characters identity in Caribbean Wind ? Was she, Helena Springs, from Haiti ? I don’t know.

The last 2 lines of verse 1 state; She told me about the jungle where her brothers were slain, and is a complete rewrite from the previous 2 versions. Were her brothers slain in the jungles of Haiti by the evil dictator Papadoc ? This last line escapes me; By the man who invented iron and disappeared so mysteriously. Who did invent iron ? The first mention in the Bible of iron is at Geneses 4:22 and relates to a relative of Cain (who himself was mentioned by Dylan in Every Grain of Sand), ‘Tubalcain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron’. The 12/11/80 live versions last two lines flowed much better; She told me about the vision, told me about the pain, that had risen from the ashes and divided in her memory, and relates directly to; ‘Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of Man be risen from the dead’, at Matthew 17:10, and again demonstrates Dylan’s attempt to de-Christianize his Biograph lyrics.

 

Verse 2 – Child or Angel ?

Line 1 asks; Was she a child or an Angel, did we go too far ? ‘‘The term child in the New Testament is more often used of those who have believed and accepted Christ’(2). An Angel means literally ‘messenger/a messenger of God’ (Genesis 24:7). Did Dylan go too far either/both with her, or/and with his conversion to Christianity ?

Line 2 is apparently misprinted in the Lyrics book and should read; Were we sniper bait, did we follow a star ? Who used them as sniper bait ? The answer is perhaps contained within line 4 of this verse as discussed below. Did we follow a star ? ‘The Bright and Morning Star’ are collective titles in Scripture for Jesus Christ (Revelation 2:28(2)), and does Dylan thus infer that he blindly followed that star, that is, the teachings of Jesus Christ? Covenant Woman shining like a Morning Star (Covenant Woman from the album Saved) ‘If Covenant Woman was none other than Helena Springs, as has long been rumored, their break-up shortly before the Saved sessions may have coloured his commitment to the song’, and, ‘Clydie King had joined Dylan’s band before the Saved album sessions (between 11-15/2/80) replacing Helena Springs. She also appears to have quickly replaced Springs in his affections’(5).

Line 3; Through a hole in the wall to where the long arm of the law cannot reach. ‘The Wall’ is the Wailing, or Western Wall in Jerusalem, the only remnant of Judaism’s Holiest of Holy Temple(s). The long arm of the law refers not to the police, but to ‘The Mosiac Law’; ‘And when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. Then said he unto me, Son of Man, dig now in the wall….and when I had digged into the wall, behold a door’(Ezekiel 8:7&8). Dylan’s line also loosely brings to mind the Hole in the Wall Gang from the film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, named after their retreat as outlaws to their place of refuge. The hole in the Wailing or Western Wall, the symbol of Judaism, could be said to be Christianity. There ain’t no wall you can’t cross over, ain’t no fire you can’t walk through (Need a Woman).

Line 4; Could I have been used as a pawn? Perhaps he felt that he was used by the Christian Vineyard Fellowship? Helena Springs says; “I remember a lot of people (backstage at the Fox Warfield Theatre in San Francisco) were from the Vineyard Fellowship in Los Angeles….I remember a lot of them pressuring him about a lot of things….Like if he’d drink some wine….They were not allowing him to live. They were just being too much of a headache. And I remember one time he said to me ‘God it’s awfully tight, it’s so tight, you know’! And I thought and said ‘Yeah, it seems like you gotta get out from under it a bit’. And I felt a lot of pressure from those people….Also he found a lot of hypocrisy from those people….They were saying one thing, and doing another. He mentioned that to me too”(5). And San Francisco seems to be the subject of the last two remaining lines in verse 2:

Lines 5 & 6; It certainly was possible as the gay night wore on, when men bathed in perfume and practised the hoax of free speech. San Francisco was the ‘gay capital’ of the USA if not the world, and the gay night and men bathed in perfume certainly leans towards homosexual men. Dylan did take to ranting and raving against the homosexual bathhouses of San Francisco from the stage of the Fox Warfield Theatre in San Francisco. Later from the stage at Hartford on 8/5/80 he said; “We started out in San Francisco. It’s a kind of unique town these days. I think it’s either one third or two thirds of the population that are homosexuals in San Francisco. I’ve heard that said. Now, I guess they’re working up to 100%, I don’t know. But any way, it’s a growing place for homosexuals, and I read they’ve homosexual politics, and it’s a political party. I don’t mean it’s going on in somebody’s closet, I mean it’s political! All right, you know what I’m talking about? Anyway, I would just think, well, I guess, the iniquity’s not yet full. And I don’t wanna be around when it is”!(9). ‘Iniquity’! Now there’s a grand Biblical word which means; ‘Great injustice, or wickedness’(10). ‘Dylan’s committed to Christ, but Christ isn’t Christianity, and Christianity itself is no monolith. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for doing what Dylan and other born-again Christians consider the essence of their religious practice, talking to and listening to God’(7). This quote is from Paul Williams, an important Dylan commentator who, like most of his contemporary’s, seems to have difficulty in accepting that Dylan’s conversion to Christianity could have much to do with God, but more to do with his rejection by women! (In fact, the Catholic Church realized their error of judgment and later made Joan of Arc a saint. Who is to say that neither she nor Dylan could possibly have been in communication with the higher spirit ?!! )

 

The Chorus.

Line 1; And them Caribbean Winds still blow from Nassau to Mexico. Dylan asked on Shot of Love; What makes the wind blow tonight? Why Caribbean? Why Wind? In the late 70’s and early 80’s Dylan spent a lot of his time sailing around the Bahamas and the Caribbean on a yacht named The Water Pearl he co-owned; “I’m usually either in New York or on the West Coast or down in the Caribbean. Me and another guy have a boat down there….”(4). In the Biograph Cameron Crowe interview Dylan elucidated further upon the song; “I started it in St. Vincent when I woke up from a strange dream in the hot sun….I was thinking about living with somebody for all the wrong reasons”. Nassau, Latitude 25.05 North, Longitude 77.2 West in the Bahamas, is situated to the east of Mexico and is down the Gulf of Mexico and Dylan is informing us that the wind is blowing from the east to the west, which is the direction that he is drifting in and is in fact in the opposite direction to the ‘Sun’, viz. Jesus Christ, that he saw shining from the west to the east earlier in I Shall be Released, and the east to west direction follows Matthew 24:27 in; ‘for as the lightening cometh out of the east and shineth even to the west, so shall also the Coming of the Son of Man be’. Has he lost some of his fervent belief in Jesus Christ as the Saviour, and is he longing for His second return when He’ll replace wrong with right (When He Returns). Certainly, as we explore this song further, and also that period which followed from 1981 onwards, this certainly could be the case.

