Likely ‘Girl from the North Country’ dies

She was once a true love of Bob Dylan’s, or so the song goes.

Echo Star Casey, rumored to be the Hibbing native Dylan wrote about, has died in California, the Duluth News Tribune says. She was in her late ’70s.

Like Dylan, she was different from her classmates, the paper says.

Helstrom and Dylan were more than boyfriend and girlfriend, according to classmate Susan Beasy Latto. The two were like-minded and different from others in the 300-plus class of 1959. Dylan had a motorcycle; Helstrom was the beauty, dramatic with Scandinavian features.

“I think they were girlfriend-boyfriend, plus really good friends,” Latto said. “They saw themselves, I think, as having a special understanding. They were far from the madding crowd. They were different from other folks. … They were soul mates, I really think they were.”

Her image was on the marquee — opposite Dylan’s — outside Zimmy’s the Dylan-themed restaurant in Hibbing that closed a few years ago.

There were a number of women who were said to be the subject of Dylan’s verse, but several Dylanologists say Casey was the most likely.

Robert Shelton’s book “No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan,” includes an interview with Casey from 1968 where she talks about her time with Dylan. Shelton describes her as sitting on the sofa of her Minneapolis apartment, smoking a cigarette with a well-manicured hand.

“One thing that always surprised me was that Bobby ever had anything to do with me, because I was from the other side of the tracks,” she told Shelton. “He was a nice Hibbing boy and I was from out of town. He was rich folk and we were poor folk. He was Jewish and we were German, Swedish, Russian and Irish all mixed together.”

Her mother, Martha Helstrom, also spoke with Shelton. “Well, it’s about time someone gave my Echo a little credit for what she did for Bob,” she reportedly said. “She was hurt by the whole thing, but she loved Bob enough to let him go.”

Health prevented her from going back to Hibbing in recent years, but in a previous visit, she told friends it was like going back to Mecca.

  • joetron2030

    I think “Nashville Skyline” is probably my favorite of Dylan’s records that I’ve heard. Close second is “Bringing It All Back Home”.

    Rest in peace, Ms. Casey.

  • Carol S.

    I have never liked Bob Dylan’s music, but I might have to reconsider. I’ve never heard this song, but immediately liked it. Maybe it’s because I can actually understand what he is saying. This was an enlightening post, in many ways. Thanks!

  • RBHolb

    “Girl from the North Country” is the best “ex-love” song ever written. He isn’t bitter about losing her, he isn’t voicing any regrets, and he isn’t planning to come back for her. All he wants is to remember her the way he knew her, and that the listener sees that she’s okay.

    We should all think of our pasts that way.