"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" as written by and Bob Dylan....
Mama take this badge from me
I can't use it anymore
It's gettin' dark, too dark to see
Feels like I'm knockin' on Heaven's door

Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door
Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door
Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door
Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door

Mama put my guns in the ground
I can't shoot them anymore
That cold black cloud is comin' down
Feels like I'm knockin' on Heaven's door

Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door
Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door
Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door
Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door

You just better start sniffin' your own rank subjugation Jack
'Cause it's just you against your tattered libido, the bank and the mortician
Forever man
And it wouldn't be luck if you could get out of life alive

Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door
Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door
Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door
Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door

Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door
Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door
Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door
Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door

Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door
Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door
Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door
Knock knock knockin' on Heaven's door



Lyrics submitted by oofus, edited by Mellow_Harsher

"Knockin’ On Heaven's Door" as written by Bob Dylan

Lyrics © BOB DYLAN MUSIC OBO RAM'S HORN

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Knockin' on Heaven's Door song meanings
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  • +13
    General Commentgeez. no one pays attention to the real history of a song anymore. This movie is NOT an anti-war song, or anything like that. This was a song written FOR A MOVIE, thus, to tie in with the script.
    In the movie, entitled Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (i thinkthats the right title), the song is about Pat Garrett, and outlaw who is made into a sheriff and ordered to hunt down his old friend billy the kid. "Mama, take this badge off of me, I can't use it anymore." It's the sheriff's badge, he has no desire to be one when it becomes clear that he must help kill the lifestyle he truly loves. Those are the facts, but in a specific sense I take the knockin' on heaven's door to be about how close Garret is to being an outlaw again, his heaven. In the non-movie related sense of the song, I think it's about a man deciding to be killed rather than fight back, and he's going to die, but he thinks his decision puts him at heaven's door.
    dikoduckon December 05, 2004   Link
  • +3
    General Commentbob dylan is a genius.
    roger wilcoon May 12, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General Comment^^ he's not sick of life. He's guilty. From the war and all the killing - He's knockin' on heavens door and waiting to be let in.
    nameron August 11, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti love this song, it's really short but it's really good
    ali_caton February 03, 2002   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI believe that this song is about a dying and regretting soldier who is in pain. He is wearing his army badge that he doesn't need any more ... also all of his guns are useless which he used to rule people .. he is now going to see the heaven where his all powers will be abandoned , only his spent way of life will matter.
    ishtiaqahmedzon August 27, 2010   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationThis song just begs to be taken non-literally, and I have a hard time believing Dylan meant it as anything but. However, he did write it for the movie "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kidd", so maybe, just maybe...nope!.

    Dylan was masterful as a lyricist who could parallel basic mythological experiences of being a person (e.g. trapped in a helpless situation, such as an innocent person in prison--see "I Shall be Released.") and enshroud these experiences in a basic literal struggle.

    Mama, take this badge off of me
    I can't use it anymore.
    It's gettin' dark, too dark for me to see
    I feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door,

    (There is nothing more profoundly psychological/physiological than the life bond a mother has for her child and vice-versa. In times of war, it is common to hear men shout out the names of their mothers before they charge into battle, before they die. When things are their worst we tend to want to go back home. For the lawman, things are at their worst. His old ways (or identity structure) of moving through the world have long ceased to work for him. His persona and emotional shields, his "badge" is timeworn, archaic and useless. It is how one would feel after losing everything--the darkening accompanying complete world collapse--everything that once provided meaning, reference points and a will to live. And now "it's too dark to see"--the helplessness and despair is blinding his ability to see or feel hope. The lyrics are not "I am" but "I feel" I'm knockin on heaven's door. He feels he is dying. The two parallels of the song are on one hand literal, physical death, and on the other hand the psychological death of one's identity. Metaphorically, Heaven is a return to the pre-anxious ego-eden state, expansive, luminous, non-conceptual, peaceful).

    Mama, put my guns in the ground
    I can't shoot them anymore.
    That long black cloud is comin' down
    I feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door.

    (Guns are symbols of power, and the loss of them, powerlessness. An identity is a structure that is conditioned, relative to time, culture, family, religion, friends and so on. Threats to identity power include aging, loss, illness etc. Burying one's guns in this sense means the murderous killing of parts of self that are no longer functional. Examples might include beliefs such as "the world is a dangerous place," "everyone is out to get me," or "I suck at everything." And yet, the "I" that speaks to the discarded aspects of self is separate from them, indicating a deeper knowledge, wisdom and peace is at work. A person is much more than their small ego allows them to believe. The sun is life, black clouds are the absence of life. Here comes "the dark night of the soul" in other words).

    Mama wipe the blood from my face
    I'm sick and tired of the war
    Got a lone black feelin', and it's hard to trace
    Feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door

    (this stanza included in live versions gives us more clues. Identity death is a murderous process, involving blood and guts, primal fear and panic. It is the closest one can feel to actual physical death. The war, the fight, or the will to live is challenged during this time in a person's life. Again, Dylan describes blackness (clouds, trains etc) as a feeling, this time as an untraceable feeling. It is untraceable because it is a mythological experience that can only be expressed symbolically, in the metaphorical language of dreams, the unconscious and the art form known as song. Of course, like those two crazy hippies that accosted John Lennon about the deep meaning of his songs, Dylan's reply might be the same: "They're just songs, man!"
    solaris2013on October 19, 2013   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI picture an old Sheriff who is dying. He lived through all of the battles of his profession and came out on top. He is old, tired and dying from a natural cause. He is remembering his sins as a lawman - injustice committed in the line of duty, perhaps someone he shot when there was another way. He would have put these things out of his mind while he was working, made excuses to keep on going . Now at the end of his life he remembers these sins, he has regrets. He has no use for violence anymore and is seeking inner peace by putting away his old professional tools. He is seeking justice and forgiveness. "Mama" is a name for his wife.
    Dobieson August 07, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree with dunehermit. The lyric about it getting too dark to see is brilliant, and shows how a badge and a gun can blind a persons morals and sense of right and wrong.
    MrMojoRisin5552on May 03, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentto oaf- this is an original dylan song, not a jerry garcia cover.
    jjudgeon May 13, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think it's about life.
    he's sick of life.
    miseraon June 09, 2002   Link

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