Dylan feels the wind, the breath of God, just as he felt the presence of God in his song/hymn; Every Grain of Sand, and the wind is described thus; ‘The powerful operations of God’s spirit, quickening or reviving the heart towards God, are compared to the blowing of the wind’ (John 3:8). ‘He causeth His wind to blow and the waters to flow’ (Psalms 147:18), and the chorus line; And them Caribbean Winds still blow indicates, as the breath of God, the eternal promise of God’s presence (Deut. 33:27), and this wind has been blowing since and before the beginning of time; ‘He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven’ (Psalms 78:26); ‘The spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2). The Hebrew word for both wind and spirit are the same – Ruach, thus Biblical interpreters use for their English translation the word spirit, but wind is equally correct! So Dylan is saying that His spirit moves over this earth, which is particularly clearer in the 12/11/80 San Francisco live version, where the wind is no longer blowing from Nassau to Mexico but encompasses the whole earth from Trinidad to Mexico, The Ivory Coast to My Back Yard, and From Tokyo to the British Isle. In the Soncino Chumash Commentary this verse of Geneses 1:2 is explained thus; ‘The Throne of glory was suspended in the air and heaven over the face of the waters, sustained by the breath of God’(11).

Line 2; Fanning the flames in the furnace of desire. Surely the furnace of desire is the soul? ‘Whose fire is in Zion and his furnace in Jerusalem’ (Isaiah 31:9); ‘He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire whose fan is in His hand ’(Matthew 3:11 & Luke 3:16&17); ‘Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart’ (Psalms 37:4). You look into the fiery furnace.. (Jokerman, Infidels).

Line 3;. And them distant ships of liberty on them iron waves so bold and free. ‘The image of ‘the ship’ in Dylan’s writings:- ‘One of Dylan’s prophesies, optimistic and vengeful in heralding the day when evil will be purged. The allusions have the powerful roll of gospel, evoking both Old Testament figures, like Pharaoh and Goliah, and the spirit of the Revelation of St. John the Divine. The ship is a Universal Salvation Symbol’(12).

Oh the time will come up

when the winds will stop

and the breeze will cease to be breathin’

Like the stillness in the wind

‘fore the hurricane begins

The hour when the ship comes in(13).

‘Throughout myth and literature, we find water as the symbol of the unconscious, spirituality, and death, and the ship as the tiny ego of man making its lonely or triumphant voyage across dangerous deeps’(12). ‘Then they willingly received Jesus into the ship, and immediately the ship was at the land wither they went’ (John 4:21). ‘And Jesus sat down and taught the people out of the ship (Luke 5:3). In Caribbean Wind, the ship is still in the distance but is within view and is making its way to him, bringing everything that’s near to me. In Jokerman, 3 years later on the album Infidels, those same ships are now sailing away from him into the mist. Some of the images in Jokerman appear to have been borrowed from Caribbean Wind. As well as; Distant ships, also, Only a matter of time ‘til night comes stepping in/Waiting for night to arrive; Hurricane was blowing/Caribbean winds still blow; Fiery furnace/Furnace of desire/Nearer to the fire, also, Iron/Iron waves; Eyes of the idol/Chrome brown eyes; Preacherman/Preaching faith and salvation, also Jungle, Sea, Angel and Bird are common to both songs. Iron is used as a symbol of hardness and strength in the Bible(2). ‘We cut through iron…’(In the Summertime, Shot of Love). Dylan, in fact, was born and grew up amongst the iron ore hills of Deluth and Hibbbing and ‘iron’ is a recurring symbol in his songs, and he said this from the stage of San Francisco’s Fox Warfield Theatre on 22/11/80; “Where I come from the ground is metallic. And as a matter of fact during the 2nd World War 90% of all iron and steel that went into all the ships and the boats and airplanes and all kind of weaponry, 90% of all the iron and steel that went into all that came from the area where I was, uh – lived. They dug it out of the ground there….”(7) ‘Every Poem an epitaph, and any action is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat’(14).

Line 4; Bringing everything that’s near to me nearer to the fire, relates directly to what Jesus said; ‘Jesus said whoever is near to me is near to the fire, and whoever is far from me is far from the Kingdom’(15). Dylan relates that he ‘wrote Caribbean Wind after waking up from a strange dream in the sun’ (Biograph, 1985 interview), and he could be leading us to the Old Testament Book of Daniel, in which Daniel interprets the dream of the king, and in Daniel’s account, he refers to iron, iron toes, fiery furnace and to the flame of the fire. ‘Fire is an intrinsic element of the revelation at the burning bush. The thorn bush is burning but is not consumed. On the one hand fire is a universal symbol for the mystery of God’s presence. Fire is also how the prophets describe divine prophecy, and in the Book of Palms 104:4 we read; ‘He who makes winds his messengers, flaming fire his servants’(16). Fire is often used as a symbol of God in Scripture(2); ‘And in his right hand was a fiery law’ (Deut. 33:2). ‘The Torah is a law given from the midst of fire and lightening’(11). ‘Our Saviour is compared to fire’ (Mal. 3:2) and; ‘The Holy Ghost is likewise compared to fire’ (Matthew 3:11).

Everything that’s near to me, refers to Dylan’s beliefs and everything and everyone that he values and holds dear and true.

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

into the crowned knot of fire

and the fire and the rose are one(14)

 

Verse 3

Line 1; Sea breeze blowin’, there’s a hellhound loose. If the Caribbean Wind symbolizes the breath of God then the sea breeze of this verse is different and denotes inner conflict within Dylan’s soul. This hellhound is a hound from hell, from the Devil or Satan, and conforms with medieval Christian tradition of hell being, ‘The place of the Devil’, although traditional Hebraic belief has hell as being ‘the place of the dead’. Dylan’s line is drawn from Revelation 13:1; ‘And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea’. ‘By this ‘beast which rises up out of the sea’, almost all interpreters understand it as being Antichrist who comes out of the ‘sea of life’, that is in the midst of the human race which is agitated like a sea’(17). A hound was/is of course traditionally used for tracking persons; Even the bloodhounds of London couldn’t find you today (Something’s Burning Baby from Empire Burlesque), and this same song mentions Mexico, the chorus of Caribbean Wind also mentions Mexico and has Dylan had good or bad experiences in Mexico? Certainly whilst staying in Durango for the filming of Pat Garratt & Billy The Kid it was reported that he had some major arguments with his wife Sara there and that she left him and returned home with the children because of this friction between them. In this line does Dylan feel the Devil starting to come after him again after these few years of Christian sin-free living? Does he begin to feel temptation and sin creeping through his walls? Yonder Comes Sin he was to write around the same time!

Line 2; Redeemed men who have escaped from the noose. (Redeemed is wrongly transcribed as Arabian in The Lyrics 1962-1985 book(6)). Redeem means ‘to save from damnation or from the consequences of sin’(10). Again this line is directly drawn from Scripture; ‘Christ has redeemed us for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree’ (Galatians 3:13). Wasn’t Dylan surely redeemed by finding Jesus? He told us quite vehemently that I’ve been saved (Saved).

