Bob Dylan – Across The Borderline (Cooder/Hiatt/Dickinson) – Audio & Video

Dylan cooder hiatt dickinson


There’s a place where I’ve been told
Every street is paved with gold
And it’s just across the borderline
And when it’s time to take your turn
Here’s one lesson that you must learn
You could lose more than you’ll ever hope to find


Other versions

Written by Ry Cooder, John Hiatt & Jim Dickinson, this beautiful song was released on Ry Cooder’s 1987 album “Get Rhythm”.

ry cooder - get rhythm

1. Ry Cooder his album “Get Rhythm” (1978):

Bob Dylan played Ry Cooder & Freddy Fender’s version on show 44 (themed “Texas”) of his “Theme Time Radio Hour”.


2. Here is Freddy Fender:

A couple of more great versions before we move on to Dylan..

Willie Nelson - AcrossTheBorderline

3. Willie Nelson’s version from his 1993 album.. “Across the Borderline”:

jim dickinson a thousand footprints

4. Jim Dickinson live –  from the album “A thousand footprints in the sand” (1997 ):

Bruce Springsteen has covered this pearl many times… there is a couple of great videos on YouTube, BUT my Springsteen choice has to a “audio only YouTube”:

bruce springsteen jackson brown bonnie raitt

5. Bruce Springsteen (with Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt) – 17 November 1990 – Shrine Auditorium, LA:


Bob Dylan versions:

When you reach the broken promised land
And every dream slips through your hands
Then you’ll know that it’s too late to change your mind
‘Cause you’ve paid the price to come so far
Just to wind up where you are
And you’re still just across the borderline

Bob Dylan first tried it out 3 times in Studio A, Power Station – New York City, New York – 20 April 1983. This was the 9th recording session for “Infidels”. I’ve not managed to find any audio of these versions.

He has played it live 56 times. Most of these versions came during his 86-tour (46 versions).

There are many wonderful versions.. I’ve include a fair selection.

From Derek Barker’s great book “The Songs He didn’t write”:
This song was played regularly throughout Bob Dylan’s 1986 tour with Tom Petty and the
Heartbreakers. It then made sporadic appearances in Dylan’s live shows from 1988 until
1998 with an especially splendid performance occurring at the Guitar Legends festival in
Seville, Spain (October 17, 1991). Bob Dylan’s performance from Montreux (July 9, 1990)
can be found on the bootleg CD “Genuine ever Ending Tour Covers Collection 1988-
2000”. This is a gorgeous squeezebox driven rendition which benefits from a wonderful
Dylan vocal that is perfectly complemented by Ry Cooder’s accordion player, Flaco
This song, which is very reminiscent of Woody Guthrie’s ‘Deportee’ (including the use of
Spanish in the lyrics), tells the story of someone who has crossed the border, assumedly
from Mexico to the United States, only to find that the streets of the “promised land” are
not paved with gold.


86- tour versions

bob-dylan 1986 live

1. Farm Aid concert at Rich Stadium Buffalo, Buffalo New York on July 4, 1986:

2. Saratoga Springs, New York – 13 July 1986


3. Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York – 17 July 1986
..a high point in a great evening.
Anyway, you might think you know the music of bob dylan, but if you haven’t heard “Across the Borderline” from the 1986 tour (and this July 17 version is as good as it gets), you may be missing the heart of the man. For sure you’re missing a truly rewarding performance.
~Paul Williams (BD Performing Artist 1974-86)

For more 85/86-tour stuff.. try these links:

4. Montreux, SWITZ, 7/9/1990


5. Seville, Spain, October 17, 1991

“..covers of “Across The Border Line”.. transcend their original selves”
~Clinton Heylin (A Life in Stolen Moments)
Our song starts at 10:00 min

6. Ames, IO, November 2nd 1991


7. Rochester, New York – 3 November 1998

My favorite version


Up and down the Rio Grande
A thousand footprints in the sand
Reveal a secret no one can define
The river flows on like a breath
In between our life and death
Tell me who’s the next to cross the borderline

En la triste oscuridad (In the sad darkness)
Hoy tenemos que cruzar (today we have to cross)
Este río que nos llama más allá (this river which calls us further away)

But hope remains when pride is gone
And it keeps you moving on
Calling you across the borderline

When you reach the broken promised land
Every dream slips through your hands
And you’ll know it’s too late to change your mind
‘Cause you pay the price to come so far
Just to wind up where you are
And you’re still just across the borderline
Now you’re still just across the borderline
And you’re still just across the borderline

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16 thoughts on “Bob Dylan – Across The Borderline (Cooder/Hiatt/Dickinson) – Audio & Video”

  1. Seek out the live Little Village version. Sublime Cooder slide, fine Hiatt vocal, and a rhythm backing by Jim Keltner and Nick Lowe that is at once weary and full of life.

    1. Thanks for your comment Dave,

      A quick google did not get me closer to the LV live version… do you have a date/location for the concert(s) ?


      1. At least 2 of their shows in 1992 (or 93) were broadcast live. I have one from Chicago that a friend sent me back then. Another was online for a while. I’ll see if I can find more info.

  2. Is Ry Cooder playing guitar on the Springsteen/Browne/Raitt version as part of the No Nukes tour?

  3. Just a couple of corrections: “Across The Borderline” first appeared on the Ry Cooder soundtrack to the film “The Border”, with Freddy Fender providing the lead vocal. Also, “Get Rhythm” came out in 1987, rather than 1978 as stated. You’re quite right though that it’s a magnificent song.

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