Bob Dylan’s best songs – Caribbean Wind





bob dylan Caribbean Wind

“I couldn’t quite grasp what [‘Caribbean Wind’] was about, after I finished it. Sometimes you 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. Either you get it all, and you can leave a few little pieces to fill in, or you’re trying always to finish it off. Then it’s a struggle. The inspiration’s gone and you can’t remember why you started it in the first place. Frustration sets in.”
– Dylan, to Cameron Crowe

..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.. He said the song was called “Caribbean Wind”.
~Bob Dylan (to Paul Williams Nov 1980)

@ #35 on my list of Dylan’s 200 best songs. We got 3 versions of this brilliant song.. the best is the live versions he played on November 12, 1980.

“Biograph” version

Recorded 30 April 1981 @ Clover Recorders – Los Angeles, California

Soundcloud:

Musicians:

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar)
  • Steve Ripley (guitar)
  • Fred Tackett (guitar)
  • Benmont Tench (keyboards)
  • Steve Douglas (saxophone)
  • Carl Pickhardt (piano)
  • Tim Drummond (bass)
  • Jim Keltner (drums)
  • Madelyn Quebec, Regina Havis & Clydie King (backing vocals)

Lyrics for “Biograph” version:

She was the rose of Sharon from paradise lost
From the city of seven hills near the place of the cross.
I was playin’ a show in Miami in the theater of divine comedy.
Told about Jesus, told about the rain
She told me ’bout the jungle where her brothers were slain
By the man who invented iron and disappeared so mysteriously.

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 have 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.
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 ’em iron waves so bold and free
Bringing everything that’s near to me nearer to the fire.
Sea breeze blowin’, there’s a hellhound loose
Redeemed men who have escaped from the noose
Preaching faith and salvation, waitin’ on 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 stayin’ alive.

The cry of the peacock, flies buzz in 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 thinkin’, but there ain’t a thing
You can do about it, so let us just agree to agree.”
And them Caribbean winds still blow from Nassau to Mexico
Fannin’ the flames in the furnace of desire
And them distant ships of liberty on ’em iron waves so bold and free
Bringing everything that’s near to me nearer to the fire.
Atlantic City by the cold grey 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 brings in evil report
‘Bout armies on the march and time that is short
An’ famines and earthquakes and train wrecks and the tearin’ down of the walls.

Did you ever have a dream that you couldn’t explain?
Did you 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 poundin’ on tin
I see a house in the country bein’ torn from within.
I can hear my ancestors callin’ from the land far beyond.
And them Caribbean winds still blow from Nassau to Mexico
Fannin’ the flames in the furnace of desire
And them distant ships of liberty on ’em iron waves so bold and free
Bringing everything that’s near to me nearer to the fire.

bob dylan 1981




Shot Of Love Sessions 31.03.1981 / Studio 55 version

Recorded @ Studio A, Studio 55 – Los Angeles, California

This is in my opinion a far better version than the “Biograph” version.

Was she a child or a woman? I can’t say which
One to another she could easily switch.
Couples were dancin’ an’ i lost track of the hours.

Studio 55 lyrics:

She was well rehearsed, fair brown and blonde
She had friends who was busboys and friends in the Pentagon
Playin’ a show in Miami in the theater of divine comedy.
Talked in the shadows where they talked in the rain
I could tell she was still feelin’ the pain
Pain of rejection, pain of infidelity.

Was she a child or a woman? I can’t say which
One to another she could easily switch.
Couples were dancin’ an’ i lost track of the hours.
He was well prepared, i knew he was
Paying attention like a rattlesnake does
When he’s hearin’ footsteps tramplin’ over his flowers.
And that Caribbean winds still blow from Nassau to Mexico
From the circle of ice to the furnace of desire.
An’ them distant ships of liberty on ’em iron waves so bold and free
Bringing everything that’s near to me, nearer to the fire.
She looked into my soul through the clothes that i wore
She said, “We got a mutual friend standin’ 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
Here were payments due and he was a little behind.

Well i slept in a hotel where flies buzz my head
Ceiling fan was broken, there was heat in my bed
Street band playin’, “Nearer My God To Thee.”
We met in secret where we drank from a spring
She said, “I know what you’re thinkin’, but there ain’t a thing
We can do about it, so we might as well let it be.”
The Caribbean winds still blow from Nassau to Mexico
From the circle of ice to the furnace of desire.
An’ them distant ships of liberty on ’em iron waves so bold and free
Bringing everything that’s near to me, nearer to the fire.
Atlantic City, two years to the day
I hear a voice cryin’, “Daddy” and i looked that way
But it’s only the silence on the buttermilk hills that call.
Every new messenger bringin’ evil reports
‘Bout riotin’ armies and time that is short
An’ earthquakes and train wrecks and hate words scribbled on walls.

