A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall

  • by
Featured Video Play Icon

At the time it seemed this song was written in response to the Cuban Missle Crisis, but in reality, the song was written about a month before with lyrics Dylan took from initial lines of songs that “he thought he would never have time to write.”

It’s a seemingly complex song was written in D using the open D, A, and G chords, but Dylan uses a capo on the 1st fret which transposes the song to D# (probably to play the song in a key more appropriate for his vocal range). Much of the complexity comes by way of lyric structure.

Strumming Pattern

Verse 1

Each verse begins with 2 lines that ask questions. Each of these question verses uses the same chord progression: D, G, D on the first line and D, A for the second line. For example, verse one begins like this:

    D                       G         D
Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
    D                                     A
And where have you been, my darling young one?

Following these questions comes the reply in multiple lines. In verse 1 there are 7 lines giving the reply. Each of these reply lines uses a chord progression of G, A, and D.  They begin with the G chord and briefly changes to the A chord on a quantitative lyric. Find the words twelve, six, seven, dozen and you’ll find your A chord. The last line breaks the pattern and we change to A on the word “mouth”, but we still have a number in the line with “ten thousand miles”.  Lastly, we’ll reach the D chord on the very last word of each line which all happen to be types of places: mountains, highways, forests, oceans, graveyard.

Here are the reply lines that come in verse 1:

   G                         A            D
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains,
     G                          A           D
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways,
     G                        A         D
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests,
     G                      A          D
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans,
          G                         A          D
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard,

Every verse ends the same with the same refrain:

       D                A            D                G
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard,
           D    A              D
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

In the first line, we sing the phrase “it’s a hard” over each chord: D, A, D, and G. For the last line we change back to D on “hard” and to A on the very next word “rain’s”. The refrain ends with D on the word “fall”.

Here’s the complete verse 1:

    D                       G         D
Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
    D                                     A
And where have you been, my darling young one?
     G                       A            D
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains,
     G                          A           D
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways,
     G                        A         D
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests,
     G                      A          D
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans,
          G                         A          D
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard,
           D                A            D                G
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard,
           D    A              D
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Verse 2

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

Verse 3

Verse 3 uses the exact same chord progression as the verses before it.

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,
           D                A            D                G
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard,
           D    A              D
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Verse 4

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,
           D                A            D                G
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard,
           D    A              D
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Verse 5

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 it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin',
But I'll know my song well before I start singin',
           D                A            D                G
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard,
           D    A              D
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.