Caribbean Wind is another one of those immense Dylan songs one can find perplexing how he deemed it unreleasable material. When writing this post I was tossing up between this and Abandoned Love to declare my favourite. I realised I hadn’t accounted for Blind Willie Mctell and Series of Dreams which I’m also captivated. The legendary Biograph bootleg version of Caribbean Wind is outstanding and unfortunately cannot be forwarded here due to copyright restrictions. (edited: the biograph version has since been released and is below). Such is life, but I have relayed below the only other existing copy which I used to orchestral my family’s Caribbean trip to Cartagena.
What’s staggering considering Dylan’s musical influence and everything else, there is no wikipedia page of this song. And look… you can harp upon song meanings in typical songs but as Paul Robert Thomas implied with Carribean Wind, this isn’t a song with a straight-forward meaning rather it’s all to do with the context Dylan found himself in:
(Caribbean Wind is..) 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. Read entire article.
And Mr Thomas isn’t alone in his thoughts because this song was written during the sessions for the album Shot of Love which is a fairly devout Christian album, but after undergoing a mountain of rewrites Dylan decided that the task of seeing Caribbean Wind come to fruition alluded him. I have always felt it too, in listening to him, that Dylan was undergoing a struggle between Christianity and his Judaism hereditary. The track below is from one of those Shot of Love sessions which doesn’t hold a torch to the release on Biograph but it’s still plenty good. It’s extremely crude and demonstrates everything good and bad about Dylan but I like listening to him in both excesses.
The lyrics in this song differ significantly in the various versions, but whichever way you view them they are mind-blowing:
She looked into my soul through the clothes that I wore
She said “we got a mutual friend standing at the door
Yeah, you know he’s got our best interest in mind”
He was well connected, but her heart was a snare
And she had left him to die in there,
Eighty payments due and he was a little behind.
Well, I slip 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”
Unlike others who have said they don’t know where he was going with this, and the same could be said for the reaction of his whole ‘Street Legal’ (78, which I regard his greatest accomplishment) I feel it’s some of his most transcendent output. Our minds are complicated beasts and in these works he seems to re wake the mythological and archetypal parts of our subconscious selves – in particular Caribbean Wind represents the Feminine versus Masculine pull and tug in archetypal mode. These stories go way deep and should not be discarded on a whim!
Thankfully Dylan just released the official release of the 1981 studio outtake:
Very interesting and I fully agree. It’s a mystery as to why he omitted this song from an official release for so long. As well as Series Of Dreams, Blind Willie McTell, Abandoned Love and Caribbean Wind, I also love Foot Of Pride and Angelina from this period. If he’d released all those songs together, what a great album that would have been. Thanks for the post; I’m going to listen to Caribbean Wind again right now.
Thanks for your message. I’m relieved I’m not the only one who finds it baffling how it remained omitted from release. I suppose he’s a bit of a perfectionist regarding the lyrics. I like those other songs you mentioned especially Foot of Pride. Lou Reed hit that version out of the ballpark in the 30 the Anniversary concert.
Dylan has made atonement for not having released these earlier with his dizzying array of bootleg releases over the last 40 years or so. Cheers.