Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Canadee-i-o

Girl at sea, disguised.
Captain saves her from sailors,
Boyfriend much chagrined.

This is one of my favorite Bob Dylan performances. "Canadee-i-o" is his 1992 rendition of the old story of a boy who sails off to sea to Canada, and dresses his girl up as a boy sailor because they can't stand to be apart. When they're in the middle of the ocean, she is unmasked. The other sailors try to throw her overboard, but the captain intervenes and saves her life. Not only that, he marries the girl and makes her not only a happy bride, but a wealthy one once they make land. What of the boy sailor? The suggestion in Dylan's version of the song is that the boy is ready to accept her death sentence, or perhaps, as some versions of the song go, he tries to participate in her doom. Dylan's version doesn't mention his fate. There is an ambiguous line, at least to me, that suggests that the boy is no good -- that after he agrees that she should join him on the ship, they then bargains with the sailor boy all for a piece of gold, and only then does he kit her out as a mate.

Here are the lyrics of Dylan's version of the song. There are other versions out there, known as "The Wearing of the Blue" and "Caledonia." Again, this is one of my favorite Dylan moments. His voice, cracked and withered, strains against its limits, soaring with emotion even as he stands back and lets the characters do their thing.

I can't paste the Dylan video in, so try this one instead. It's by Nic Jones, who is one of the greatest musicians ever to tackle these songs.






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