Johanna's Visions

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Bob Dylan’s best songs – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall – #16, released version

The hard rain is gonna fall is in the last verse when I say “when the pellets of poison are flooding the waters”. I mean, all the lies, you know, all the lies that people get told on their radios and their newspapers which, all you have to do is
just think for a minute, y’know, try and take peoples brains away, y’know, which maybe’s been done already. I dunno, maybe, I hate to think it’s been done, but all the lies, which are considered poison, y’know, er…
Bob Dylan (to Studs Terkel, April 63)

‘Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’… I wrote the words of it on a piece of paper. But there was just no tune that really fit to it, so I just sort of play chords without a tune. If all this comes under the heading of a definition, then I don’t care really to define what I do. Other people seem to have a hard time doing that.
~Bob Dylan (to Max Jones, May 64)

From “The Witmark Demos” (Bootleg Series 9):

@ #16 on my list of Dylan’s 200 best songs. The original version from “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” was recorded on December 6 – 1962…. 50 year’s ago today. The Witmark version above was recorded sometime in December 62.

‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’, recorded December 6, 1962, is another song whose genius and power are so great that our analytical minds (not our hearts) may have difficulty accepting and recognizing it’s simplicity.
~Paul Williams (Performing Artist 60-73)

from 1964:

 

Lyrics:

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

 

“When I got back from India I went to a party thrown by a poet friend in Bolinas. He put on an album by this new folk singer Bob Dylan. I think we heard Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall — and I wept. I wept because I felt the torch had been passed to a new generation.”
~Allen Ginsberg (Interviewed in “No Direction Home”)

From Wikipedia:

Released May 27, 1963
Recorded December 6, 1962
Genre Folk
Length 6:55
Label Columbia Records
Writer Bob Dylan

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” is a song written by Bob Dylan in the summer of 1962. It was first recorded in Columbia Records’ Studio A on 6 December 1962 for his second album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. The lyric structure is based on the question and answer form of the traditional ballad “Lord Randall”, Child Ballad No. 12.

Live performances:

Dylan has featured the song regularly in his concerts in the years since he wrote it, and there have been some dramatic performances. Dylan performed it in 1971 at The Concert for Bangladesh, organized by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar. The concert was organized for the relief of refugees from East Pakistan (now independent Bangladesh) after the 1970 Bhola cyclone and during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.

Concert for Bangladesh (1971):

 

Live 76 – Rollig Thunder 2:

 

On May 23, 1994, Dylan performed the song at “The Great Music Experience” festival in Japan, backed by a 90-piece symphony orchestra conducted by Michael Kamen.

…in May 1994, when Dylan was accompanied by the Tokyo New Philharmonic Orchestra, and the song acquired a symphonic sweep worthy of its nebulous narrative. Needless to say, Sony saw fit to bury this majestic arrangement on the European-only CD single, “Dignity.”
~Clinton Heylin (Revolution In The Air)

A Wonderful version from Nara, Japan – 1994:

Live @  Zirkusplatz - Sursee, Switzerland - 24 June 2011:

-Egil

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4 Comments

  1. Happy 50th!

    The best version may be the Carnegie Hall version included in TBS7. Wonderful, shimmering guitar work and lovingly sung to a rapturous audience.

    Probably in the Dylan Top 5 I would think.

  2. Oh, and realizing that Bob is 71 today, it’s pretty amazing to think that a 21 year old somehow came up with this.

  3. Pingback: Bob Dylan – Top 200 songs accoding to Egil | Johanna's Visions