LONDON - Bob Dylan’s key works have invited debate for decades – deciphering sources and meaning is a long-running critical game – but there is a consensus that ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ represents the first full blossom of Dylan as poet.
Bob Dylan poses for a portrait with his Gibson acoustic guitar in September 1961 in New York City, New York. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.
This typescript for the song, which was probably written above the legendary Gaslight Folk Club, is a highly important early working draft of the song that first revealed Dylan’s poetic ambitions as a songwriter. It is one of a number of Dylan-related items that will be offered in the Rock & Pop auction in London on 24 September.
It was the Greenwich Village folk scene that provided the environment that enabled Dylan to stretch his imagination in these new and startling ways, and this draft comes from the heart of that scene. The folksinger Tom Paxton recalls the origins of the ‘Hard Rain’: “There was a hide-out room above The Gaslight where we could hang out. Once Dylan was banging out this long poem on Wavy Gravy’s typewriter. He showed me the poem and I asked, ‘Is this a song?’ He said, ‘No, it’s a poem.’ I said, ‘All this work and you’re not going to add a melody?’”
Bob Dylan, ‘It’s A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,’ revised typescript probably August-September 1962. To be offered in the Rock & Pop auction in London on 29 September. Estimate £150,000–200,000.
Wavy Gravy has given numerous interviews recounting the song’s origins that tally with Paxton’s. In 1962 he was still known by his birth-name, Hugh Romney, and was helping to run The Gaslight as its poetry director, so this “hide-out” room was nominally his office. Given the provenance of this typescript it is undoubtedly connected to the Gaslight text seen by Paxton; it is probably a draft that Dylan discarded while working in Romney’s room.