Line 3; Preaching faith and salvation, waiting for the night to arrive. Does this refer to those false messiahs/false prophets, perhaps to the false doctrine of the Vineyard Fellowship, perhaps even to Dylan himself ? Is Dylan referring to his own preaching and sermonizing from the stage in 1979 and 1980? The night in Scripture, ‘is a time of ignorance and affliction’(2). Or perhaps he’s referring to those times, particularly in 1965 & 1966, when he was held by some to be some kind of Messiah? Is he saying that he was wrong in allowing himself to be played as a pawn? Did the night ever rise for him? Certainly by the time of writing The Groom’s Still Waiting At The Altar; The curtain was rising on a New Age, and that New Age saw Dylan produce albums which were certainly less overtly Christian. Did he learn his lesson and stop preaching ‘The Word’? There is no doubt that Dylan does to this very day harbour Christian beliefs, (certainly inasmuch as the message of the Book of the Revelation is concerned) and he continually performs ‘Christian’ songs in his set lists, although actually they are not so much ‘Christian’ songs as specific songs about his hero, Jesus Christ!

Line 4; He was well connected but her heart was a snare. Cause my line’s been connected and I can ring it again and again (Bob Dylan(17)). If the He is Jesus Christ, then of course He was well connected to God. Dylan also could be said to have been well connected, as perhaps the above song lines reveal he certainly felt he was, but who is the female whose heart was a snare? Is it the woman, or one of the women, who introduced him to The Way, to Jesus Christ? Maybe Helena Springs with whom it appears he had a falling out with in the winter of 1980? The word heart in Scripture is used ‘as the seat of life or strength, hence it means mind, soul, spirit, or ones entire emotional nature and understanding. It is also used as the centre or inner party of a thing’(2), or is this she the same she as appears in Seven Days viz. the Christian Church, which refers to that Christian dogma (incorrectly) fed to Dylan by the Christian Vineyard Fellowship? The heart of Israel, the daughter of Zion, is Jerusalem. Is Dylan referring to his Jewish ex wife, Sara, who he also apparently criticized in Precious Angel for; Telling him about Buddha, you were telling him about Mohammed in the same breath. You never one time mentioned the Man who came and died a criminals death?

Line 5; And she had left him to die in there. Farida Mcfree describes the effect that the battle with Sara had on Dylan; “He was very down. Don’t forget, he was suffering when I met him. He was in a bad way. I brought him back to life. He was practically dead….this guy was shot emotionally….”(5) Dylan was certainly in a emotional crisis as a result of the divorce battle and with the battle(s) over the custody of the children. And it was Sara who had left Dylan and not the other way around!

Line 6; He was going down slow, just barely staying alive. I was going down for the last time, but by His mercy I’ve been saved (Saved). ‘Save me oh God, for the waters are come into my soul, I sink in deep mire, I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflowed me’ (Psalms 69:1 & 2). In Scripture, alive, also means being ‘spiritually alive’(2). Dried the tears up from my dreams and pulled me from the hole (The Wedding Song, Planet Waves). ‘Going down into the pit’ (Job 33:24). ‘Freed me from the pit, full of emptiness and wrath and the fire that burns in it. From the depths do I invoke them, O Eternal, Our Lord, Hearken to my cry’ (Psalms 1:30).

 

Verse 4

Line 1; The cry of the Peacock, flies buzz my head. A Peacock is also a synonym for a vain man, and flies are attracted to decaying flesh, perhaps to his decaying head, or brain? A pelican is used as a symbol for the Messiah, as it pecks at its flesh to feed its young. Gonna build a bird’s nest in your hair (Dead Man, Dead Man. Shot of Love). Why use a bird symbol? In fact it is a sign of the coming of the Messiah. ‘The Jewish mystics talked of song. They talked of the Messiah’s home being ‘from that place called ‘The Bird’s Nest’ (this bird is the ‘Shekhinah’). ‘The time of His Coming would be the time of light shining from the west unto the east. The star would wage war against the children of darkness with the weapon of illumination’(19); Bird fly high by the light of the moon (Jokerman, Infidels). ‘When the Messiah weeps for the world, the Holy One, blessed be He, beckons to the Bird, which then enters its nest and comes to The Messiah, and flirts about, uttering strange cries. Then from the Holy Throne, the Bird’s Nest and The Messiah are summoned three times, and both ascend into the heavenly places. And the Holy One, blessed be He, swears to them to destroy the wicked kingdom by the hand of The Messiah, to avenge Israel, and to give her all the good things which He has promised her. Then the bird returns to her place. The Messiah, however, is hidden again in the same place as before’(20). The following is an early example of Dylan’s understanding of Kaballah as demonstrated in his use of the above references in Sign on the Cross; The bird is here and you might want to enter it, but, of course, the door might be closed.

Line 2; Ceiling fan broken, there’s heat in my bed. There is nothing to cool him from above, That could ease you and cool you and cease the pain, (Tombstone Blues, Highway 61 Revisited). Nothing to cool him down from the heat of the flames of the furnace of the coming fire; It won’t be water but by fire next time (God Knows, Under The Red Sky), and his dreams are of the fire of destruction of annihilation of Armageddon; The soles of my feet, I swear they’re burning (The Wicked Messenger, JWH). ‘If I make my bed in hell’ (Psalms 139:8).

Line 3; Street band playing ‘Nearer my God to thee’. One presumes that this band is playing outside of Dylan’s window, or his conscious mind. Could he also be vaguely referring to Bruce Springsteen’s band, The E Street Band? ‘Springsteen had delayed his first major European tour in Spring 1981 and ended up leaving England less than 3 weeks before the Dylan shows, thus making his much hyped 1981 tour a fresh experience to contrast with Dylan’s considerably more demanding show; ‘No one else does this show, not Bruce Springsteen or anyone’ (Dylan, 1981(5)). Two members of the E Street Band would appear later on Dylan’s album, Empire Burlesque. Springsteen was held by many to be ‘The New Dylan’ and Dylan makes his apparent contempt for Springsteen known during the introductory rap on the video Hard To Handle when he belches into the microphone after mentioning Springsteen’s name as being a possible hero for those in the audience, and then Dylan tells us that he doesn’t feel anything for none of those people and he informs us that his ‘hero is Jesus Christ who rose from the dead’, then Dylan’s band start the intro. to the song In the Garden, a song, incidentally, that Dylan still performs to this day in concert, perhaps as much to show man’s inability to realize and recognize those that are sent to us by God to help lead us to salvation?! The hymn Nearer my God to thee was recorded by Dylan in Nashville on 18/2/69(21) and is an Anglican hymn written by J.H. Dykes (1823-76):-

 

Nearer my God to thee                                             Though, like a wanderer

Nearer to thee                                                           The Sun gone down

E’en though it be a cross                                           Darkness be over me

that reuseth me                                                          My rest astone

Still my soul would sing                                              Yet in my dreams I’d be

Nearer to thee.                                                           Nearer my God to thee

 

Let’s refer to one of his ‘Gospel’ raps from on stage at Akron, 18/5/80, where he seemingly alludes to this, or to a similar song; “Alright, we’ll do another song for you. I know a lot of Country and Western people do that. They sing very often, ‘You can put your shoes under my bed anytime’, and then they turn around and sing, ‘Oh Lord, just a Closer Walk With Thee’. Well, I can’t do that. That’s right, you cannot serve two masters. You gotta hate one and love the other one. You can not drink out of two cups”(9).

