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 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.
The traffic lights, they turn blue tomorrow
And shine their emptiness down on my bed.
The tiny island sags downstream
'Cos the life they lived is dead.
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."
The Wind Cries Mary is built on a triads which are sometimes inverted but seem to shift back & forth like a gentle breeze. Unlike May This Be Love, Hendrix performs this quiet song without contrast of volume. A lengthy break and a coda demonstrate agile guitar improvisations on the melody.
The song is heavily influenced by Bob Dylan, as if inspired by Dylan’s classic Blowin' in the Wind, but with the surrealism Dylan brought to his lyrics during his psychedelic period. The vagaries of Hendrix’ surrealism also suggest the Mary might be a reference to marijuana. The drift of the lyric’s story, however, is tragic. Happiness seems to have staggered away from a murder scene of childhood dreams, perhaps shattered by a divorce. There seems nothing to stop the drift downstream, in which a traffic light of societal conventions cannot turn red but only warn of a “blue tomorrow”. (I am reminded of the Robert Johnson lyric to Love in Vain: "The blue light was my baby, and the red light was my mind.") The singer’s tiny island of identity must escape because "the life they live [who? the parents? the estranged lovers?] is dead". The singer living alone wonders if anyone will remember him, and receives the wind’s whispered answer that his name will be the last. It seems the obfuscation of a dream, meant to sound irrational: will his name be the last that will be remembered? Unlikely. But buried in the irrational prophecy seems rather the assurance of fame, that the name of Jimi Hendrix will long remembered.