Up on the white veranda
She wears a necktie and a Panama hat.
Her passport shows a face
From another time and place
She looks nothin' like that.
And all the remnants of her recent past
Are scattered in the wild wind.
She walks across the marble floor
Where a voice from the gambling room is callin' her to come on in.
She smiles, walks the other way
As the last ship sails and the moon fades away
From Black Diamond Bay.

As the mornin' light breaks open, the Greek comes down
And he asks for a rope and a pen that will write.
"Pardon, monsieur," the desk clerk says,
Carefully removes his fez,
"Am I hearin' you right?"
And as the yellow fog is liftin'
The Greek is quickly headin' for the second floor.
She passes him on the spiral staircase
Thinkin' he's the Soviet Ambassador,
She starts to speak, but he walks away
As the storm clouds rise and the palm branches sway
On Black Diamond Bay.

A soldier sits beneath the fan
Doin' business with a tiny man who sells him a ring.
Lightning strikes, the lights blow out.
The desk clerk wakes and begins to shout,
"Can you see anything?"
Then the Greek appears on the second floor
In his bare feet with a rope around his neck,
While a loser in the gambling room lights up a candle,
Says, "Open up another deck."
But the dealer says, "Attendez-vous, s'il vous plait,''
As the rain beats down and the cranes fly away
From Black Diamond Bay.

The desk clerk heard the woman laugh
As he looked around the aftermath and the soldier got tough.
He tried to grab the woman's hand,
Said, "Here's a ring, it cost a grand."
She said, "That ain't enough."
Then she ran upstairs to pack her bags
While a horse-drawn taxi waited at the curb.
She passed the door that the Greek had locked,
Where a handwritten sign read, "Do Not Disturb."
She knocked upon it anyway
As the sun went down and the music did play
On Black Diamond Bay.

"I've got to talk to someone quick!"
But the Greek said, "Go away," and he kicked the chair to the floor.
He hung there from the chandelier.
She cried, "Help, there's danger near
Please open up the door!"
Then the volcano erupted
And the lava flowed down from the mountain high above.
The soldier and the tiny man were crouched in the corner
Thinking of forbidden love.
But the desk clerk said, "It happens every day,"
As the stars fell down and the fields burned away
On Black Diamond Bay.

As the island slowly sank
The loser finally broke the bank in the gambling room.
The dealer said, "It's too late now.
You can take your money, but I don't know how
You'll spend it in the tomb."
The tiny man bit the soldier's ear
As the floor caved in and the boiler in the basement blew,
While she's out on the balcony, where a stranger tells her,
"My darling, je vous aime beaucoup."
She sheds a tear and then begins to pray
As the fire burns on and the smoke drifts away
From Black Diamond Bay.

I was sittin' home alone one night in L.A.,
Watchin' old Cronkite on the seven o'clock news.
It seems there was an earthquake that
Left nothin' but a Panama hat
And a pair of old Greek shoes.
Didn't seem like much was happenin',
So I turned it off and went to grab another beer.
Seems like every time you turn around
There's another hard-luck story that you're gonna hear
And there's really nothin' anyone can say
And I never did plan to go anyway
To Black Diamond Bay.


Lyrics submitted by nitsirhc

Black Diamond Bay song meanings
Add your thoughts

17 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +4
    General CommentBasically, this song is about irony. The Greek hangs himself even though everyone is about to die anyway, the loser wins in gambling right before he is about to die, the big "tough" soldier wants to have "forbidden love" with a tiny man, and the woman does find love but it's too late because they are about to die so she "sheds a tear and begins to pray." And finally, the ultimate irony is that the speaker saw all this on the 7 o'clock news and just shuts it off. It doesn't even matter to him...
    StallionintheRift12on February 21, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIn the second verse, I believe there is a reference to The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock by T.S. Eliot.

    "And as the yellow fog is lifting,"

    The "Love Song" concerns a man weighed down with regret and the knowledge that his cowardice in seeking love has cost him the experience of it. He has wasted his life in trivialities, in half-deserted streets, cheap hotels, "sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells," meaningless conversation, a hundred indecisions and visions and revisions before toast and tea. More than this, he passively accepts this waste, believing that his chance to change things has long passed.

    "Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
    Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
    But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
    Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
    I am no prophet - and here's no great matter;
    I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
    And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
    And in short, I was afraid."

    And at the close,

    "We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
    By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
    Till human voices wake us and we drown."

    In the poem, the yellow fog seems to represent the essence of lethargy and wastefulness, crawling through the streets, around the houses, pressing up against the windows. In Black Diamond Bay, the yellow fog is lifting. The earthquake is perhaps the "human voice" that wakes the characters in the song. And yes, they drown, but they are for once awake and alive and made painfully aware of how fruitless their lives have been up until this fatal point.

    I think there is something in how the desk clerk and the dealer are merely there as passive observers and commentators on the actions of those around them. The woman is searching for something (we don't know what), the loser is trying to reverse his luck, the Greek is in a hurry to take his own life, and the soldier and the tiny man are doing business, on the cusp of succumbing to their desires.

    "The desk clerk says, 'It happens every day."

    The volcano has erupted, the mountains are streaming lava, the fields are on fire and even the stars are falling. The desk clerk could be saying this happens every day, which lends some mystery to the song, similar to that found in Hotel California by The Eagles. He could, of course, just as easily be referring to the homoerotic tension between the soldier and the tiny man. Either way, he comes across as unusually calm for someone about to meet his own demise.

