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Album: The Freewheelin' Bob DylanReleased: 1963
This is a 7-minute anti nuclear war anthem. It was one of three social protest songs Dylan recorded on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
; the others are "Blowin' In The Wind
" and "Masters of War." Dylan said that the rain was not literal fallout rain, but "some sort of end that's just gotta happen."
This was based on an old folk ballad variously titled "Lord Randall" or "Lord Ronald," in which a mother repeatedly questions her son (beginning with "Where have you been?"), leading him to reveal he has been poisoned. The song ends when he falls dead to the ground.
Ten years after Dylan recorded his version, Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry recorded a dark, claustrophobic cover as first ever solo single. In the UK it climbed to #10 in the charts.
In the liner notes to The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
, Dylan said: "Hard Rain is a desperate kind of song. Every line in it, is actually the start of a whole 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."
Bob Dylan once introduced this song by saying hard rain meant something big was about to happen.
According to journalist Bob Spitz, Dylan wrote this song on the typewriter of Hugh Romney, better known as Wavy Gravy.
Patti Smith performed this song on December 10, 2016 as part of the ceremonies in Stockholm where Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Dylan didn't attend the ceremony, but wrote a speech that was read by the US ambassador to Sweden. Smith got tripped up a few minutes into her performance and had to stop the music (the song is not an easy one to get through), but the audience gave her warm applause when she apologized, and she continued on.