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A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall

"A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" is a song written by Bob Dylan in the summer of 1962. It was first recorded in Columbia Records' Studio A on 6 December 1962 for his second album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. The lyric structure is based on the question and answer form of the traditional ballad "Lord Randall", Child Ballad No. 12.


On September 22, 1962, Dylan appeared for the first time at Carnegie Hall, part of an all-star hootenanny. His three-song set included the first public performance of "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" 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 theFreewheelin' album, Nat Hentoff would quote Dylan as saying that he wrote "A Hard Rain" in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis: "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." Author Ian MacDonald described "A Hard Rain" as one of the most idiosyncratic protest songs ever written.

In fact, Dylan had written the song more than a month before the crisis broke. However, the song has remained relevant through the years as it has a broader sweep; the dense imagery suggests injustice, suffering, pollution and warfare.

Some have suggested that the refrain of the song refers to nuclear fallout, however 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."


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