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 mirrored destiny said to be movin’ on.
And i felt it come over me, some kind of gloom
For the sake of “Come on with me girl, i got plenty of room.”
But i knew i’d be lyin’ and besides she had already gone.
And that Caribbean winds still blow from Nassau to Mexico
Circle of ice to the furnace of desire.
And them busy ships of liberty on ’em iron waves so bold and free
Bringing everything that’s near to me, nearer to the fire.

Bod Dylan 1981 2

The live version

from Nov 12, 1980, Fox Warfield Theatre – San Francisco, California – fantastic version.

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
~Paul Williams (BD Performing Artist 1973-86)

It’s perfectly constructed to include rather than exclude the wide range of emotions generated by the story told; its relation to its listener/observer is every bit as skillful as what Dylan accomplished in “similar” constructions like “Visions of Johanna” or “Idiot Wind”
~Paul Williams (BD Performing Artist 1973-86)

His single greatest in-concert performance, it should have been released aeons ago.
~Clinton Heylin (Still on the Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan Vol. 2, . 1974-2008)

A Great introduction by Dylan: 

This is a 12-string guitar. First time I heard a 12 string guitar was played by Leadbelly, don’t know if you’ve heard of him? Anyway, he was a prisoner in, I guess it was Texas State Prison, and I forget what his real name was but people just called him Leadbelly. (shout from the audience: “Huddie Leadbetter”) He was recorded by a man named Alan Lomax, I don’t know if you’ve heard of him? Great man, he’s done a lot of good for music. Anyway, he got Leadbelly out and brought him up to New York. And he made a lot of records there. At first he was just doing prison songs and stuff like that. Same man that recorded him also recorded Muddy Waters before Muddy Waters became a big name. Anyway, Leadbelly did most of those kind of songs. He’d been out of prison for some time when he decided to do children’s songs and people said oh, why did Leadbelly change? Some people liked the old ones, some people liked the new ones. Some people liked both songs. But he didn’t change, he was the same man! Anyway, this is a song called …, It’s a new song I wrote a while back. I’m gonna try and do it as good as I can. there’s somebody important here tonight who wants to hear it, so we’ll give it our best ….




Lyrics to the live version (from dylanchords.info)

(Transcription is unfinished)

She was from Haiti, fair brown and intense
And then i took over the Lord
Attendin’ the show in Miami, in the theater of divine company.
Talkin’ about Jesus, talked about the rain
She told me about the vision, told me about the pain
That has arisen from the ashes abided in her memory.

Is 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’ve 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.
And that Caribbean wind still blows from Trinidad to Mexico
The circle of light and 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.
Shadows grew closer as we touched on the floor
Prodigal son sitting next to the door
Preaching resistance, waitin’ for the night to arrive.
He was well connected, but his heart was a snare
‘Cause she had left him to die in there
And i knew he could get out while he still was alive.

Stars on my balcony, buzz in my head
Slayin’ [Bob Dylan?] in my bed
Street band playin’, “Nearer My God To Thee.”
She never did see me where the mission bells ring
She said, “I know what you’re thinkin’, but there ain’t a thing
You can do about it, so you might as well agree to agree’.’
And that Caribbean wind blows hard from the Valley coast into my backyard
Drivin’ all your love 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.
Atlantic City by the cruel sea
I hear a voice cryin’ “Daddy”, i always think it’s for me
But it’s only the silence in the buttermilk hills that call.
Bearin’ new messages, bringin’ evil reports
Of riotin’ armies and time that is short
And earthquakes and train wrecks and death threats written on walls.

Would I have married her? i don’t know, i suppose
She had bells on her braids and they hung to her toes
The curtain was risin’ and like they say, the ship will sail at dawn.
And i felt it come over me, some kind of gloom
My voice said, “Come on with me girl, I got plenty of room.”
But i know i’d be lyin’, and besides she had already gone.
And that Caribbean wind still howls from Tokyo to the British Isles
We never walked in to that furnace of desire
And them distant ships of liberty on ’em iron waves so bold and free
Bringing everything that’s near to me, nearer to the fire.

Bod Dylan 1980

Other related posts here @ alldylan.com:

-Egil

22 thoughts on “Bob Dylan’s best songs – Caribbean Wind”

  1. Hoping another version surfaces on the rumoured ‘Gospel Years’ Bootleg Series next year (?) … at the very least we can hope for cleaned up versions of the two unreleased versions above.
    I’m thinking this could be a great volume of the BS – one that surprises a lot of people.

  2. ‘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’.
    http://www.paullyrics.com/bob-dylans-caribbean-wind/

  3. A great song. But am I the only one who thinks it should be “bringing everything that’s DEAR to me nearer to the fire”? It makes for a better line too.

    1. Dear Trawna,

      As a Dutch Dylan fan, I can’t perhaps say anything definitive on what I hear in what is not my first language, but I have always heard /dear to me/. Not only would it make even more sense, and make the lyrics more interesting (avoid repetition), but it would also conform to Dylan’s ability and fondness for internal rhyme.

      I like to think it is DEAR to me.

  4. Genius. This song always gets lumped together with the other “great lost songs of the 80’s” (Angelina, Groom etc), but for me, that really undersells it.

