A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall: Bob Dylan Sings My Decade-Long Anthem

freewheelin-bob-dylan-outtakescrop

And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
And I’ll know my song well before I start singin’

This line became my reluctant personal anthem when it first sank in, over ten years ago. I was always hesitant, cautious to a fault, and shy. So terribly shy.

I’m good at meeting people, saying the right things, being a kind and welcome presence for strangers and friends. But I was always terrible at letting my real self out, being emotionally open, and putting my hopes and fears on display. I’ve been terrible at sharing my personal art, my true expression, with anyone. Anyone. It’s so hard to let go.

As I’ve aged and traveled and loved and lost, and lost my parents, I’ve grown better at this. I feel like I’m finally ready to put my honest work out there in the world, taking a real risk. I’m ready to live a more direct and passionate life. Finally. I think my mom would be happy to know that.

Today is the third mother’s day since I lost mine, and its formal meaning has long since washed away from my life. While quietly thinking about her impact, at home alone, I felt the need to write about something with meaning to me. So here we are.

The line in the song still resonates. I feel like it always will. Hearing this tune, I’m immediately yanked back into this particular vision from my early twenties, terrified yet optimistic, drunk and full of hope, struggling to find my footing anywhere. It makes sense; Bob Dylan recorded this song at the age of 21. It’s humbling to realize how much passion and energy and love was pouring from the mind of a man so young. It’s even more humbling to know that, despite such incendiary genius, Dylan was struggling with how to confront a dark world and express himself most honestly.

Because the words are so important, I’ve included the full lyrics below, marking my couplet in bold.

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
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
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
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
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

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, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

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
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
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

Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
And I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
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

– – –

Note: the artwork pictured here is from a collection of cover photo outtakes, for Dylan’s groundbreaking The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. If you’d like, I can share the full size image, uncropped. Just leave a comment!

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