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The Poetry of Jimi Hendrix (II) – “The Wind Cries Mary” December 8, 2010

Posted by rwf1954 in Jimi Hendrix, lyrics, music commentary, rock music, The Wind Cries Mary, Uncategorized.
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(This is the second of a series of posts about the lyrics of rock super-guitarist Jimi Hendrix. This is certainly what I meant when I introduced this blog and said “So my readers should expect all kinds of digressions, everything from some musical musings to an off-the-wall comment about the world.” I am a musician well as a writer, writing and performing. I cover nine Hendrix songs (here is a current playlist of what I perform with my drum-bass machine set-up). This series of posts is not about songs like “Foxey Lady” and “Little Miss Lover.” A handful of Hendrix songs glisten with a lyrical inventiveness, uniquely poetic and musical, words and music existing in a smooth symbiotic combination. The lyrics drip and glide through the songs the way Jimi Hendrix’s guitar notes drip and glide through auditory space. These will be the songs I will discuss in these posts. Of course, these posts represent my interpretations of these lyrics. This is not an exact science. Your comments, agreeing and disagreeing are invited.)

I will admit; unlike “Castles Made of Sand,” I have no real clue what these lyrics mean. And, I think it could be a mistake to bollix them up with some sort of forced meaning. Poetry can simply be the music in the words or phrases, the way they combine, the sound they make as they glide from line to line. “The Wind Cries Mary” offers us those types of lyrics.

Of course, please comment if you have discovered a meaning you think is present. I will gladly add other perspectives to the commentary I am offering in this post.

My favorite phrase highlights;

“You can hear happiness staggering down the street”

  • I’m not sure what this means, but somehow I can picture it without explaining it, especially the way Jimi Hednrix delivers the lyrics.

 “A broom is drearily sweeping up the broken pieces of yesterday’s life
Somewhere a queen is weeping
Somewhere a king has no wife”

  • This is the one verse that does seem to crystalize with a specific meaning. The king and queen have somehow lost each other, or something special to them. And the rhyme of “wife” and “life” would seen forced in most circumstances. But here, the flow of the lyrics causes us to conclude there is other no rhyme possible here.

“The traffic lights turn blue tomorrow”

  • Hendrix was a bluesman—the traffic lights, the flow of traffic, of life, are caught up in the blues.

 “The tiny island sags downstream
’Cos the life they lived is dead”

  • I can picture a little island dragged by a river current out of its position—displaced. Whatever life that island, those people, that reality had—is gone.

“Will the wind ever remember
The names it has blown in the past
With this crutch, its old age and its wisdom
It whispers, ‘No, this will be the last.’”

  • Again, I hate to try to pin this down to a precise meaning. But the verse feels like a final verse, somehow nostalgic, bittersweet, with a wise old man making his way through a breeze, slowly, with little time left but with all the time in the world, listening to the wind answering the question at the beginning of the verse.

 “The Wind whispers/Cries/screams Mary”

  • I have no idea how to put the feeling of this into words. It means something felt more than understood, like the song. The song lopes along through the verses, but the chorus halts punctuated with ♭VII-♮VII-I chords gliding up, an easy move on the guitar. It’s that hesitation before getting back to I that gives the chorus its halting quality. The verses ooze along with V-IV-I, finishing with II to V, but then won’t settle on I right away, slipping back to ♭VII-♮VII-I before getting there. “Mary” starts on the ♭VII, as if it can’t start out settled.

I invite comments on these posts about Jimi Hendrix, and look forward to other ideas about this unique, wonderful artist, whom we wish had lived long enough to create much lyrics and music for us to experience.

_______

The complete lyrics for“The Wind Cries Mary”:

After all the jacks are in their boxes,
And the clowns have all gone to bed,
You can hear happiness staggering on down the street,
Footprints dress in red.

And the wind whispers Mary.

A broom is drearily sweeping
Up the broken pieces of yesterday’s life.
Somewhere a Queen is weeping,
Somewhere a King has no wife.

And the Wind cries Mary.

The traffic lights turn blue tomorrow
Shine their emptiness down on my bed
The tiny island sags downstream
‘Cos the life that they lived is dead.

And the wind screams Mary.

Will the wind ever remember
The names it has blown in the past
With this crutch, its old age and its wisdom
It whispers, “No, this will be the last.”

And the Wind cries Mary.

© 1967 Jimi Hendrix

 Richard Warren Field plays Jimi Hendrix.

Are You Experienced - Jimi Hendrix Experience

Are You Experienced - Jimi Hendrix Experience

 

Previous “Poetry of Jimi Hendrix” post:

The Poetry of Jimi Hendrix (I) – “Castles Made of Sand”

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Comments»

1. Michael van de Locht - January 3, 2011

Hello,
I think he watches the things around him with distance. A lot of things are going wrong but that doesn’t harm him. He seems to be half in reality and half in a world of his thoughts, where someone named Mary keeps his attention. Pictures like the tiny island make believe that his imaginated world with Mary within it is much mor calm and peaceful. The tiny island also appears in Voodoo Chile.

Michael – Germany

rwf1954 - January 3, 2011

Distance. Yes, there is a detachment from the bleak images he presents. He’s describing them, but is not part of them. I agree – that is part of the effect.

2. Anthony - March 26, 2011

I actually sang this for chorus and when I went back to my seat the kid next to me said “That wasn’t singing, that was talking.”…I said to him “There is more to singing than changing keys and pitches.” Now what I should have said was what do you think poetry is?….If you haven’t dissected All Along The Watch Tower you have to do that because there is some cool stuff I have been depicting/interpreting myself.

rwf1954 - March 26, 2011

“All Along the Watchtower” was written by Bob Dylan, so wouldn’t qualify as Jimi Hendrix poetry. But it is easy to see why Hendrix selected this song to cover. The lyrics, and the arrangement Hendrix applied to the chord progression fit Hendrix’s style like a glove!

3. Jamison - May 9, 2011

It is about how his girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham, got in an argument with him and left the apartment. Her middle name was Mary.

4. robert - May 12, 2011

I think its about jesus and our salvation to a new life.

bill - August 5, 2011

“Mary” Magdelene, “a King” (think Da Vinci Code) and “With this crutch, its old age and its wisdom” – the Bible.

That’s my take on it anyway, and I’m a secular humanist. No preachin’ intended here!

rwf1954 - August 6, 2011

This idea would certainly bring a whole new context to these incredible lyrics. I’ll be relistening with Mary Magdelene and the Bible in mind.

5. Clayton Shafer - July 16, 2012

The wind crys Mary goes back to Carlisle castle when they locked queen Mary in the captains tower for 28 days and if you listen to the dead a lot of there songs come from the history of Carlisle Castle


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