What does Knockin' On Heaven's Door mean?

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Bob Dylan: Knockin' On Heaven's Door Meaning

Song Released: 1973


Knockin' On Heaven's Door Lyrics

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.

Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
Knock, knock,...

  1. 1TOP RATED

    MountaineerForLife
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    Sep 20th, 2007 9:16pm report


    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.

    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 long black cloud is comin' down
    I feel 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


    This is, in my opinion, one of the most well-written songs ever, and I think that's why it has been done so many times (Guns N Roses, U2, Eric Clapton, and Roger Waters, just to name a few).

    This song is very much a statement against war. It's written from the point of view of a soldier who is on his death bed. Right as he is about to die, he seems to regret his life as a soldier. Unlike the romanticized image of the soldier who clutches his gun to his heart as he dies in battle, this particular soldier seems to reject those symbols of military and war - his badge and his gun.

    I'm a literature student in WV and I didn't appreciate Bob Dylan nearly as much before I started studying poetry and literary criticism. He truly is the poet laureate of the 20th century.



  2. 2TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Nov 6th, 2008 11:40pm report


    The song is from the movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, where Garrett a sheriff was rumoured to be an old friend of the gangster Billy the Kid. Garrett had to make a tough decision to choose his duty over his friendship. The song may perhaps arose in his heart at the moment when he had to shoot down his buddy.

    "Mama take this batch off me"
    "I can't use it anymore".
    by this lines Pat Garrett means he does'nt wanna be sheriff anymore if it's means to kill your friend for the sake of duty.

    "It's getting dark too dark to see"
    Feel like I m knocking on heaven's door".
    here Garrett is trying to denote that the conception of the good and the bad is getting hazy and unclear....and due to dis he's unable to conclude on which side he is or what he's doing is the right thing or not?
    As a result it seems he's been denied salvation and an entry into heaven for all the sins he's committed...dat's why he feels like knocking on heaven's door and waiting to be permitted in.........

    "Mama put my guns in the ground"
    "I can't shoot them anymore"............
    Garrett is seen here asking his mama(mother) to put his gun,his weapon of destruction,harmlessly in the ground because he doesn't want to take anymore lives.

    "That long black cloud is coming down"
    "I feel like I m knocking on heaven's door"
    here the long black cloud may have been regarded by Garrett as the elements from the heaven which is keeping a record of all the sins he is doing and it's coming down to question him about his deeds. Still, he's standing outside heaven's door,knocking and begging to be let in.

    The song simply deals with the concept of blindfolded thinking and the conflict within oneself when the person's conscience rises to make him realize the true meaning of his deeds.



  3. 3TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Jun 16th, 2009 6:42am report


    A person who wears a badge to do their duty ( a sherrif possibly, soldier..not likely) has been injured and feels like they will die.
    They obviously killed in the name of good, because the person expects to go to heaven.
    The person knows the end is near and will not be able to continue to kill the "bad guys" any longer..
    This song is about a killer being humbled at the prospect of his own death. He has lived according to his upbringing and beliefs (mother and heaven)



  4.  

    m320753
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    Feb 25th, 2014 2:47pm report


    to the many unknown commentators here; Did Dylan write this song for the movie, or did he write it for himself and just showed it to Peckinpah who decided it would be perfect in the movie? Dylan was writing a lot of 3rd person songs at that time. was he talking about the pressure of being Bob Dylan, which are hidden in some of his songs and shouted out in others. Could " Bury my guns in the ground" refer to his Guitars? was he gettin ready to drop out of the music scene for a few more years, like he did in the 60s? How heavy is the coat that Bob Dylan must carry around every day? It's not easy being Bob Dylan!



  5.  

    anonymous
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    Feb 19th, 2014 2:28am report


    I think this applies to anyone who is in a position of authority and finds that they have to make decisions that are difficult and often result in pain to others. The lines are not always clear and the answers not readily apparent. The responsiblity becomes too heavy.



  6.  

    anonymous
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    Feb 2nd, 2014 2:12pm report


    There are a lot of plausible interpretations listed here, but the real one would have to come from Dylan, himself- after all he wrote these insightful lyrics-great, succinct lyrics - may I say.
    But, whether they are literal or metaphoric, it seems like the emotions of a man who may have regretted taking human life in the name of the law-or similar relationship-expressing remorse not only to himself- but to a higher power - he subscribes to...which is a common thread in a lot of what I've read here- and like the relationship of Garrett and Billy the Kid- once a friend- now having to kill him in the line of duty-hence, the remorse and a nagging conscience-that will haunt him,forever.j



  7.  

    m320753
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    Jan 13th, 2014 1:47am report


    This song is really part of a list of songs that Dylan has wrote about the mortality of the Human life. Most people when they are at death's door, have a subconscious " seeing their life pass before their eyes" and wonder am I going to Heaven or Hell? While this song is tied to a Great Movie, it just as well could have been released 5 years before or after the Movie and still have had the success it has garnered over the years.

    Almost as far back as the early 60s Bob has dealt with death and the afterlife in many of his songs including but not limited to Masters of War. When the ship comes in, and more recently It's not dark yet and Trying to get to Heaven.

