Song of the Day #636: ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ – Bob Dylan

This weekend I’ll highlight two albums that Bob Dylan released in 1973, three years after New Morning. The first is the soundtrack album for the film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, in which Dylan appeared as an actor.

Both the film and soundtrack marked a difficult time for Dylan, creatively. His first foray into acting resulted in a sketchy role that was mostly left on the cutting room floor and the music has largely been forgotten over time.

With one exception.

‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ was a late addition to the soundtrack, penned quickly because the movie needed another song-song as opposed to the instrumental snippets that filled out the tracklist. And the spare tune, describing Billy facing his own mortality, went on to become a Dylan classic.

This is one of the few Dylan albums I’ve never heard all the way through, but I sure do love what he did with ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.’ The sound reminds me of the music he recorded with The Band that would later be released as The Basement Tapes. He’s in fine voice on the verses and the backing vocals really lift the chorus.

Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore.
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark for me to see
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can’t shoot them anymore.
That long black cloud is comin’ down
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Hear the song at this link

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #636: ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ – Bob Dylan

  1. Dana says:

    A classic indeed. And Dylan’s voice is fine form here.

  2. Amy says:

    When I clicked on the link, a commercial started. Before the words were spoken, I thought the music for the commercial was the song. Needless to say, I was quite confused.

    Once the song finally started, I was still surprised. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard the whole song, though I could certainly immediately hum the chorus when I read your post. This song is effective in how well it creates a mood. It’s not a song I’d likely want to listen to much on its own, but it probably more powerfully conveys what the character is all about than any acting Dylan ever could have done.

  3. alan manley says:

    the song originally accompanied the death of the slim pickens character, the sheriff, who would not betray billy.

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