Bob Dylan’s high school girlfriend Echo Casey, née Helstrom, has died in California aged 75, according to the Star Tribune newspaper. She was long-believed to be the inspiration for his classic song “Girl From The North Country”, from his breakthrough 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.

Dylan and Helstrom dated from 1957 to 1958, when they both attended Hibbing High School in Minnesota. She left a strong impression on the young troubadour, who later compared her to Brigitte Bardot in his memoir Chronicles: Volume One.

But there remains some speculation about the real identity of the “Girl From The North Country.” Some believe the song to be about Dylan’s later girlfriends Bonnie Beecher or Suze Rotolo (who actually appears with him on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan). However, the lyrics about freezing rivers and winds that “hit heavy on the borderline” suggest northern Minnesota.

Casey lived in Minneapolis for a while before eventually moving to Los Angeles in the 1970s, where she worked as a secretary on movie sets.

Bob Dylan

“Girl From The North Country” nevertheless remains one of the most poignant songs in Dylan’s revered catalogue. Dylan re-recorded the song as a duet with Johnny Cash in February 1969, and that recording became the opening track on Nashville Skyline, Dylan’s ninth studio album. Pete Townshend, The Black Crowes, Sting and Crosby Stills and Nash are among the many artists who have covered the song. Just recently, “Girl From The North Country” was used as the title of Conor McPherson‘s Bob Dylan-based musical, currently showing at London’s Noel Coward Theatre.