A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall

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"A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall"
Song by Bob Dylan
from the album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
Released May 27, 1963
Recorded December 6, 1962
Genre Folk
Length 6:55
Label Columbia Records
Songwriter(s) Bob Dylan
Producer(s) John Hammond
The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan track listing

"A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" is a song written by Bob Dylan in the summer of 1962 and recorded later that year for his second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Its lyrical structure is thematically complex and modeled after the question and answer form of traditional ballads such as "Lord Randall".

The song is characterized by dark symbolist imagery and a message communicating injustice, suffering, pollution, and warfare. Dylan has stated that all of the lyrics were taken from the initial lines of songs that "he thought he would never have time to write."[1] Nat Hentoff quoted Dylan as saying that he immediately wrote the song in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis,[2] although in his memoir, Chronicles: Volume One, Dylan attributed his inspiration to the feeling he got when reading microfiche newspapers in the New York Public Library: "After a while you become aware of nothing but a culture of feeling, of black days, of schism, evil for evil, the common destiny of the human being getting thrown off course. It’s all one long funeral song."[3][page needed]

History[edit]

Dylan originally wrote "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" in the form of a poem. The first iteration of the lyrics were written on a typewriter in the shared apartment of Dylan's friends Wavy Gravy and singer Tom Paxton, within Greenwich Village, New York City.[4] Significant edits occurred after this time, for instance, an earlier draft which appeared in both Sing Out and Broadside folk magazines contained "a highway of golden with nobody on it" rather than the final lyric "a highway of diamonds".

On September 22, 1962, Dylan appeared for the first time at Carnegie Hall as part of an all-star hootenanny.[5][6] His three-song set marked the first public performance of "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall,"[7] a complex and powerful song built upon the question-and-answer refrain pattern of the traditional British ballad "Lord Randall", published by Francis Child.

One month later, on October 22, U.S. President John F. Kennedy appeared on national television to announce the discovery of Soviet missiles on the island of Cuba, initiating the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the sleeve notes on the Freewheelin' album, Nat Hentoff would quote Dylan as saying that he wrote "A Hard Rain" in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis:[2] "Every line in it is actually the start of a whole new song. But when I wrote it, I thought I wouldn't have enough time alive to write all those songs so I put all I could into this one." In actuality, Dylan had written the song more than a month before the crisis broke.

The song was recorded in a single take at Columbia Records' Studio A on December 6, 1962.

Analysis and reception[edit]

Folk singer Pete Seeger interpreted the line "When the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison" as referring to when a young person suddenly wants to leave his home, but then qualified that by saying, "People are wrong when they say 'I know what he means.'"[8]

While some have suggested[9] that the refrain of the song refers to nuclear fallout, Dylan disputes that this was a specific reference. In a radio interview with Studs Terkel in 1963, Dylan said:

"No, it's not atomic rain, it's just a hard rain. It isn't the fallout rain. I mean some sort of end that's just gotta happen ... In the last verse, when I say, 'the pellets of poison are flooding the waters,' that means all the lies that people get told on their radios and in their newspapers."[10]

In No Direction Home, Martin Scorsese's documentary on Dylan, the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg talks about the first time he heard Dylan's music:

"When I got back from India, and got to the West Coast, there's a poet, Charlie Plymell - at a party in Bolinas — played me a record of this new young folk singer. And I heard "Hard Rain," I think. And wept. 'Cause it seemed that the torch had been passed to another generation. From earlier bohemian, or Beat illumination. And self-empowerment."[11]

Author Ian MacDonald described "A Hard Rain" as one of the most idiosyncratic protest songs ever written.[12]

Live performance[edit]

Although Dylan may have first played the song to friends, "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" was formally premiered at Carnegie Hall on September 22, 1962, as part of a hootenanny organized by Pete Seeger. Seeger recalled: "I had to announce to all the singers, 'Folks, you're gonna be limited to three songs. No more. 'Cause we each have ten minutes apiece.' And Bob raised his hand and said, 'What am I supposed to do? One of my songs is ten minutes long.'"[13]

Dylan featured the song regularly in concerts in the years since he premiered it, and there have been several dramatic performances. An October 1963 performance at Carnegie Hall was released on The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: No Direction Home, while another New York City performance, recorded one year later, appeared on The Bootleg Series Vol. 6: Bob Dylan Live 1964, Concert at Philharmonic Hall. Dylan performed the song in August 1971 at The Concert for Bangladesh, organized by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar. The concert was organized for East Pakistan refugee relief (now independent Bangladesh) after the 1970 Bhola cyclone and during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. On December 4, 1975, at the Forum de Montreal, Canada,[14] Dylan recorded an upbeat version of the song, which appears on The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue album. 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.[15] At the end of 2007, Dylan recorded a new version of "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" exclusively for Expo Zaragoza 2008 world fair, scheduled to open on June 8, 2008, to highlight the Expo theme of "water and sustainable development". As well as choosing local-band Amaral to record a version of the song in Spanish, Dylan's new version ended with a few spoken words about his "being proud to be a part of the mission to make water safe and clean for every human being living in this world."[16][17]

Patti Smith performed the song with orchestral accompaniment at the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony on December 10, 2016, to commemorate Dylan receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature.[18]

Covers[edit]

Bob Weir and Phil Lesh performed it on their Bobby and Phil DuoTour at Radio City Music Hall , New York City, March2, 2018.


Leon Russel also performed a superb version of A Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall - it is on his greatest hits album entitled Retrospective

Other media[edit]

Photographer Mark Edwards took a series of photographs illustrating the lyrics of the song which were exhibited in many locations such as the United Nations headquarters. These were published in a book in 2006.[22][23]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Overbye, Dennis (2013-07-01). "Timeless Questions About the Universe". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  2. ^ a b Friedman, Jonathan C. (ed.) (2013). The Routledge History of Social Protest in Popular Music. London: Routledge. p. 151. ISBN 9780415509527.
  3. ^ Dylan, Bob (2004). Chronicles: Volume One. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-2815-4.
  4. ^ "100 Greatest Bob Dylan Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  5. ^ Marqusee, Mike (2005). Wicked Messenger: Bob Dylan and the 1960s. Seven Stories Press. pp. 64f. ISBN 1-58322-686-9.
  6. ^ Shelton, Robert (2003). No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan. Da Capo Press. p. 152. ISBN 0-306-81287-8.
  7. ^ It was the final song performed in the set. It followed a rendition of "As Long as the Grass Shall Grow", which consisted of music written by Dylan and lyrics by the noted Native American poet/singer/songwriter Peter LaFarge, recounting the US government's violation of its longstanding treaty with the Seneca nation in upstate New York.
  8. ^ Gilliland 1969, show 31, track 4, 9:20.
  9. ^ "'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall...'". This Day in Quotes. May 27, 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  10. ^ Reprinted in Cott (ed.), Dylan on Dylan: The Essential Interviews, pp. 7–9.
  11. ^ Ginsberg, Allen (2005). No Direction Home (DVD). Paramount Pictures.
  12. ^ Phillips, Jerry; Anesko, general editor; Michael; adviser; authors, contributor; Karen Meyers, Erik V. R. Rangno, principal (2010). Contemporary American Literature (1945–present) (2nd ed.). New York: Chelsea House. p. 34. ISBN 1604134895.
  13. ^ Heylin 2003, p. 102.
  14. ^ Set Lists:Forum de Montreal Archived April 10, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Bobdylan.com
  15. ^ Vigoda, Arlene (May 24, 1994). "Born To Be Wilde". USA Today. Retrieved July 24, 2013.
  16. ^ Llewellyn, Howell (November 23, 2007). "Dylan reworks "Hard Rain's" for Spanish expo". Reuters. Retrieved November 24, 2007.
  17. ^ "Expo Zaragoza 2008". Expo web site. Archived from the original on 3 December 2007. Retrieved December 2, 2007.
  18. ^ "Patti Smith stumbles then delivers at Bob Dylan-less Nobel ceremony". USA Today. December 10, 2016.
  19. ^ Robert Plant & The Band of Joy 4/8/11 Louisville Palace on YouTube
  20. ^ Patti Smith - A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (ceremonia Nobel 2016) on YouTube
  21. ^ SCHATZ, LAKE. "Laura Marling covers Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall"". cos. 2017 Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  22. ^ Mark Edwards; Lloyd Timberlake; Bob Dylan. "Hard rain: our headlong collision with nature".
  23. ^ "Hard Rain proves tough to weather", Rocky Mountain News, January 16, 1998

References[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Lyrics at Bob Dylan's official website