"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" is a song written and sung by Bob Dylan for the soundtrack of the 1973 film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. It reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

Story line and song structure[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The song describes the feelings and impressions of a deputy, who feels that he is dying and can no longer continue his role as a law enforcer. The song consists of four chords in the key of G major: G, D, Am7, and C. The basic pattern throughout the song is G-D-Am7-Am7 and then G-D-C-C, and this is repeated. Over the years, Dylan has changed the lyrics, as have others who have performed this song .

Cover versions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Larry Norman[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Larry Norman released his cover on December 31, 2004 as the third track of his Sessions album. With the exception of the chorus line, the song has completely original lyrics. Per Norman's recording label (Solid Rock), "Larry made a CD called Sessions solely for folks who contribute to Compassion [International] through us. It isn’t for sale anywhere, and we make no profit from it. The CD includes previously unreleased sessions by Larry, Randy Stonehill, Tom Howard, Daniel Amos & other Solid Rock artists".[1]

Vlado Kreslin[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Vlado Kreslin released his live version of Knockin' on heaven's door on his CD Pikapolonica in 1996. It was performed by Beltinška banda.

Arthur Louis[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Arthur Louis recorded a version of the song in a reggae crossover style. Louis's arrangement was released as a single in July 1975,[2] a week before Eric Clapton released his own interpretation of Louis's arrangement,[3] of the same song.[4]

Eric Clapton[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Eric Clapton recorded a reggae influenced version of the song produced by Albhy Galuten in August 1975[4] and released it as a single later that year,[5] almost two years after Dylan's original track was released, using Arthur Louis's arrangement. Clapton's single featured "Someone Like You" as the B-side, previously recorded with Louis.[3] Live recordings of this arrangement of the song appear on Clapton's album Crossroads 2: Live in the Seventies (1996), which features a performance recorded in London in April 1977. The song was also included on his album Time Pieces: The Best of Eric Clapton (1982)[6] and resurrected for the Journeyman and One More Car, One More Rider world tours in 1990 and 2003.

The Grateful Dead[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The song was performed by Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead, during a joint tour in July 1987. Between August 1987 and July 1994 the Grateful Dead often closed their shows with a performance of this song.[citation needed] On July 7, 1989, the Dead used the song as an encore at John F. Kennedy Stadium. It was not known at the time, but it was to be the swansong for the stadium, which was condemned 6 days later.

Guns N' Roses[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
Single by Guns N' Roses
from the album Use Your Illusion II
Released May 1992
Format CD single7"12"
Recorded 1990-1991
Genre Hard rockblues rockheavy metal
Label Geffen
Producer Mike Clink, Guns N' Roses
Guns N' Roses singles chronology
"Live and Let Die"


"Knockin' on Heaven's Door"


"November Rain"


In 1987Guns N' Roses started including the song in their live sets. A live version of the track was initially released on the Maxi-Single of "Welcome to the Jungle". They recorded a studio version in 1990 for Days of Thunder'soundtrack, which was later slightly modified for the 1991 album Use Your Illusion II (basically discarding the responses in the second verse). Released as the fourth single from the album, it reached #2 on the UK Singles Chart as well as #12 in Australia and #1 in Ireland. Their performance of the song at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concertin 1992 was used as the B-side for the single release and was also included on their Live Era: '87–'93 album, released in 1999.[7]

Additional personnel

The Alarm[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The Alarm regularly played the song at concerts. When The Alarm supported Dylan, they joined him on stage to perform the song.[citation needed]

Dunblane tribute[edit source | editbeta]Edit

In 1996 and with the consent of Bob Dylan, Scottish musician Ted Christopher wrote a new verse for "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" in memory of the schoolchildren and teacher killed in theDunblane massacre. This has been, according to some sources, one of the very few times Dylan has officially authorized anybody to add or change the lyrics to one of his songs.[8][9] This version of the song, including children from the village singing the chorus with guitarist and producer of Dylan's album Infidels (1983) Mark Knopfler, was released on December 9 in the UK and reached #1. The proceeds went to charities for children.[10]

The song was featured on the compilation album Hits 97, where all royalties from the song were given to three separate charities.

Warren Zevon[edit source | editbeta]Edit

In 2003, Warren Zevon released a version of the song on his album The Wind (2003), shortly before his death from cancer in September of that year.

Avril Lavigne[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Avril Lavigne performed the song on radio sponsored multi-artist appearances, which took place on January 23, 2003 and ended on June 4, 2003. A music video was made with her performance. Later on she included the song during herTry To Shut Me Up Tour.[11] She first released her cover version on the bonus CD of her My World video release in 2003, and afterwards as a Japanese bonus track for her 2011 album Goodbye Lullaby.