Line 4; We met at the station where the mission bells ring. Is he referring to Sara? I can still hear the sound of those Methodist bells (Sara, Desire), or are the mission bells a reference to the Christian Vineyard Fellowship where he perhaps met the protagonist of this song, the mysterious she, who told him about Jesus and led him to the Vineyard Fellowship? Did the Rose of Sharon, viz. the Jewish woman (perhaps Sara), have to meet him at his new place of worship to talk to him on his level? While the mission bells did toll (Frankie Lee and Judas Priest, JWH). The last mention of station by Dylan is on his first Christian song, Seven Days, recorded in 1976; Seven days, seven days I’ll be waiting at the station for her to arrive, all I have to do is survive(22). Station also brings to mind the Stations of the Cross in Jerusalem’s Via Delarosa (translated as The Way of the Cross), which supposedly mark the stops along the route that Jesus took whilst carrying his cross to the top of the hill to be crucified (earlier in the 31/3/81 version Dylan sings; Where the stop in the rain).

Lines 5 & 6; She said, “I know what you’re thinking, but there ain’t a thing you can do about it, so let us just agree to agree”. This appears to indicate a woman dictating terms to Dylan, and it could be Sara laying down her terms for the divorce settlement/custody settlement. Sara had petitioned for divorce in L.A. on 1/3/77 through her lawyer, Marvin Mitchelson (who would later gain much noriety for securing huge alimony settlements for the stars and/or their spouses and he would become known as the Father of Palimony), and eventually ‘She reached agreement with Bob on a huge settlement estimated at around $12 million’ (Bob retained their $3 million refurbished Malibu home in the divorce settlement which geologists then reported was slipping into the ocean). ‘The bitter custody battle was finally settled when the custody of the children was given to Sara in late December 1977’(5). And once Dylan had lost the court custody battle there really wasn’t much that he could do about it, perhaps for the sake of their children, they should not continue to fight, but just agree to agree. (In his 31/3/81 studio version of Caribbean Wind he sings, We might as well let it be, and during his 12/11/80 Fox Warfield live version he sang Dave Mason’s, We Just Disagree).

 

Verse 5

Line 1; Atlantic City by the cold gray sea. Dylan qualifies the location as by the cold gray sea, which is the Atlantic Ocean. Hence he identifies the location as being Atlantic City, New Jersey, the home of the bankrupt souls of the casino’s bright lights and busted dreams (bearing in mind Dylan’s religious standpoint at that time). In fact, on 6/10/78, Dylan had been playing concerts just up the freeway from Atlantic City in Philadelphia, and it is possible that he drove the few hundred miles to Atlantic City around 6/10/78, which would roughly correlate to the date of 16/12/78 identified by Paul Williams as being when he played the show at the Theatre of Divine Comedy in Hollywood, Florida. (A recent newspaper article here states that Atlantic City has recently been voted as ‘The world’s most hostile city’(23)).

Line 2; Hear a voice crying ‘daddy’, I always think it’s for me. This is the line that pulls on everyone’s heartstrings and it is presumed to refer to Dylan missing his estranged children. In the original 31/3/81 version the line reads, I hear her voice crying ‘daddy’ and look that way. Who is she? His only daughter is Anna from Sara’s previous marriage, so is this she the she who is the Rose of Sharon, or the dark skinned and brown one? She used to call me sweet daddy when I was only a child (Sweetheart Like You from Infidels).

Line 3; But it’s only the silence in the buttermilk hills that call. I think that he is referring to the hills of Hollywood, that other place of corrupt souls, of false living; You’re going to Sodom and Gomorrah (Jokerman, Infidels), where the promise of fortune and fame calls (as in Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues), to many. Silence in Scripture is defined as; ‘An entire ruin or destruction’ (Isaiah 15:1 & Jerimiah 8:1(2)), and as; ‘Death and the grave’ (Psalms 94:17 & 115:17(2)), but the promise of fortune and fame is a magnet to many, as it was for Dylan, who now recognizes it to be an ‘empty wind’.

Line 4; Every new messenger bringing evil report. The evil report that they bring is that the world is going to be destroyed, as prophesied in the Book of Revelation, in the great final battle between good and evil at Armageddon, and is the same message that Dylan himself has been preaching for some time – that our days are numbered unless we repent and return to God for otherwise we will surely die, not in the flood, but By fire next time. ‘Even horsemen that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the Lord’ (Numbers 14:37).

Line 5; ‘bout armies on the march and time that is short. The armies of good and evil marching towards Armageddon for that great final battle when the devil shall be finally defeated and Christ will set up His Kingdom for 1,000 years. For many, their time is indeed short! ‘And the armies which were in heaven followed Him’; ‘I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him’ (Revelation 19:14&19); ‘For the devil is come down to you, he knoweth that he hath but a short time’ (Revelation 12:12); ‘The battle of that great day of God Almighty’ (Revelation 16:14). ‘Armageddon’ (Revelation 16:16).

Line 6; And famines and earthquakes and train wrecks and the tearin’ down of the wall. Does Dylan view these almost everyday occurrences, as signs that Armageddon is near? ‘For nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there shall be famines, and pestilence’s, and earthquakes’ (Matthew 24:7). Are you ready for Armageddon, are you ready for the day of the Lord? (Are You Ready from Saved). Was Dylan’s wall, his deep unquestionable faith in Christianity, torn down? Was his slow train derailed? ‘A very memorable earthquake was that at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ’ (Matthew 27:51); ‘An extraordinary and unexpected alteration in the state of affairs, civil or ecclesiastical, is represented by a great earthquake’ (Revelation 6:12(2)). Revelation 21:12-27 describes the wall, viz. Christianity, thus; ‘And the wall of the city had 12 foundations, and in them the names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb (Jesus)’ (Revelation 21:14). Drought and starvation, packaging of the soul, persecution, execution, governments out of control, you can see the writing on the wall, inviting trouble (Trouble, Shot of Love).

 

Verse 6

Line 1; Did you ever have a dream that you couldn’t explain? Dylan told us that he wrote Caribbean Wind after waking up from a strange dream in the hot sun. ‘I have dreamed a dream and my spirit was troubled to know the dream’ (Daniel 2:3). ‘In Scripture God frequently revealed His will in dreams’(2). Caribbean Wind would thus appear to be a song about a dream of Dylan’s that he has tried to put into song, but a song which nevertheless underwent four rewrites and still, according to Dylan, he wasn’t sure if he’d got it right!

