As you can probably tell by now I am a huge fan of old music. When I say old I just mean before my time roughly 1960’s to late 1980’s. This come from a love of music from both my parents, my Dad’s love of Zeppelin and the Stones as well as my Mom’s 80’s side coming out with Bowie, Queen and Hall and Oates. My taste in music is a little strange for someone born in 94 but I wouldn’t change it for the world. My next tear down is going to be The Wind cries Mary by Jimi Hendrix which is actually an obsession I found myself, neither my parents were crazy Hendrix fans like I am now. I sadly only found this song around 2 years ago but since then it’s been one of my all time favourites and I want to learn as much as I can from the soothing, groove experience. I will be analysing the following aspects of the track,
The tempo and time signature
Instrumentation and Panning
The lyrics, meaning and history of the track
So as per the norm to check out the structure of this track I put it into Pro Tools and cut it into its different sections. The song follows an ABABCABAB sequence as you can see above containing 2 verse and chorus’ before the bridge in the middle of the song. I find this helps the flow of the song greatly as it breaks up the song into two halves with the bridge being the groovy divide in the middle. As far as experimental song structure goes this is pretty simple but as I’ll explain in the history of this song it was written over a short period of time and was recorded in even less. The pre-chorus build ups are an amazing addition and definitely have their own unique part in the mix. The intro actually copies the same riff as the pre-chorus which helps to make it familiar so when it’s reintroduced before the chorus you can’t help but nod your head along to the guitar. All in all the structure of the song is very familiar in a comforting way nothing is too surprising and creates a feeling of easy listening.
Tempo and Time Signature:
The tempo for the track is 80 bpm following a moderately slow rock speed. Played in 4/4 time the track is easy to follow along with and very relaxed. Mitch Mitchell’s kit does a perfect job of keeping time and punctuating delicate drum patterns underneath the grooving guitar. For what the song is about love and remorse the tempo is a perfect fit slowly sauntering along allowing time for the feeling to come out of the expertly played guitar.
Instrumentation and Panning:
The track contains the perfect trio of electric guitar, bass and of course a drum kit. With of course Jimi Hendrix on guitar and vocals, Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass guitar. The thing that interests me the most within this song is actually the panning. A typical three piece rock band would usually have at least the vocals and the kit roughly panned dead ahead keeping center stage of peoples attention but not in this track. Strangely enough taking center stage is Hendrix’s guitar, with the vocals panning hard left almost swooning in your ear. The kit as well is panned right making a very strange sensation of sitting in the middle of this band with Hendrix singing into your left ear and the drums on your right. It’s peculiar but it makes the song so much more personal some how making it feel like the song is meant only for the person listening. I think it’s because in songs with the vocals in the middle feel like they’re singing on a stage with the band around them but having the vocals in one side makes you apart of it or at least moves you to the middle of the stage being surrounded by the band. Another great use of panning in during the bridge when Hendrix’s vocals take a break and are replaced with his lead guitar again on the left side. This makes a lot of sense for Hendrix because he conveys his emotions not only through his vocals but also of course his guitar. So that bridge is basically, I’ve sang enough let my guitar tell you how I feel so it makes sense to have it replace his voice in terms of positioning. This use of unique panning has actually taught me a lot about the power of positioning instruments within music, I can’t be too afraid to break away from the norm.
The Lyrics and Meaning:
Finally the segment to tie it all together, I’ve talked about a lot of aspects of this song but none of it makes sense until you look at the lyrics and the feeling behind this song. Anyway the lyrics are as follows:
After all jacks are in their boxes And the clowns have all gone to bed You can hear happiness staggering on down the street Footprints dressed 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, it cries Mary The traffic lights they turn a blue tomorrow And shine their emptiness down on my bed The tiny island sags downstream ‘Cause 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 And with its crutch, its old age and its wisdom It whispers “no, this will be the last” And the wind cries Mary
So allegedly this song was written by Hendrix after a domestic row with his partner at the time Kathy ‘Mary’ Etchingham:
We’d had a row over food. Jimi didn’t like lumpy mashed potato. There were thrown plates and I ran off. When I came back the next day, he’d written that song about me. It’s incredibly flattering.(Source Q magazine February 2013)
After a shouting match over something trivial ‘Mary’ stormed out and left Hendrix alone for a day or two. While he was alone he wrote this song for her as an apology. You can really get that just from the speed and key the song is written in but lyrics like “You can hear happiness staggering down the street” really emphasize the fact that two people have separated in some way. Also interesting is the song’s name sake “And the wind whispers/ cries/ screams Mary”. This escalation to me is Hendrix saying that the more time went on the more remorse was around him the wind being the voice in his head reminding him Mary was gone. All in all the the feeling of his song holds so much remorse and regret that it’s enchantingly beautiful, my favourite line being “The traffic lights they turn a blue tomorrow, And shine their emptiness down on my bed” leading me to believe that Hendrix saw the world as blue and nothing made him sadder than going to bed to find it empty
After analysing this song I’ve learned more than I thought I would. The lesson I’m taking away from this song mainly is the panning. Not being afraid to put the parts of your song in a unique place rather than following the way everyone else does it is something I’m now keen to right. Song structure is something I’m still trying to learn but it’s good to know that doing something as basic as verse and chorus x2 add a bridge and repeat is still a valid way of making a song. I sometimes get too caught up in making something far too repetitive or experimental. This song will always have a place in my top 5 and I hope you’ve learned something from this as well.
Field, R. (2010). The Poetry of Jimi Hendrix (II) – “The Wind Cries Mary”. [online] Richard Warren Field’s Blog. Available at: https://creativeeccentric.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/the-poetry-of-jimi-hendrix-ii-%E2%80%93-%E2%80%9Cthe-wind-cries-mary%E2%80%9D/ [Accessed 9 July. 2019].
songfacts.com. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.songfacts.com/facts/jimi-hendrix/the-wind-cries-mary [Accessed 11 July. 2019].