"A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" is 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.
American folk musicians adopted "Lord Randall" at some point in history. The song evolved into "Jimmy Randall." In In the Pine
(Pikeville College Press, 1978), authors Leonard Roberts and Calvin Buell Agey report there being "about 100" known references to the song all over the United States.
Though no definitive line can be drawn, it seems likely that Dylan encountered an American variation of the song that he used as the basis for "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." By this time, Dylan was deeply immersed in the study of American folk music.
Dan - Riverside, IL