Line 2; Did you ever meet your accusers face to face in the rain? Who are Dylan’s accusers? His critics or/and those who were violently opposed to his conversion to Christianity? Perhaps a clue can be found in the audience’s open hostility to his gospel shows which appear to have had a lasting effect upon Dylan. Dylan spoke of this hostility in his 1985 Biograph interview; “We’d play the so-called colleges, where my so-called fans were. And all hell would break loose. ‘Take off that dress’, and ‘we want rock and roll’, lots of other things I don’t even want to repeat, just really filthy mouth stuff”. Dylan was referring to the two shows he had played at Tempe, Arizona, on 25 & 26/11/79 to primary students of the local university who were not at all tolerant to his new stance. ‘The first night the audience refused to sit still, shouting between songs….and as the second half progressed, the heckling started up again….if the first night in Tempe had been an unhappy experience for Dylan, matters only grew worse with the second show, when he met the most hostile audience of this entire tour. Indeed the barracking 1966 fans pale in comparison to the uniform hostility he met in Tempe….The first night in Tempe, he had not played a second encore, the second night, for the only time on the tour, he refused to play any encore at all(5)’. In fact, he would talk at length about this hostile reaction that he received at Tempe during his filmed 1980 Massey Hall, Toronto concert.

‘Before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face’ (Acts 25:16);…‘The power of his Christ, for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb’ (Revelation 12: 10 & 11).

Line 3; She had chrome brown eyes that I won’t forget as long as she’s gone (The Lyrics 1962-1985 book(6) wrongly transcribes chrome as lone). This reminds me somewhat of Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands from Blonde on Blonde; with her sheet metal memory and mercury mouth, which is presumed to be a song about Sara, who incidentally does have large brown eyes. If her chrome brown eyes are all that he remembers of her, is he recalling a statue? In an earlier song, Seven Days(22), her eyes he also couldn’t forget; I ain’t forgotten her eyes. In the later Jokerman on Infidels; While the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing – This seemingly does refer to a statue.

Line 4; I see the screws breaking loose, see the devil pounding on tin. He appears to see the structure in which he believes, perhaps either The Church, or the Christian Vineyard Fellowship, falling apart and the devil is on the roof trying to break in, or equally, his faith or resolve is weakening and he knows that the devil, that is in the form of sin, will invade his being. Yonder Comes Sin!

Line 5; I see a house in the country being torn apart from within. Jesus said; ‘Every house divided against itself shall not stand’ (Matthew 12:25). If the country is the USA, then the house could be Christianity. If the country is Israel, then he could be referring to The House of Israel/The House of Judah, Judaism. In Scripture, House is defined as; ‘The House of God, also as; ‘The body, as the dwelling place of the soul of man’(2).

Line 6; I can hear my ancestors calling from the land far beyond. This is the last and most revealing line as it depicts Dylan turning back to the religion of his forefathers, Judaism. Is The land far beyond, Israel or Heaven? In Every Grain of Sand Dylan hears his religious ancestors as; I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea. In Caribbean Wind he states; My ancestors, that is, his Jewish/Hebrew ancestors, and in fact Abraham, the first Jew, was from the land far beyond, from Ur (now in present day Iraq). In this last line Dylan reveals his need to return to Judaism. In 1982 he was reported to be staying and studying with a Jewish religious sect called the Lubavitcher’s, and later he appeared on Chabad TV (in 1986, 1989 & 1990) drumming up charitable donations for the Lubavitcher’s wearing a kippur or yarmulke. In September 1982 he was photographed at the bar-mitzvah of one of his sons in Jerusalem wearing a yarmulke. There are no other reports of further contact between Dylan and the Christian Church, although, unquestionably, Dylan’s meeting with Jesus Christ indelibly left His mark upon him. ‘Dylan started to remove his Christian Born Again mask beginning at the Stanley Theatre in Pittsburg on 16/5/80. After playing 13 religious songs, he started to play the first eight bars of Lay Lady Lay and then stopped and told the audience, “Umh-umb-umh, not tonight” and then played In The Garden!’ (Note that this was before his first performance of Caribbean Wind in October 1980). ‘It wasn’t till 9/11/80 at San Francisco Fox Warfield he played religious songs and then burst into Like a Rolling Stone and from there on his ‘born again’ songs faded more and more into the background’(5).

Paul Esmond of The Christian Vineyard Fellowship had this to say about their recent defector to Judaism; “I don’t think he ever left his Jewish roots. I think he is one of those fortunate ones who realize that Judaism and Christianity can work very well together, because Christ is just. And so he doesn’t have any problems about putting on a yarmulke and going to a bar-mitzvah because he can respect that”(5).

The following 1983 interview, given during his recording of the album, Infidels, reveals the extent of Dylan’s knowledge of his Judaic roots and the calling of his ancestors:- “My so-called roots are in Egypt. They went down there with Joseph, and they came back out with Moses, you know, the guy that killed the Egyptian, married an Ethiopian girl and brought the law down from the mountain. The same Moses whose staff turned into a serpent. The same person who killed 30,000 Hebrews for getting down, stripping off their clothes and dancing around a golden calf. These are my roots. Jacob had four wives and 13 children, who fathered 13 children, who fathered an entire nation. Those are my roots too. Gideon, with a small army, defeating an army of thousands. Deborah, the prophetess. Ester the queen and many Canaanite women. Reuben slipping into his father’s bed when his father wasn’t there. These are my roots. Delilah tempting Samson, killing him softly with her song. The mighty King David was an outlaw before he was a king, you know. He had to hide in caves and get his meals at back doors. The wonderful King Saul had a warrant out on him – a “no-knock” search warrant. They wanted to cut his head off. John the Baptist could tell you more about it. Roots man – we’re talking about Jewish roots, you want to know more? Check up on Elijah the prophet. He could make rain. Isaiah the prophet, even Jeremiah, see if their brethren didn’t want to bust their brains for telling it right like it is, yeah – these are my roots I suppose”(24). Rabbi Kasriel Kastel, a member and organizer of the Brooklyn Lubavitch Centre, where Dylan apparently ‘studied’ in 1983, had this to say about their returnee; “He’s been going in and out of a lot of things, trying to find himself. And we have been just making ourselves available. As far as we are concerned, he was a confused Jew. We feel he’s coming back”(5).

