• Justin Key

Behind the Title - The Wind Cries Mary

Updated: Jun 6

"The Wind Cries Mary" - by Jimi Hendrix



Like any real work of art, it takes the viewer time to peel through the layers. The best pieces of art have so much depth that a person doesn't just get lost for a few minutes but returns to the puzzle time and again to dig a little deeper. This is how I feel about the music of Jimi Hendrix.


"The Wind Cries Mary" specifically, is a song I play over and over again just to hear it. It isn't a song that tips the scale emotionally for me one way or the other. It falls right in the middle of the spectrum but I find satisfaction in being content. From the first to last note, I fall into a trance, hanging on every lyric, feeling every strum of the guitar, every beat of the drum. Every time I listen to the song I build a deeper appreciation for it and the artist.


The photo of the tree aspen trunks, now known as "The Wind Cries Mary", has the same effect on me. Of all my photos, this one garners one of the strongest reactions from the public but it took a while to grow on me. Initially, this photo wasn't going to make the gallery. I thought it was a unique composition but wasn't convinced it was strong enough to make the cut. There was something about it however that kept me from moving it to the "no" pile.


The image itself almost didn't happen to begin with. Walking through a forest of aspens in prime fall color, my eye was buzzing on stimulation from the vibrance of the canary yellow leaves to the blur of the tightly packed, thin trunks. Perhaps that's what made me stop next to this cluster. The thickness of this trio must have broken up the continuity of the young forest because something in my peripheral brought me to a halt. Like that feeling of entering a room having forgotten what you were doing, I retraced my steps looking for what caught my eye. After scanning the forest I found myself staring up at these three old trees, marveling at the texture of the bark.


Just like the first time I heard "The Wind Cries Mary" something had grabbed me but I couldn't understand what. Curious, I paused to contemplate what I was experiencing, why it had grabbed me and wasn't letting go. There was something about these trees that spoke to me and I took the photograph with the intention of bringing it home for further analysis.


Similar to putting on noise-canceling headphones, once I cropped the photo to the edges of the three trunks I began to really listen to the piece. I would pull the photo up hoping to make a final decision only to come to the conclusion that it needed more time. The more I looked the more I began to see the piece.


The texture of the bark was the first thing to grab me. The smooth patches broken up by wrinkles reminded me of an elephant's trunk. The knots, resembling eyes, provided a bold, natural contrast to the tinted white bark. The streaks running down the trunks added character. The sharpness of the details, amplified by a slight use of depth of field to create a three-dimensional effect. Even the ratio began to stand out, a tall narrow image was far from the standard. Finally, one day I sat down having developed a deep appreciation and added it to my gallery collection.


The naming process took months. The photo didn't alter my mood drastically but it made me pause every time I looked at it. When the search began to drag, I realized matching the mood of the photo was the wrong approach. The emotion of the day wasn't conveyed in the composition. I needed a song that was neutral in tone, had a bold sound and levels of depth. Then one day, "The Wind Cries Mary" came on and made me stop.


Deep into the song the connection hit me. I backed up, started the song over, and pulled up the photo. The two synchronized immediately. Starting at the bottom and working my way up, every wrinkle paired with a strum of the guitar, every knot with the beat of the drums, and the soft bark mirrored the smooth lyrics. It was almost as if the grooves of the record were projected on the aspens.


Most of my photos are paired with a song that describes the mood. The lyrics help set the scene and tell the story while the melody conveys the emotion. "The Wind Cries Mary" is a photo that required a unique pairing. The image makes you appreciate the purity of the aspens in Colorado and it needed a song that makes you appreciate the purity of music.

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