Bob Dylan Performing a Great “Hard Rain” in Holmdel, New Jersey – August 9, 2003

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?

PNC Bank Arts Center
Holmdel, New Jersey
9 August 2003

  • Bob Dylan (vocal & piano)
  • Freddie Koella (guitar)
  • Larry Campbell (guitar, mandolin, pedal steel guitar & electric slide guitar)
  • Tony Garnier (bass)
  • George Recile (drums & percussion)

I don´t know how many times I´ve heard this song, and in how many versions. There are fine versions from the early sixties, there are great versions from Rolling Thunder Revue, from the early eighties, there are lots of beautiful versions from the Never Ending Tour, and there is the fabulous & majestic version from ”The Great Music Experience” in Nara 1994, a version that´s hard to beat. Still it´s the version from Holmdel in 2003 I´m coming back to, again and again. Why is that? I guess it´s hard to describe it in words, but over all it´s in the dramaturgy of the performance, improvised and invented just this night, it´s in the fabulous psychodrama we are attending, where the singer, the song, the music, the rhythm, the timing, the phrasing and the words becomes one beautiful whole – it´s not perfection, but it´s life and life only. Dylan is painting a picture on a big black canvas in front of us, word by word, line by line, verse by verse, and he uses all the colors in his voice in just one song, like it was the last song he would and could sing, and that it really matters that we listen to him. Every verse has it´s own unique color and personality. I´m holding my breath and listens to each sound and vowel from his masters voice, each time overwhelmed by the everlasting truth and beauty of the performance, reminding me what I knew from the first time I heard him: Bob Dylan is a singer first, then a poet. Just listen to ”A Hard Rain´s A-Gonna Fall” from Holmdel in 2003.
-Johnny Borgan (”Where Have You Been, My Blue Eyed Son?” – The Singer And The Song. About the performing artist – Bob Dylan.)

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 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

-Egil

One thought on “Bob Dylan Performing a Great “Hard Rain” in Holmdel, New Jersey – August 9, 2003”

  1. Egil; Bobby’s ability to completely re-write his melody lines and squeeze new juice from the lyrics is amazing. Having been witness to many live performances in the Village days I loved how he would bend and stretch the boundaries. He was like a jazz singer on a constant mission of exploration. I know he was strongly influenced by Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Dave Van Ronk who were perfect models for a stylistic approach that fit well with the wild banshee sound of his voice. This particular performance shows that, however much we wanted to hear the familiarity of the original version, he could take the song structure into a new place to emphasize the lyrics with new vocal colors. My personal trips into casting an old troubadour’s versions of his music out in the public arena is fraught with a bit of anxiety . I do not wish to profane the music of the master. But I take heart from his longevity and his desire to step out on stage and present his audience with his love for singing. I’m grateful that in my eighties I still have enough chops left over to share the joy that I feel when I sing his songs. In the early years of the 1950s I lived in Tucson AZ close by the border town of Nogales and spent many a night wandering the back streets of Mexico. It left me with a palette of memories to gently color “Just like Tom Thumb’s Blues.”Here’s my latest.

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