 

Caribbean Wind – 12/11/80 Fox Warfield Live version

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmgvKgScXLU)

‘The shock of recognition that greeted this song when Dylan fans got to hear the audience tape of this November 12 1980 show is hard now to convey. After two years of browbeating, Caribbean Wind seemed a lot like the old Dylan, disaffected with love and on the run from the End Times – hence his Leadbelly rap that prefaced the song; “Some people liked the old songs, some people liked the new songs, but he didn’t change, he was the same man.” (Hint). Though Dylan seemed unhappy with the live performance, refraining from performing the song again at the remaining 1980 shows, Dylan knew that Caribbean Wind was an important song, opening up a new approach much as Mr. Tambourine Man, Visions of Johanna or Tangled up in Blue had in earlier times’(21). ‘He made a subtle point about the way the media had portrayed him in the past year, during his two minute introduction to the one and only live version of Caribbean Wind’(5). ‘The tour was known as the Musical Retrospective Tour because of the advertisements Bill Graham (the San Francisco Promoter) ran to try and assure fans that the ‘old Dylan’ was back in action’(7). “Alright, this is a 12-string guitar, the first time I heard a 12-string guitar it was played by Leadbelly, don’t know if you heard of him? Anyway, he was a, uh, a prisoner in, uh, I guess it was Texas State Prison. I forget what his real name was but, uh, people’d just call him Leadbelly, and he was recorded by a man named Alan Lomax. I don’t know if you’d heard of him, great man who done a lot of good for music, anyway, uh, he got Leadbelly out and brought him up to New York and made a lot of records there. At first he was just doing prison songs and stuff like that, the same man that’s recorded him also recorded Muddy Waters before Muddy Waters changed his name, anyway Leadbelly did most of those kind of songs until he’d been out of prison for some time and he decided to do children’s songs. Some people say ‘Oh, what, Leadbelly changed’? Some people liked the older one and some people liked the newer one, but he didn’t change, he was the same man. Anyway, this is a song called, er, this is another song I wrote a while back, I’ll try and do it as good as I can, somebody important here tonight that wants to hear it, so I want to do it the best….”

The important person at that show that Dylan was referring to would appear to be the author Paul Williams; “I had some fascinating conversations with Dylan backstage during the Warfield shows. At one point he read the lyrics of a new song to me, which turned out to be Every Grain of Sand. Another time he talked about how he’d gotten in touch consciously with some of the songwriting techniques he’d used unconsciously (and so successfully) in the mid-sixties. He spoke of one song he was particularly proud of, that he’d written “a while back,” that successfully functioned on the level of complexity of his mid-sixties material, taking the listener outside of time (I don’t know that he actually used these phrases; I’m just recalling my impression of what he told me). He said the song was called Caribbean Wind, and that he’d try to play it if I’d phone his assistant some afternoon before a show and remind him of my request’(7). ‘Dylan allowed me to spend several hours with him backstage after four of the 11/80 shows. He even read me the lyrics of a new song, Every Grain of Sand, told me about another he was proud of, Caribbean Wind, and performed it at one of the shows at my request’(25).

verse 1

She was from Haiti, fair brown and intense,

…………………….woman……………………………,

I was playing a show in Miami, in the Theatre of Divine Comedy.

Told about Jesus, told about the rain,

She told me about the vision, told me about the pain,

That had risen from the ashes and divided in her memory.

verse 2

Was she a child or a woman ? I really can’t say,

Something about her said ‘Trust me anyway’,

As the days turned to minutes, and the minutes turned back into hours.

Could I have been used and played as a pawn?

It certainly was possible as the gay night wore on,

But victory was mine, and I held it with the help of God’s power.

chorus

And the Caribbean winds still blow, from Trinidad to Mexico,

The circle of light, the furnace of desire.

And them distant ships of liberty, on them iron waves so bold and free,

Bringing everything that’s near to me, nearer to the fire.

verse 3

Shadows grew closer as we touched on the floor,

Prodigal Son sitting next to the door,

Preaching resistance, waiting for the night to arrive.

He was well connected, but her heart was a snare,

And she had left him to die in there,

But I knew he could get out while he was still alive.

verse 4

Stars on my balcony, buzzing my head,

…………………………………heat in my bed,

Street band playing ‘Nearer My God to Thee’.

He had a secret, where the mission bells ring,

She said ‘I know what you’re thinking, but there ain’t a thing,

You can do about it, so you might as well agree to agree’.

chorus

And them Caribbean Winds blows hard,

From the Iv’ry Coast into my back yard,

Down below, to the furnace of desire.

And the distant ships of liberty, on them iron waves so bold and free,

Bringing everything that’s near to me, nearer to the fire.

verse 5

Atlantic City, by the cold sea,

I hear a voice crying ‘daddy’, I always think it’s for me,

But it’s only the silence in the buttermilk hills that call.

Every new messenger bringing evil report,

About rioting armies and time that is short,

And earthquakes and train wrecks and the heatwords printed on walls.

 

verse 6

Would I have married her, I don’t know, I suppose,

She had bells in her braids, and they hung to her toes,

The curtain was rising, and like they say ‘The ship would sail at dawn’.

Then I felt it come over me, some kind of gloom,

And I thought say, ‘come home with me girl, I got plenty of room’,

But I knew I’d be lyin’, and besides she had already gone.

Chorus And them Caribbean Winds still howl, from the Tokyo to the British Isle,

……………………………………………………the furnace of desire.

And them distant ships of liberty, on them iron waves so bold and free,

Bringing everything that’s near to me, nearer to the fire.

 

‘Caribbean Wind is the high point of the fall 1980 shows, a sublime performance of a Dylan masterpiece that never quite came together in the studio (the Biograph performance, recorded in April 1981, is inferior both lyrically and musically). Dylan was dissatisfied with the band’s playing on the song November 12, but that may be because he was on stage, not in the audience. Tim Drummond (de facto bandleader) and the other musicians provide superb support and hard-rock embellishment as Dylan delivers a blistering vocal performance; the net result, even though you can’t hear all of the words, is filled with an excitement comparable to the best of Dylan’s spontaneous studio sessions. The song, through this performance, burns itself into the consciousness of every person who ever hears it. It becomes flesh; it breathes; even the mere memory of hearing it roars in the listeners blood(7)’.

Caribbean Wind (Recorded 31/3/81, Studio 55, Los Angeles, California).

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQIpNPyOPW4)

Musicians: Bob Dylan, Vocals and Piano; Jim Keltner, Drums; Fred Tackett, Guitar, Steve Ripley, Guitar, Tim Drummond, Bass; Carl Pickhardt, Keyboards; Clydie King, 2nd Vocals; Carolyn Dennis, Madelyn Quebec, Regina McCrery, Backing Vocals. Producer, Arthur Rosato.

