Sunday Music – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall – The Bob Dylan Series (Part 3)

Posted on Sun 04/18/2010 by


Today’s music video is ‘A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall’, and this version is from Leon Russell.

This video was posted to You Tube by ceeceerider

Although this song was released on Bob’s second album in 1963, ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’, it was written in mid 1962, and first performed in September of that year at a Carnegie Hall concert organised by Pete Seeger. For a song that has long stood the test of time, you have to realise that when he wrote the song, Bob was only just 21. It is a complex song done in the question and answer style. When asked later about the song Bob said:

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.

Bob has regularly included this song as part of his live concerts over the years, and the song is as relevant today as when he first wrote it.

Like a lot of Dylan songs, this one also has been recorded by a variety of artists and bands, and this song even has a version performed by Nana Mouskouri. These covers have come out over the years since Bob first wrote the song. The old adage applies here that “No one does Dylan like Dylan”, but this version I have selected for today is still one of the better ones after Bob’s original of the song.

I selected this song, a version done by Leon Russell, because this version did well in Australian charts. Leon recorded it as part of his 1971 album ‘Leon Russell And The Shelter People’. Previously Leon had a substantial career as a Session Musician, and was much in demand for that. Probably one of his biggest hits was ‘A Song For You’ which has been recorded by numerous artists over the years and is probably one of the most covered songs of all time. From that same album came the song ‘Delta Lady’ which was picked up and made into a huge hit by Joe Cocker.

Later, Joe had to hastily arrange a tour, and he got together a large group of almost 30 people for the tour, and he asked Leon to be the ‘band leader’. This tour was the legendary ‘Mad Dogs And Englishmen’ tour of 1969/70. The tour was huge when it was here in Australia, and images of the two wild men, Joe and Leon, especially Leon in the Top Hat on his stage appearances made the tour a sellout at every venue. Because of the reception for that tour, Leon Russell songs got regular airplay on radio after the tour finished. When the album with this song on it came out a year later, it sold well, and this song was lifted as the single, a rare thing for radio in that age when short songs were the requirement. The song charted well across Australia in 1971.

Leon’s next album was ‘Carney’, released in 1972 and it also sold very well. The single lifted from that album was Leon’s ‘Tight Rope’, his biggest hit in his own name to date both here in Australia, and elsewhere in the World. On the flip side of the Single was his song ‘This Masquerade’, which also received some airplay as well. This song was later to become a big hit for The Carpenters, and was also covered by many other artists. However, it became a monster hit all over again in 1976 when George Benson included the song on his signature album ‘Breezin’, and in fact, this Benson version won a Grammy Award for the most prestigious Record of the Year for his version of this Leon Russell song.

This clip below is Leon’s original version of ‘This Masquerade’.

This video was posted to You Tube by sunnychopper82

I want to show you something here by directing you to two other versions of this same Leon Russell composed song, and in doing so, refer it back to Bob Dylan.

This series is about Bob Dylan songs, and, as many and varied as are the songs he wrote, he performed them in his own style, so he knew the emphasis on the lyrics that he was placing. This series shows that those songs, and they were legion, could be picked up by other artists and bands who then played them in their own style. Some may ‘seem’ to be, for want of a better term, ‘cleaned up’ for a more widespread audience, the point here further emphasising the genius of Dylan, and the way that most of his songs can be translated. True, it is done with other artists recordings, but these Dylan songs cross the gamut of genres from hard rock to soft pop, from religious to out and out anarchy, from jazz to Country, and all areas in between.

It might seem unfair or as some may say, untrue, to compare Dylan’s originals to what are covers, but it does point to the fact that a Bob Dylan song can be made into a hit, no matter what the genre.

Now, to indicate this, take this Leon Russell song, ‘This Masquerade’.

This first link is to the version done by the Carpenters.

This second link is to the version done by George Benson.

The same song – and when compared with the Leon Russell version above – three different genres.

In the 60’s, those Dylan covers were the only things that the vast populace did have access to, and it was only the true Bob Dylan followers who would have heard the songs done by Dylan himself. He was really prolific with his songwriting in those early years, the 60’s, and it took years for the general public to ‘get into’ Dylan, as done by Dylan himself. That is why so many of his early songs were covered by other artists, and later, that tapered off.

This link takes you to Dylan’s original of ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’.

He has done the song numerous times over the years, as it is always popular at his live concerts, and this version I have selected purposely, as it is the closest to when he actually wrote it, so he would be singing it as he wrote it. As you listen to this song, think about the present. Where are the 21 year olds writing lyrics like these today?

The series will be going for a while yet, but next week is a special day on the Australian calendar, and I will be resting the series until the following week, when I will be starting with a song from his third album.