A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall Song by Bob Dylan Presentation by Jody Apel

Folk rock singer-songwriter, Bob Dylan, was born as Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24, 1941. In college he started to go by Bob Dylan while performing and the name stuck!

He's been influential in music and pop culture for almost 5 decades and is known for his soulful songs dealing with social unrest.

The song/ballad of his that will be explained today is called A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall. A poetic device in this song is that basically every line is a metaphor for something else. Almost nothing in this song has literal meaning. For example "I met a white man that walked a black dog." This line is really about racism. The black dog is an example of an African American being enslaved or treated badly.

"A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall comes from the traditional Anglo-Scottish ballad, "Lord Randall." His song is about a parent that is asking his son where he has been while "Lord Randall" was about a mother asking her son where he has been.

Although Bob had a very different take on the well known nursery rhyme.

It starts with "Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?"

"And where have you been, my darling young one?" Those are the lines that connect it to Lord Randall. It's a parent asking about a son. Every verse begins this way.

Each verse has the son describing the negative aspects of the world around him. The first verse talks about pollution, deforestation, and ways our earth is physically dying due to humans.

"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." Deforestation.

"I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans." More pollution. :-(

"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, it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall."

The second verse is about people and resources being wasted and pushed aside.

"Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son."

"And what did you see, my darling young one."

"I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it." Mistreated orphans.

"I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it." Highways that cost a lot of money and take up a lot of space that are never used.

"I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin'." Possible reference to hanging men.

"I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin'." Overworked and underpaid men.

"I saw a white ladder all covered with water."

"I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken." This could be people with broken dreams can no longer feel free to speak. It could be voter apathy? People complain about the government but don't care enough to speak their opinion and vote. This line also uses alliteration.

"I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children." This could be connected to war or just kids playing with weapons because they aren't being watched.

"And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard."

"It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall."

The third verse is about what I interpreted to be the apocalypse and things that he associated with it like people not appreciating art and people not caring about the suffering of others.

"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 that roared out a warnin'." Warning of revelation?

"Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world." Large tsunami?

"Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin'."

"Heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin'." Gossiping, rumoring, but nobody caring what that person actually has to say.

"Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin'." People being uncaring about the world's hunger problem.

"Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter." The world's unappreciative view of the arts.

"Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley."A clown always looks happy no matter what their feeling.This could be a metaphor for someone who constantly smiles, even though they're broken inside, finally breaking.

"And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard."

"It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall."

My interpretation of the fourth verse is that he's describing the hurt that he's seen people go through.

"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." This has been interpreted several ways. Just sad children in general, homeless children, etc.

"I met a white man who walked a black dog." Racism and slavery.

"I met a young woman whose body was burning." This has also been interpreted in several ways. Sexual assault, murder, sickness/cancer.

"I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow." There's always people who are stronger than they're battles and are still positive.

"I met one man who was wounded in love." I think these two are pretty self explanatory.

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."

The fifth verse is explaining how until this rapture happens, he's going to help people who help and try to be the best man he can be.

And what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?"

And what'll you do now, my darling young one?"

"I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin'." I think he's saying that he wants to get out of the world's cruel ways before this apocalypse happens.

"I'll walk to the depths of the deepest dark forest." He'll go to where people need help.

"Where the people are many and their hands are all empty." Where people are hungry and there's no food.

"Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters." Where there's no clean water due to pollution.

"Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison." Where homes are dirty and sad. They're like prisons because they can't seem to leave.

"And the executioner's face is always well hidden." I interpret this as him say that the government/ authority is usually behind it but you can't get to them.

"Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten." Where people aren't caring about the people that are dying there.

"Where black is the color, where none is the number." I honestly am not quite sure what this means, but it possibly could be that he's going to help black slaves.

"And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it." I'll tell the world what I think.

"And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it." Everyone should see it.

"Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin'." Then I'll keep helping people until I die.

"But I'll know my song well before I start singin'." I'll know what I'm talking about.

"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."

This song has been interpreted in many different ways.

Some people think that the person asking is the voice of God and that it's talking about the biblical rapture.

Other's think that the "hard rain" is an allusion to the Great Flood.

The cultural significance of this song is that lot of people think that it relates to nuclear war. It came out in 1962, around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. People were afraid that if a nuclear war occurred, that not many people would make it out alive. It was inferred that he wrote this song about an apocalypse because he thought they were about to be in one.

When he is asked about the meaning of the song he says very vague things like "It's just a hard rain. That is all."

Almost all of the interpretations have the same message of 'if we, as a people, don't stop and realize what we're doing to our fellow humans and our earth, then there will be repercussions.'

There are endless amounts of interpretations of this beautifully complex song. Thank you so much for listening to mine!! :-)

Thank you!!
Created By
Jody Apel
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