This is the version that really gets through to my soul and the intro. always knocks me out, the way the opening acoustic guitar chords gradually build up and the piano, and then the drums, come crashing in to dramatically kick the song into gear. The drums continue to pound out the heart beat rhythm and the perfect music is complemented by Dylan’s controlled vocals, for he definitely is in control here and everything is in the right place and it seems to happen naturally and doesn’t seem at all contrived (unlike the later 7/4/81 Biograph version), and on this recording we find a man who is sure of himself and of his work and it shows. All of his subsequent tinkering with this song’s lyrics would fail to yield a performance to equal this one, this is in spite of what was said by those who were involved in the studio recording process; “When it came time to begin work on what became Shot of Love, Caribbean Wind was as much as a starting point as Visions of Johanna had been for Blonde on Blonde. After booking a session at Studio 55 in L.A. Dylan called in Jimmy Lovine (he was probably already looking for a potential co-producer for the album to come). The March 31 session, though, did not make either Dylan or Lovine very happy. Arthur Rosato: “We did Caribbean Wind at Studio 55. It was hell recording that particular song. I had told Bob, ‘You gotta give me that song to record. Let’s do a really good job with that.’ And he said, ‘Let’s get Jimmy Lovine.’ He would call everybody he knows to come down so we would have a band of like fifteen people. When we did Caribbean Wind I had the original recording that I did back at (Rundown). I played that for all the musicians. That’s a much better version because that’s the first time, live. When we got over to Studio 55 all the musicians loved the song. It had that Rolling Stone feel to it. So Bob finally shows up about three hours late, which was pretty much on time for him. At Santa Monica studio he was there every day – pretty much same time – he was real comfortable (there) but this was a different gig. As soon as the musicians ran through it once he goes, ‘Nah, nah, nah, that’s all wrong.’ They could see it coming because they had all worked with him before, ‘Oh, here we go.’ And instead of that version he turned it into this country and western thing, like boom – chicka kinda stuff. That went on for a few hours. Meanwhile Jimmy had heard this other version and is going, ‘What are we gonna do? Okay, we will go with this guy, because he always wanted to work with him’. Then they had these backing vocalists singing this like train whoosh and that was really bad. I don’t even know how he ended up keeping it. Toward the end of the session I think Bob himself even realized it wasn’t working and (said) let’s go back and try the original version. At the end of the session he was asking Jimmy Lovine to go out and get the lyrics for White Christmas! Jimmy didn’t want anything to do with this session anymore. Bob didn’t really know how to work with a producer’. ‘If the Caribbean Wind recorded at Studio 55 was still recognizably Caribbean Wind, Dylan had clearly begun to disguise its stronger religious elements (the narrator no longer talks of Jesus and the rain) and, in a confused attempt to blur the menage a trois element that is implicit in the song (which links it to Visions of Johanna and Tangled Up in Blue), cut some highly evocative lines. Although a particularly dumb stop-start arrangement repeatedly applies the brakes to the song’s cumulative power, Dylan still conjured up a vocal of some resilience, while some of the rewrites transcend the merely cute (the Dantesque circle of ice contrasts nicely with the furnace of desire). However, Dylan determined he would work on the song again, pushing it even further from its original form’(21).

 

verse 1

She was well rehearsed, fair brown and blonde,

She had friends who were bus boys and friends in the Pentagon,

Playing a show in Miami, in the Theatre of Divine Comedy.

Talked to shadows where they talked in the rain,

I could tell she was still feeling the pain,

Pain of rejection, pain of infidelity.

 

verse 2

Was she a child or a woman, I can’t say which,

One to another she could easily switch,

Couples were dancing and I lost track of the hours.

He was well prepared, I knew he was,

Paying attention like a rattlesnake does,

When he’s hearing footsteps trampling over his flowers.

 

chorus

And the Caribbean winds still blow, from Nassau to Mexico,

From the circle of ice to the furnace of desire.

And them distant ships of liberty, on them iron waves so bold and free,

Bringing everything that’s near to me, nearer to the fire.

verse 3

She looked into my soul through the clothes that I wore,

She said ‘we got a mutual friend standing at the door,

And you know he’s got our best interests in mind’.

He was well connected, but her heart was a snare,

And she had left him to die in there,

He had two payments due, and he was a little behind.

verse 4

Well I slept in a hotel, where flies buzz my head,

Ceiling fan was broken, there was heat in my bed,

Street band playing ‘Nearer My God to Thee’.

We met in secret, where we drank from a spring,

She said ‘I know what you’re thinking, but there ain’t a thing,

We can do about it, so we might as well let it be’.

 

repeat chorus

 

verse 5

Atlantic City, two years to the day,

I hear her voice crying ‘daddy’, and I look that way,

But it’s only the silence in the buttermilk hills that call.

Every new messenger bringing evil report,

‘bout rioting armies and time that is short,

And earthquakes and train wrecks and heat words scribbled on wall.

 

verse 6

Would I have married her? I don’t know I suppose,

She had bells in her braids, and they hung to her toes,

But I heard my name and destiny say to be moving on.

Then I felt it come over me, some kind of gloom,

But I say, ‘Come home with me girl, I got plenty of room’,

But I knew I’d be lying and besides she had already gone.

 

chorus

And them mirror being winds still blow, from Nassau to Mexico,

Circle of ice to the furnace of desire.

And them building ships of liberty, on them iron waves so bold and free,

Bringing everything that’s near to me, nearer to the fire.

 

Out of interest, I have listed here under those words, and in a few instances, whole lines, which are duplicated in all three versions of Caribbean Wind and appear to form the base of the song. The only verse which remains virtually untouched, apart from the chorus, is verse 5: –

verse 1:

Line 1: (I was) playing a show in Miami in the Theatre of Divine Comedy.

 

chorus 1:

Line 1: And them (the) Caribbean Winds still blow…………………………….

Line 2: …………………………………………………………….the furnace of desire.

Line 3: And them distant ships of liberty on them iron waves so bold and free

Line 4: Bringing everything that’s near to me, nearer to the fire.

 

verse 3:

Line 4: He was well connected, but her heart was a snare,

Line 5: And she had left him to die in there.

 

verse 4:

Line 1: ………………………………..buzzing (buzz) my head,

Line 2: …………………………………………….heat in my bed.

Line 3: Street band playing ‘Nearer My God To Thee’.

Line 5: She said ‘I know what you’re thinking, but there ain’t a thing,

Line 6: You can do about it……………………………………………………….’.

 

chorus 2

Line 1: And them (the) Caribbean Winds……………………………………..

Line 2: ……………………………………………………….the furnace of desire

Line 3: And them distant ships of liberty on them iron waves so bold and free,

Line 4: Bringing everything that’s near to me, nearer to the fire,

 

verse 5:

Line 1: Atlantic City………………………………………………………………….

Line 2: I hear a (her) voice crying ‘daddy’, I always think it’s for me,

Line 3: But it’s only the silence in the buttermilk hills that call.

Line 4: Every new messenger bringing evil report,

Line 5: About ………. (army/armies) and time that is short,

Line 6: ……….and earthquakes and train wrecks……………………….wall.

 

chorus 3:

Line 1: And them…………..Winds still ……………………………………….

Line 2: …………………………………………………….the furnace of desire.

Line 3: ……………ships of liberty on them iron waves so bold and free,

Line 4: Bringing everything that’s near to me, nearer to the fire.

