Sunday, December 11, 2016

Royals and Dignitaries Warned 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall'

How fascinating to watch the recent Nobel Prize ceremony awarding Bob Dylan. Dylan's designation as recipient of the Nobel for Literature was instantly incongruous.

Singer Patti Smith performed Dylan's apocalyptic warning "A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall", in the middle of a fantastically plush concert hall for an audience that included a King, his royal family, members of parliament, international dignitaries, all wonderfully arrayed in luxurious tuxedos and designer gowns, as bejeweled and regal as imaginable.

Dylan's words and a spare Philharmonic(!) arrangement filled the room as Patti sang before the very type of audience that the song seeks to challenge. The song from 1962, like much of his work from that decade, seethes with rage at the institutions corrupted and the decency abridged in the modern world. And Hard Rain especially forecasts the dire consequences of allowing corruption to flourish.

And while Patti became overwhelmed briefly at one point, she soulfully delivers Dylan's words with great power.

Dylan's writing galvanized protests around the world, demanding humanity become the best it could be, his love songs throb with desire and longing, his words express hopes, dreams and sorrows felt by all. More than that. the elegant and vivid poetry of his words is imminently distinctive, unique and startling.

Dylan submitted a speech to be read (I truly appreciate the fact that only Dylan's words were heard at the event and that he was not seen), and he said:

"As a performer I’ve played for 50,000 people and I’ve played for 50 people and I can tell you that it is harder to play for 50 people. 50,000 people have a singular persona, not so with 50. Each person has an individual, separate identity, a world unto themselves. They can perceive things more clearly. Your honesty and how it relates to the depth of your talent is tried. The fact that the Nobel committee is so small is not lost on me."

Awarding the prize, the host said "Alfred Nobel wanted to reward those who have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind." The prize committee did just that this year. 

Take the time to visit Dylan's website to read his lyrics. It's a stunning collection.


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 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’

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

Copyright © 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music