Friday, July 13, 1973

Bob Dylan “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” released

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Bob Dylan

Writer(s): Bob Dylan (see lyrics here)

Released: July 13, 1973

First Charted: September 1, 1973

Peak: 12 US, 10 CB, 11 HR, 10 RR, 5 AC, 2 CL, 14 UK, 12 CN, 10 AU, 2 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.2 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 57.69 video, 226.89 streaming

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Eric Clapton

Released: August 1975

First Charted: August 16, 1975

Peak: 9 CL, 38 UK, 99 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 3.12 video, -- streaming

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Guns N’ Roses

Released: May 11, 1992

First Charted: July 21, 1990

Peak: 18 AR, 2 UK, 56 CN, 12 AU, 4 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 188.56 video, 408.12 streaming

Awards: (Dylan)

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Clapton):

About the Song:

Bob Dylan established himself as one of the best songwriters of all time with classic songs from the 1960s such as “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “All Along the Watchtower,” and “The Times They Are-A Changin’.” Even the greatest artists tend to have about a ten-year window in which they release their most significant works and Dylan wasn’t an exception. However, he proved in the 1970s he still had some classics in him with songs like “Forever Young,” “Hurricane,” “Tangled Up in Blue,” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”

The latter ranked right up there with some of Dylan’s earliest works, at least if one uses popuarlity of cover songs as a guide. Dylan introduced the song in 1973 on the soundtrack for the film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. The lyrics directly reference a scene in the film offering the perspective of a frontier lawman as he dies from gunshot wounds. Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin described the song as “an exercise in splendid simplicity.” WK

In January 1975, Eric Clapton played on a cross-over reggae version of the song by Arthur Louis. He then recorded his own version that August. His take on the song was released as a single two weeks after Louis’ version. Clapton’s recording didn’t hit the Billboard Hot 100, but has become a classic rock staple.

Guns N’ Roses brought new life to the song more than a decade later. They originally released a live cover of the song as a B-side to the 12” single of “Welcome to the Jungle” in 1987. It became a radio hit in 1990 when Guns N’ Roses recorded a studio version of the song for the Tom Cruise and Paul Newman race car movie Days of Thunder. It reached #18 on the album rock chart.

They put out another slightly modified version of the song again on their 1991 Use Your Illusion II album. It was released as a single in 1992 and climbed all the way to #2 on the UK charts. The classic first recorded by Bob Dylan was proving its staying power nearly two decades later.

Other aritsts who have covered the song include the Alarm, Antony & the Johnsons, Babyface, Bon Jovi, Cat Power, Cold Chisel, Randy Crawford, Fairport Convention, Bryan Ferry, Aretha Franklin, Jerry Garcia, Avril Lavigne, Roger McGuinn, Dolly Parton, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sisters of Mercy, Bruce Springsteen, Television, Roger Waters, Neil Young, and Warren Zevon.


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First posted 8/6/2022.

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