Asked as to why he left Caribbean Wind off the album Shot of Love, Dylan replied; “We left it off the album (as it was) quite different to anything I wrote….The way the storyline changes from 3rd person to 1st person and that person becomes you, then these people are there and they’re not there. And then the time goes way back and then it’s brought up to the present. I thought it was really effective”. He also said; “That one (Caribbean Wind) I couldn’t quite grasp what it was about after I finished it. Sometimes you’ll write something to be very inspired, and you won’t quite finish it for one reason or another. Then you’ll go back and try and pick it up, and the inspiration is just gone….Then it’s a struggle. Frustration sets in. I think there’s four different sets of lyrics to this, maybe I got it right, I don’t know, I had to leave it(5)”.

Whenever I hear Caribbean Wind played it always brings to mind the following passage with its references to the Gulf of Mexico, particularly also, in relation to Dylan’s Judaic beliefs:- ‘There is a river in the ocean. In the severest droughts it never fails, in the mightiest floods it never overflows. The Gulf of Mexico is its fountain and its mouth is in the Arctic Seas. It is the Gulf Stream. There is in the world no other such majestic flow of waters. Its current is more rapid than the Mississippi or the Amazon, and its volume more than a thousand times greater. Its waters as far out from the Gulf of Carolina Coasts, are of an indigo blue, they are so distinctly marked that their line of junction with the common sea-water may be traced by the eye. Often one-half of a vessel may be perceived floating in the Gulf Stream water, while the other half is in the common water of the sea – so sharp is the line and such the want of affinity between those waters, and such the reluctance, so to speak, on the part of those of the Gulf Stream to mingle the common waters of the sea. This curious phenomenon in the physical world has its counterpart in the moral. The mightiest floods of human cruelty, though seven times heated in the furnace of religious bigotry, have never caused it to dry up, although its waves for 2,000 years have rolled crimson with the blood of its martyrs. Its foundation is in the gray dawn of worlds history, and its mouth is somewhere in the shadows of eternity. It too refuses to mingle with the surrounding waves, and the lines which divide its restless billows from the common waters of humanity are also plainly visible to the eye. It is the Jewish people’(26).

I have in this article tried to faithfully interpret the fourth known version of this song, recorded on 7/4/81 and preserved on Biograph. I have not gained access to the October 1980 studio performance and I have included lyrics from the 12/11/80 San Francisco Fox Warfield Theatre concert, including Dylan’s preceding ‘Leadbelly’ rap. There are at least four different versions of this song and they certainly all seem to chart Dylan’s changing spiritual journey. I believe that Caribbean Wind chronicles Dylan’s passage from his introduction to, and acceptance of, Jesus Christ in 1978 by a close female friend who also introduced him to the Christian Vineyard Fellowship, through to his self-realization that he was being used by the Christian Vineyard Fellowship for their own self-interests. He describes his experiences of performing in gay San Francisco and the hostile reception that he received from the audience at Tempe because of his Christian born-again gospel shows. He also chronicles the pain he suffered at losing custody of his children through the divorce with Sara and to his eventual sailing back to the waters of Judaism, although the mark of Jesus was indelibly etched upon his soul! The softness of the language of Caribbean Wind would soon yield to the bitterness of disaffection, not with Jesus Christ, but with organized religion; “Religion is another form of bondage which man invents to get himself to God. But that’s why Christ came. Christ didn’t preach religion. He preached the Truth, the Way and the Life”(27). In 1997 he said; “I don’t adhere to Rabbi’s, Preachers, Evangelists…”(28).

Caribbean Wind was written during a period when Dylan was still presumed to be a fervent born-again Christian and it is obviously not what one could describe as a religious song. With his part introduction of a non-religious song (Lay Lady Lay) during a concert on 16/5/80 (he didn’t repeat this during the remaining three shows of that tour), and the eventual introduction of Like a Rolling Stone during a concert at the beginning of his next tour, on 9/11/80, there is no doubt that this was a period of self revaluation, perhaps also of apostasy for Dylan, and during 1982 he would almost totally disappear from public gaze, spending some of his time with another backing singer, Clydie King, with whom it was rumoured he recorded an album of duets(5), to re-emerge, apparently no longer a born-again-Christian, with the album, Infidels (recorded during 1983), which no longer used relatively simple to understand images and Biblical lines and passages, but was embroiled and entwined in the language of apologues, parables, and also mythical and mystical characters.

 

Paul Robert Thomas

Notes and Sources

 

(1) USA Today Interview, Bob Dylan, 14/9/90.

(2) Cruden’s Concordance to the Bible (KJV), Lutterwoth Press.

(3) The Holy Bible, King James Version, Ivy Press. New York.

(4) Rolling Stone Magazine Interview, Curt Loder, 26/6/84.

(5) Behind the Shades, Clinton Heylin, Penguin Books.

(6) Bob Dylan Lyrics 1962-1985, Harper Collins.

(7) Performing Artist 1974-1986, Paul Williams, Omnibus Press.

(8) Dylan, A Biography, Bob Spitz, W.W. Norton & Co.

(9) The Gospel Speeches, Hanuman Books, New York 1990.

(10) The Oxford Study Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1991.

(11) Soncino Chumash Commentary, Soncino Press Ltd.

(12) No Direction Home, Robert Shelton, (Gabrielle Goodchild quote), New English Library, 1986.

(13) When the Ship comes in, Bob Dylan, 1963/4 Warner Bros. inc.

(14) Four Quartets, Little Gidding, T.S. Eliot, Faber and Faber.

(15) The Gospel According To Thomas, Harper & Row, 1959.

(16) The Jerusalem Post, Divine Fire article, 16/1/98.

(17) The Apocalypse in the Teachings of Ancient Christianity. Archbishop Aversky Taushev, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood.

(18) Love You Too Much, Dylan/Springs/Lake composition, Special Rider Music, 1981.

(19) Bob Dylan Approximately, Stephen Pickering, David Mckay Co. New York.

(20) The Zohar, 11, 76b-8a (Kaballah).

(21) The Recording Sessions, Clinton Heylin, St. Martins Press, NY.

(22) Seven Days, Dave Thomas article, Isis Magazine Issue 70, Dignity Magazine Issue 8.

(23) The Jerusalem Post Postscript, Israel, January 1997.

(24) The Times they are a-changin’, In search of the latest Bob Dylan, Interview, Martin Keller.

(25) Watching the River Flow, Paul Williams, Omnibus Press.

(26) To be a Jew, Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin, Basic Books, New York, 1972.

(27) Dylan in his Own Words, Chris Williams, Omnibus Press, 1993.

(28) Newsweek Interview, David Gates, 13/10/97.

 

3 comments

Paul Robert Thomas

Thanks so much John although I must admit that I have wanted to return and edit my article to try to make it more ‘reader friendly’ as trying to write about more than 1 song version can become a bit confusing.
Thank you again and wishing you good luck & all the best from Paul:)!

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