    All his songs affect different people in many different ways. but his songs about the mortality of man affect every person on earth.

    That's why he's Bob Dylan and we're not, he has a unique talent for seeing and writing about what is in people's mind at one time or another . He has the gift of writing songs that everyone can say, That Reminds Me of When-------.



  8.  

    anonymous
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    Jan 8th, 2014 1:55pm report


    The "badge" as others have commented, may not be literal, but metaphoric...defining who and what we are...the "gun" as well.. seeing that long black cloud coming down....getting to dark to see...coming very close again to an overdose the gun is a needle dropping in the ground..it is a song about heroin... Knocking on Heavens door...It is what a addict does everytime the needle goes in and the plunger gets pushed....movie? don't think so....



  9.  

    alp
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    Mar 29th, 2013 3:38pm report


    Badge, stands for any Cause, it may as well be political, religious, moral, etc; Guns: the means to get one´s message to be heard,accepted or yet imposed upon. In my opinion, Dylan writes,he feels like,he is knocking on heaven´s door, because he is in a state of confusion, things are not what they seemed in the beginning. The world is not black or white. To be knocking on heavens door, is to be before a far great dilemma.



  10.  

    alp
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    Mar 29th, 2013 3:37pm report


    Badge, stands for any Cause, it may as well be political, religious, moral, etc; Guns: the means to get one´s message to be heard,accepted or yet imposed upon. In my opinion, Dylan writes,he feels like,he is knocking on heaven´s door, because he is in a state of confusion, things are not what they seemed in the beginning. The world is not black or white. To be knocking on heavens door, is to be before a far great dilemma.



  11.  

    alp
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    Mar 29th, 2013 3:33pm report


    Badge, stands for any Cause, it may as well be political, religious, moral, etc; Guns: the means to get one´s message to be heard,accepted or yet imposed upon. In my opinion, Dylan writes,he feels like,he is knocking on heaven´s door, because he is in a state of confusion, things are not what they seemed in the beginning. The world is not black or white. To be knocking on heavens door, is to be before a far great dilemma.



  12.  

    anonymous
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    Mar 19th, 2012 3:46pm report


    For cripes sake folks. Watch the dang movie. The scene is the man is dying. He is not regretting anything, he is not giving up anything. He is dying. This is one of those that is so freaking obvious there is no room for "interpretation". It is plain to see.



  13.  

    anonymous
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    Jan 23rd, 2012 1:16pm report


    I think everyone is thinking too much! If you are a gangster, a lawyer, a top businesman, a soldier, nurse, whatever, its about just saying i've moved on and want to be me!Take this badge of of me (i'm not anymore as fashion or perception dictates, i'm me), i want to be me!! Lose the marketing, pre-conceptions, i'm just me! I had a day, well evening when driving home to a stable life for the first time that,i just wanted to be me and lose my past and what reputation i had to live up to). Jesus, as Bob Dylan, he must've had more pressure than most! Its just a cry to be 'me'! Genius!



  14.  

    anonymous
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    Aug 15th, 2011 8:45pm report


    A song about dying, being a lawman and it just plain sucks to have wasted your life surrounded by so much death. Anything else is just plain specualtion and BS.



  15.  

    anonymous
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    May 26th, 2011 5:47am report


    It would be ridiculous for me to try to interpret Bob's mind, I change how I interpret my actions day by day. Having said that I think that Bob is one of the great artists of the 20 th century. I interpret it as Slim Pickens is bound by 'duty' to repay his debt to Pat Garret, he knows he is going to die and does. We all have a reason for living, if life is worthwhile. Slim has kept alive and it has been a worthwhile life because of his duty, whether to the law, Pat, or his wife. He doesn't want to die but life without satisfying his obligation is a meaningless life. Why? Because someone or something else has given him a reason for living, again is it his family, the law, Pat, his wife. We all have a greater purpose if we have a purposeful life. I read it as 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' as it represents the belief that I have in the debt that I have to God for giving his Son to show me the way. Sometime I will have to honor that debt. I hope I can be as strong as Slim was in the movie. When he put the guns in the ground, he looked satisfied.



  16.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 13th, 2011 4:46pm report


    Get a grip.
    Dylan wasnt preferred songwriter choice for the film.
    He wrote this overnight and it blew Peckinpah away.
    Interpret?It verges on the bleeding obvious.



  17.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 7th, 2010 12:33pm report


    This song is on the soundtrack for the Pat Garret and Billy the Kids movie. It is the start of a more realistic view of the west. It also takes another look at how the sheriffs are always classified as that good guy and outlaw as the bad guy and makes you rethink that perception.



  18.  

    wellnoted
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    Oct 20th, 2008 10:41pm report


    A good version would be a soldier son faltering on his goals about being a soldier..his hands tremble to kill someone now..and he feels every time he's at war he's knocking on heavens door. His will to live has taken over and he no longer wishes to play with death.

    A typical version would be a son who wants to leave his gangster ways and stop killing for fun or money..he begs his mother to help him leave his crude past behind..(but then the badge throws me..m nt sure if gunmen or assasins hv badges..:)



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