Wyclef Jean[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Wyclef Jean recorded a version of the song, which was used in the documentary: Ghosts of Cité Soleil (2004), by the director Asger Leth (1970).

Babyface[edit source | editbeta]Edit

In 2007, Babyface released his eleventh album Playlist which contained a cover of this song.

Antony and the Johnsons[edit source | editbeta]Edit

In 2007 Antony and the Johnsons released a rendition of this song that was included on the Bob Dylan cover album I'm Not There, which served as the soundtrack for the film of the same name.[12]

U2[edit source | editbeta]Edit

In August 2010, at U2's first performance in Russia,[13] Bono invited Yuri Shevchuk to join him on the stage for a spontaneous duet.[14] During the performance Shevchuk performed a Russian version of the first part of the song.[15][16] U2 and Shevchuk were helping draw attention to the Khimki Forest issue,[13] over which many environmental activists and journalists have been arrested, injured, and killed.[17] The activists are trying to stop the construction of a roadway through a protected old-growth forest by allegedly corrupt politicians.[13]

(Ms.) Randy Crawford[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Internationally known singer, Randy Crawford, recorded this song in 1989 and it also features musicians Eric Clapton and David Sanborn on it. She renders a soulful version of this song. She is best known for singing lead on The Jazz Crusaders mega hit song "Street Life" (released in 1979).

Other performances of this song[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Other artists to perform the song include Bon Jovi, Dylan alongside Paul SimonPhil CollinsBoy GeorgeMike PetersThe AnimalsCat PowerPat PacinoAretha FranklinLynyrd SkynyrdThe Sisters of MercyBryan FerryMeir ArielYuri ShevchukTelevisionMark KnopflerBruce SpringsteenHeavenThe Lost DogsMungo JerryLana Del ReyLucianoLes FradkinSeligBeau JocqueRandy CrawfordChaozzRoger McGuinnCold ChiselZé Ramalho,DMXSandy DennyAntony and the JohnsonsGWARNeil Young with Dylan, Roger WatersHerman BroodNazarethS Vremena Na VremeAngela AkiSunny Jim BandLadysmith Black MambazoDolly PartonThe Red Army Chorus and Ensemble with the Leningrad CowboysRuth Lorenzo (as seen on on The X Factor (UK)), BrideRedOne with Nabil KhayatSeether and Korean singer Youme .

Sampled version[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Gabrielle's single "Rise" (2000) sampled from this song. In the same year the DJ "TNT" sampled the Arthur Louis version of this song.[citation needed]

Soundtrack appearances[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Film/TV show Year Performer
Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid 1973 Bob Dylan
Renaldo & Clara 1978 Bob Dylan & Roger McGuinn
Lethal Weapon 2 1989 Randy CrawfordEric Clapton & David Sanborn
Days of Thunder 1990 Guns N' Roses
Shake Rattle & Roll 2 (segment "Aswang") 1990 Guns N' Roses
Rush 1991 Bob Dylan
Lawn Dogs 1997 Bob Dylan
The Dybbuk of the Holy Apple Field 1997 Roger Waters
Knockin'on Heaven's Door 1997 Selig
Treasure Planet 2002 Bob Dylan
Windstruck 2004 Youme
Be Cool 2005 Bob Dylan
Las Vegas (episode 45, "Letters, Lawyers and Loose Women") 2005 Bob Dylan
Six Feet Under (episode 60, "All Alone") 2005 Bob Dylan
ER (episode 260, "Darfur") 2006 Scoob Serious
Salvador (Puig Antich) 2006 Bob Dylan
I'm Not There 2007 Antony & the Johnsons
Supernatural (episode 35, "Houses of the Holy") 2007 Bob Dylan
Cold Case (episode 84, "Blood on the Tracks") 2007 Bob Dylan
Big Love (episode 2-08, "Kingdom Come") 2007 Bob Dylan
My Name is Earl 2008 Bob Dylan
Come Dio Comanda 2008 Antony & the Johnsons
Heaven's Door 2009 Angela Aki
Watchmen 2009 Bob Dylan
Supernatural (episode 98, "Dark Side of the Moon") 2010 Bob Dylan
Lifted 2011 Uriah Shelton

Other Covers[edit source | editbeta]Edit

There have been many artists who haven 't done a cover version in an album but performed the song live. The ones that are popular are Phil Collins,[18] Bruce Springsteen,[19]Jon Bon Jovi

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