by Paul Robert Thomas
Line 1; Atlantic City by the cold gray sea. Dylan qualifies the location as by the cold grey 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).
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 Pittsburgh 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 nonreligious 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).
Other reviews of Caribbean Wind on this site
- Bob said to Tony “Make me an album” (Part 2)
- Dylan’s ever changing song that never made the never ending tour
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