    For me, it is the next song in the “time-shift” classics that come along every decade: Visions of Joanna, Tangled Up in Blue and then Caribbean Wind.

    It is that good.

  5. Nice view into Bob’s creative process…and seemingly unlimited ability to create lyrics…love the way he rhymes “howls” and “Isles” in the live version…thanks for posting!

  6. Wow. Had not heard the live version before. Many thanks. CW is one of those transcendent, mysterious songs that few artists are able to create. Yet Bob has done it many times, IMO. In every era. And different songs do it for different listeners. Dylan fans can never seem to be in complete agreement.

    This one yanks you out of the present and forces you to listen to every word and chord. You don’t want it to ever end. “Hear a voice crying ‘daddy’, I always think its for me”. It gives me chills.

  7. This might be Dylan´s best song ever. The lyrics are absolutely phenomenal:
    Shadows grew closer as we touched on the floor
    Prodigal son sitting next to the door
    Preaching resistance, waitin’ for the night to arrive.

  8. Hi
    really enjoying your song compulation comparisons lately. Very enjoyable, the images and of course the different variations of Bob’s songs. I would like to throw a couple of tid bits for reflection. A couple of songs which i feel are penultimate versions are Your a Big Girl Now from Concord June 1988…I think this is a triumph. First night of the NET and Bob nails this song with a solid backing of GE Smith and Neil Young. The second example is two fold in my opinion. Its all Over Now Baby Blue…..first awesome version is with the Dead Eugene Oregon in 1987. While the Dead sessions were uneven in my opinion, far too loose for Bob, this version seemed to hit and you can hear the confidence in Bob’s voice and the Dead played a great version. The second version of this song is October 1994 Bloomington Indiana. This version soars all the way through, soft and gentle singing. I always imagine Bucky Baxter hanging on to the steel guitar before it veers into outer space. I have actually had tears in my eyes over this version.
    Keep up the great site.
    Murray

    1. Thank’s for insightful feedback Murray,

      I dig the Concord-88 version of of YABGN, I also love the Wantagh-88 (june 30) version.. But are they better than the Hard Rain version…? At least sometimes… Their all GREAT!

      I have not heard the two versions of IAONBB you refer to, I will need to seek them out…

      I will try to include many live version in coming “Best Bob Dylan Songs” postings…

      -Egil

  9. Thanks, this is one of the great “lost” songs from the 80s and 90s.

    It is interesting to speculate on why Dylan had such a terrible habit of leaving off the best songs in the period from Shot of Love through Time Out of Mind. One theory is that the drawn out studio process and a lack of a compatible producer led Dylan to cast off the songs he cared most about. What was left off – Caribbean Wind, Angelina, Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar (later added), Blind Willie McTell, Foot of Pride, New Danville Girl, Series of Dreams, Dignity, Red River Shore, Mississippi – is actually a “best of” compilation from this period. After a decade and half of this frustration, he took the reins himself and broke the habit. But imagine if he learned how to produce his own records in the late 70s!

    1. Thanks for yet another great comment AWFF!

      ..and I agree.. if you add some released songs: Every Grain of Sand, Jokerman, Shooting Star & Not Dark Yet… You have a best of compilation from the period.

      -Egil

  10. Thanks Egil
    It is a wonderful song with a great chord sequence (which Bob has recycled a few times)
    But why doesn’t he play it now? Do you think he is wary of the suggestion in the lyrics of a relationship with a very young female? And also unwilling to excise that element too obviously?

    1. Thank You Mister Ancient Footsteps,

      Who knows why.. He “got over” Blind Willie McTell.. why won’t he “get over” “Caribbean Wind”..?
      Maybe it’s because he knew this was an important song, and he worked very hard on getting it right (more so than on BWMT).. and he never felt he managed to deliver. He just can’t face trying it more?

      I don’t believe the lyrics plays any part in it… He changed them several times during the recording process.. he could (as he’s done so many times) change/adjust the lyrics before taking it live again.

      -Egil

  11. Great posting: the live version is just absolutely amazing. For that matter so is the Shot of Love outtake. Why haven’t these great versions surfaced on the Bootleg project?
    Carl Mosk

    1. Thanks Carl,

      I like all 3 versions, but the live version is best – absolutely stunning.
      There is loads of material Sony should put out on “Bootleg series”.. and a couple of “Caribbean Wind” versions are among them..
      A good thing would be if Sony issued a new “Bootleg series” every month 🙂

      -Egil

      1. Love these 2 previously unheard versions. I bought a different night of the Fox Warfield performances that — alas — did not include Caribbean Wind. Your comment about the additional bootlegs is priceless: There are so many gems waiting to be released!

    1. Thanks Gringo557,

      I’ve postet 8 songs on my top 200 list… and will continue posting now and then… until all 200 is out.
      Then I will start on the 200 -> 300 🙂

      Btw – my top 10 is available on the Lists section.

      -Egil

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