    In my opinion, the desk clerk (and possibly the dealer by extension) can be perhaps be compared to the eternal Footman in Eliot's poem. There is also a suggestion that he is the yellow fog itself, as he appears throughout the song in various states of drowsiness, confusion and general idleness. Similarly, the dealer has only two lines in the song, first instructing the dealer to wait, then later on informing him (somewhat ironically) that it is too late.

    Of course, the themes of irony in Black Diamond Bay are also very strong. The woman rejects the loser and the soldier for their false love (the loser would not leave the gambling room for her, the soldier wants to buy her romance), tries to save the life of a man intent on dying, and ultimately finds true love only to have it thwarted by fate. The soldier chases after the woman up until the last moment, when he realizes (or simply must admit) that he desires something and someone else entirely. The Greek is in an awful hurry to kill himself, but moments after his death he would have died anyway. The loser breaks the bank as the island sinks into the sea, taking all the players in this tragic comedy along with it.

    I think the narrator is another victim of the yellow fog. He sits alone, watching news that depresses him and drinking beer. All he sees of the Black Diamond Bay disaster is a hat, a pair of shoes and "nothing happening." I suppose the question is how much is happening in his own life? When will his earthquake come to shake him awake from his stupor? Just the same, will it come too late?
    lonelylittlekitschon May 11, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe specific reference of Black Diamond Bay is to the Conrad novel
    called "Victory". In the novel, Black Diamond Bay is a disused coal
    port/depot on an island in the far east (Indonesia/Borneo area). There
    are elements in the novel that reappear in the song (a hotel, a
    volcano, gambling, a somewhat enigmatic woman, BDB itself of course)
    but the song is not a 'song of the book' by any means. In some ways its
    a bit like a dream version of the book with everything mixed up and in
    the wrong places. There may be elements from other Conrad novels in
    there as well - some themes doubtless reappear in many of the novels.
    jtg76on December 20, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI don't know what this song is about, does anyone have an idea, it one of my favs
    lewkccon April 12, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think its a volcano erupting from the perspective of being there and then just watching it on the news.
    RecoveringPainon May 06, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThere is a hotel in Black Diamond Bay. The hotel is filled with guests who are all charecters. There is a women who has had a rough past, she is looking for love and maybe thinking about killing herself. She has a boyfriend who we later find out is a soldier that buys her a ring but she cannot stand him.There is a man who is gambling and keeps losing to the dealer, and through all this the gambler is hitting on the women but she only similes. When night falls the last ship leaves taking with all and any hope of escape from the earthquakes and explosions the eruption will cause. In the morning another man "The Greek" is getting a rope to hang himself with and a pen that writes for his suicide letter. As he runs back up the stairs his path crosses with the women. The soldier in the lobby is buying a ring for his fiance from a tiny man. Just then the electricity goes out. Greek runs out of room rope around neck to see what is going on. The gambler unphased by this tells the dealer to "open up another deck." In the aftermath her boyfriend gives her the ring rudley telling her how much it cost and she now realising she could die decides to leave him by telling him, "that ain't enough." She then runs upstairs to pack and leave and stops at the greek's room to talk but he tells her to go away. At the moment the volcano erupted. The emotionally distrought soldier is now cuddled in a corner with the tiny man that sold him the ring and they both are sexually attracted to each other and "thinking of forbidden love." But thorugh all this the island begins to sink into the ocean and all the while the gambler was still playing he finally breaks the bank and all the dealer can say is "its too late now." The soldier and the tiny man are now nibbling ears. They both have discovered something about themselves on the day they died. Then next I beleive that the women was cheating on the soldier with the greek. The greek stricken with guilt, because he possibly is married decides to kill himself. The women is now at the edge of the balcony ready to die along with this sinking island hears a stranger tell her that, "my darling I love you very much." With all the drama that was going on at the hotel when the news get ahold of it and the veiwer hears Walter Kronkite tell the tale of the sinking of Black Diamond Bay, we know nothing of the people there as veiwers of the news. So how do we reply "I never did plan to go anyway to Black Diamond Bay."
    FrancisMSBon May 15, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwow, what a great paraphrasing of the song, but what does it mean?
    jtg76on December 20, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBlack Diamond Bay has long been my favorite Bob Dylan song. It is a song of the detachment that mankind feels for his fellow man and a warning for the consequences of that detachment and the consequences of simple sins of ommission and self-indulgence.

    The woman in the song represents the individual who will ascend to heaven. Thus she is on the white veranda while everyone else in the song is consumed by the boiler in the basement, i.e hell

    The lava from the mountain high above is symbolic of God's hand in the end of the world.

    The woman avoids sin both by not going to the gambling room nor accepting the ring as a bribe (for sex). The stranger is I believe an angel or symbolic of God and his love for her who appears as her end, she is humbled and prays.

    In the end the person "I" is an attempt to make the listener of the song realize how easy it is to fall into the same traps as the soldier, gambler the Greek - symbolic of a non-believer who by doing so is in essence committing suicide for their will be no hope for non-believers.

    The end of the song is extremely interesting when describing the scene. All that will be left in the end is heaven and hell. the Woman will go to heaven as symbolized by her hat and the Greek goes to hell as symbolized by his shoes. Note the Greek had taken his shoes off symbolizing his lack of belief in either heaven or hell but hell it is for him non-the less.

    A truly great Bob Dylan song
    gkhd11aon March 24, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentForget the symbolism. Dylan paints images and characters.

    This story feels like Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle." We watch the wild characters, laugh, and ultimately feel detached enough to switch it all off, while other peoples' lives go down.
    manumokaon January 14, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBob watches the news about an earthquake that "Left nothin' but a Panama hat and a pair of old Greek shoes", notes his own indifference and then imagines what might have been the last moments of the people who died in the disaster.
    tomconway53on April 14, 2008   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain