Knockin' on Heaven's Door

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"Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
Single by Bob Dylan
from the album Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid
B-side "Turkey Chase"
Released July 13, 1973
Recorded February 1973
Genre Folk rock, gospel
Length 2:32
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Bob Dylan
Producer(s) Gordon Carroll
Bob Dylan singles chronology
"George Jackson"
"Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
"A Fool Such as I"

"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" is a song written and sung by Bob Dylan, for the soundtrack of the 1973 film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Released as a single, it reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Described by Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin as "an exercise in splendid simplicity,"[1] the song, measured simply in terms of the number of other artists who have covered it, is one of Dylan's most popular post-1960s compositions.

Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.[2]

Storyline and song structure[edit]

The song describes the collapse of a deputy sheriff; dying from a bullet wound, he tells his wife "Mama, take this badge off of me; I can't use it anymore." The song consists of four chords in the key of G major: G, D, Am7, and C. The basic pattern throughout the song is G-D-Am7-Am7 and then G-D-C-C, and this is repeated. Over the years, Dylan has changed the lyrics, as have others who have performed this song.

Cover versions[edit]

Sandy Denny[edit]

Sandy Denny performed "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" with Fairport Convention in February 1974 at the LA Troubadour, Los Angeles, only about seven months after the release of Dylan's record. Two different recordings were later released: one in the Who Knows Where the Time Goes box set, and the other on the bonus CD of the anthology A Boxful of Treasures.[3]

The Alarm[edit]

The Alarm regularly played the song at concerts. When The Alarm toured with Dylan, the group joined him on stage to perform the song.[4]

Cold Chisel[edit]

Cold Chisel performed the song as part of their "Youth in Asia" tour of Australia in 1980. A version recorded during this tour appears on the band's live album Swingshift.[5]

Eric Clapton[edit]

Eric Clapton recorded a reggae-influenced version of the song produced by Albhy Galuten in August 1975[6] and released it as a single later that year,[7] almost two years after Dylan's original track was released and using Arthur Louis's arrangement. Clapton's single featured "Someone Like You" as the B-side, previously recorded with Louis.[8] Clapton's 1996 boxed set Crossroads 2: Live in the Seventies features a performance recorded in London in April 1977. The song was also resurrected for the Journeyman and One More Car, One More Rider world tours in 1990 and 2003. Additionally, the song has been included on several Clapton compilation albums, such as Time Pieces: The Best of Eric Clapton, Backtrackin', The Cream of Clapton and Complete Clapton.[9]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1975) Peak
France (SNEP)[10] 46
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[11] 31
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[12] 38

Randy Crawford[edit]

Randy Crawford recorded a version of this song in 1989, featuring Eric Clapton and David Sanborn. Wyclef Jean recorded a version of the song, which was used in the documentary Ghosts of Cité Soleil (2004), by director Asger Leth. In 2007, Babyface released his eleventh album Playlist which included a cover of this song. In 2007 Antony and the Johnsons released a rendition of this song that was included on the Bob Dylan cover album I'm Not There, which served as the soundtrack for the film of the same name.

Grateful Dead[edit]

An acoustic performance was played by The Grateful Dead Live at Rambler Room, Loyola College on November 17, 1978.[13] The song was performed by Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead, during a joint tour in July 1987. Between August 1987 and July 1994 the Grateful Dead often closed their shows with a performance of this song.[citation needed] On July 7, 1989, the Dead used the song as an encore at John F. Kennedy Stadium and it was to be the swansong for the stadium, which was condemned 6 days later.

Guns N' Roses[edit]

"Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
Single by Guns N' Roses
from the album Use Your Illusion II
A-side "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (LP version)
B-side "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" (Live)
Released May 1992
Format CD single, 7", 12"
Recorded 1990–1991 at A&M Studios, Record Plant Studios, Studio 56, Image Recording, Conway Studios, Metalworks Recording Studios, Skip Saylor Recording (album mixing)
Genre Hard rock, blues rock
Label Geffen
Writer(s) Bob Dylan
Producer(s) Mike Clink, Guns N' Roses
Guns N' Roses singles chronology
"Live and Let Die"
"Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
"November Rain"

In 1987, Guns N' Roses started including the song in their live sets. A live version of the track was initially released on the maxi-single of Welcome to the Jungle the same year. They recorded a studio version in 1990 for the Days of Thunder Soundtrack, which was later slightly modified for the 1991 album Use Your Illusion II (basically discarding the responses in the second verse). Released as the fourth single from the album, it reached #2 on the UK Singles Chart as well as #12 in Australia and #1 in Ireland. Their performance of the song at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992 was used as the B-side for the single release and was also included on their Live Era: '87–'93 album, released in 1999.[14] The music video for this version of the song was directed by Andy Morahan.[15]


Heaven released a version of the song on the group's 1985 album, Knockin' On Heaven's Door.[16]

Vlado Kreslin[edit]

Vlado Kreslin released his live version on his CD Pikapolonica in 1996. It was performed by Beltinška banda.

Avril Lavigne[edit]

Avril Lavigne performed the song on radio sponsored multi-artist appearances, which took place on January 23, 2003 and ended on June 4, 2003. A music video was made with her performance. Later on she included the song during her Try To Shut Me Up Tour. She first released her cover version on the bonus CD of her My World video release in 2003, as one of the B-Sides from her single "Nobody's Home" and afterwards as a Japanese bonus track for her 2011 album Goodbye Lullaby.

Arthur Louis[edit]

Arthur Louis recorded a version of the song in a reggae cross-over style. Louis's arrangement was released as a single in July 1975,[17] a week before Eric Clapton released his own interpretation of Louis's arrangement,[8] of the same song.[6]

Larry Norman[edit]

Larry Norman released his cover on December 31, 2004 as the third track of his Sessions album. With the exception of the chorus line, the song has completely original lyrics. Per Norman's recording label (Solid Rock), "Larry made a CD called Sessions solely for folks who contribute to Compassion [International] through us. It isn’t for sale anywhere, and we make no profit from it. The CD includes previously unreleased sessions by Larry, Randy Stonehill, Tom Howard, Daniel Amos & other Solid Rock artists".[18]

Zé Ramalho[edit]

The Brazilian singer Zé Ramalho released a Portuguese version of Dylan's song called "Batendo na Porta do Céu" in his 1997 album Antologia Acústica (Acoustic Anthology).

Warren Zevon[edit]

In 2003, Warren Zevon released a version of the song on his album The Wind (2003), shortly before his death from cancer in September of that year. An all-star cast sang it as part of a tribute to Zevon on the 2004 Grammy Awards broadcast.


In August 2010, at U2's first performance in Russia,[19] Bono invited rocker Yuri Shevchuk to join him on the stage for a spontaneous duet.[20] During the performance Shevchuk performed a Russian version of the first part of the song.[21][22] U2 and Shevchuk were helping draw attention to the Khimki Forest issue,[19] over which many environmental activists and journalists have been arrested and reportedly injured.[23] The activists are trying to stop the construction of a roadway through a protected old-growth forest by allegedly corrupt politicians.[19]

Ray Dorset[edit]

Mungo Jerry founder Ray Dorset released a Caribbean version of the song.


"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by RAIGN was featured in season 2 finale of The 100 (TV series),as well as in the CW's TV series "Containment" in the episode entitled: "Like a Sheep Among Wolves."

The Sisters of Mercy[edit]

"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by The Sisters of Mercy was featured on an unofficial release album named Knockin' on Heaven's Door that was released in 1985. It was recorded in Stuttgart, Germany.[24]


"Knockin' On Heaven's Door" by Mudcrutch (Tom Petty - bass, vocals, Mike Campbell - lead guitar, vocals, Tom Leadon - guitar, vocals, Benmont Tench - keys, vocals, Randall Marsh - drums, vocals) was a part of their 2016 US tour setlist to promote their second album Mudcrutch 2.

Charitable version[edit]

Dunblane tribute[edit]

In 1996 and with the consent of Bob Dylan, Scottish musician Ted Christopher wrote a new verse for "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" in memory of the schoolchildren and teacher killed in the Dunblane school massacre. This has been, according to some sources, one of the few times Dylan has officially authorized anybody to add or change the lyrics to one of his songs.[25][26] This version of the song, including children from the village singing the chorus with guitarist and producer of Dylan's album Infidels (1983), Mark Knopfler, was released on December 9 in the UK and reached No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart.[27] The proceeds went to charities for children.[28] The song was featured on the compilation album Hits 97, where all royalties from the song were given to three separate charities.

Preceded by
"A Different Beat"
by Boyzone
UK Singles Chart number-one single
Dunblane version

21 December 1996
(one week)
Succeeded by
"2 Become 1"
by Spice Girls

Sampled version[edit]

Gabrielle's single "Rise" (2000) sampled from this song. In the same year the DJ "TNT" sampled the Arthur Louis version of this song.[citation needed]

Soundtrack inclusions[edit]

Film/TV show Year Performer
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid 1973 Bob Dylan
Renaldo & Clara 1978 Bob Dylan & Roger McGuinn
Lethal Weapon 2 1989 Randy Crawford, Eric Clapton & David Sanborn
Days of Thunder 1990 Guns N' Roses
Shake Rattle & Roll 2 (segment "Aswang") 1990 Guns N' Roses
Rush 1991 Bob Dylan
Total Balalaika Show 1994 Leningrad Cowboys and Alexandrov Ensemble
Lawn Dogs 1997 Bob Dylan
The Dybbuk of the Holy Apple Field 1997 Roger Waters
Knockin' on Heaven's Door 1997 Selig
Treasure Planet 2002 Bob Dylan
Windstruck 2004 Youme
Be Cool 2005 Bob Dylan
Las Vegas (episode 45, "Letters, Lawyers and Loose Women") 2005 Bob Dylan
Six Feet Under (episode 61, "All Alone") 2005 Bob Dylan
ER (episode 260, "Darfur") 2006 Scoob Serious
Salvador (Puig Antich) 2006 Bob Dylan
I'm Not There 2007 Antony & the Johnsons
Supernatural (episode 35, "Houses of the Holy") 2007 Bob Dylan
Cold Case (episode 84, "Blood on the Tracks") 2007 Bob Dylan
Big Love (episode 2-08, "Kingdom Come") 2007 Bob Dylan
My Name is Earl 2008 Bob Dylan
Come Dio Comanda 2008 Antony & the Johnsons
Heaven's Door 2009 Angela Aki
Supernatural (episode 98, "Dark Side of the Moon") 2010 Bob Dylan
Lifted 2011 Uriah Shelton
Blue Bloods (Season 4, Episode 7, "Drawing Dead") 2013 Rick Devin[29]
The 100 2015 RAIGN
Sense8 (episode 9, "Death Doesn't Let You Say Goodbye") 2015 Antony & the Johnsons
Containment, episode 5, "Like a Sheep Among Wolves" 2016 RAIGN


  1. ^ Heylin, Clinton (2009). Revolution in the Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1957-1973. Chicago Review Press. p. 434. 
  2. ^ Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014. 
  3. ^ "Fairport Convention: Knockin' on Heaven's Door". Mainly Norfolk: English Folk and Other Good Music. Retrieved 29 July 2015. 
  4. ^ "Gig: 8/4/1988, The Alarm, Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, CA". Retrieved January 10, 2014. 
  5. ^ Adrian Zupp. "Swingshift - Cold Chisel". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved 2015-02-03. 
  6. ^ a b Billboard, Top Single Picks Vol:87, No:33. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 1975-08-16. p. 78. 
  7. ^ Billboard, Top Single Picks Vol:87, No:33. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 1975-09-08. p. 70. 
  8. ^ a b Schumacher, Michael. Crossroads: The Life and Music of Eric Clapton. Hyperion Press. p. 373. 
  9. ^ "Eric Clapton discography". Retrieved 2010-05-10. 
  10. ^ " – Eric Clapton – {{{song}}}" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  11. ^ "Eric Clapton – Knockin' on Heaven's Door | Top 40". Dutch Top 40 (in Dutch). Stichting Nederlandse Top 40. Retrieved September 19, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Archive Chart: 1975-08-16" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  13. ^ "Grateful Dead Live at Rambler Room, Loyola College on 1978-11-17 : Free Streaming : Internet Archive". Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
  14. ^ "Gun N' Roses discography". Retrieved 2010-05-10. 
  15. ^ Garcia, Alex S. " - Guns 'n' Roses - "Knockin' on Heaven's door [live]"". Music Video DataBase. Retrieved November 2, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Heaven". Australian Music History. Retrieved 2016-10-08. 
  17. ^ Billboard, Top Single Picks Vol:87, No:32. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 1975-09-08. p. 70. 
  18. ^ "DONATIONS - The Solid Rock Shop". Solid Rock. Retrieved 2013-09-04. 
  19. ^ a b c "Russia halts forest highway construction as opposition grows - Los Angeles Times". 2010-08-26. Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
  20. ^ U2 concert in Moscow 25.8.2010 on YouTube
  21. ^ "Радио ЭХО Москвы :: FM-Достоевский, 29.08.2010 01:08 Последний выпуск: Артемий Троицкий". 2010-08-29. Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
  22. ^ "Break in Protocol for a Rock Star With Putin". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
  23. ^ Fred Weir (2012-04-30). "An engineering mom leads effort to save an old-growth Russian forest". Retrieved 2014-03-31. 
  24. ^ "Sisters Of Mercy* - Knocking On Heavens Door (Vinyl, LP) at Discogs". Retrieved 2016-09-07. 
  25. ^ "Dunblane Knockin' on Heaven's Door". Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  26. ^ "Dunblane against Guns". 1997-01-01. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  27. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 601. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  28. ^ "Knockin' On Heaven's Door CD". BBC. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  29. ^ "Blue Bloods Music - S4E7: "Drawing Dead"". TuneFind. Retrieved 2016-09-07.