Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Knockin' on Heaven's Door

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B-side  "Turkey Chase"
Recorded  February 1973
Length  2:32
Released  July 13, 1973
Genre  Folk rock, gospel
Label  Columbia

"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. Released as a single, it reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Described by Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin as "an exercise in splendid simplicity," the song, measured simply in terms of the number of other artists who have covered it, is one of Dylan's most popular post-1960s compositions.


Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.

Storyline and song structure

The song describes the collapse of a deputy sheriff; dying from a bullet wound, he tells his wife "Mama, take this badge off of me; I can't use it anymore." 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.


  • Bob Dylan — guitars, vocals
  • Ted Michel — cello
  • Carl Fortina — harmonium
  • Bruce Langhorne — acoustic guitar
  • Roger McGuinn — guitar
  • Carol Hunter — 12 string guitar, backing vocals
  • Booker T. Jones — bass guitar
  • Terry Paul — bass guitar and backing vocals
  • Jim Keltner — drums
  • Priscilla Jones, Brenda Patterson, Donna Weiss — backing vocals
  • Eric Clapton version

    In January 1975 Eric Clapton played on Jamaican singer Arthur Louis' recording of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" arranged in a reggae style. Subsequently, Clapton recorded his own reggae-style version of the song which was released in August 1975, two weeks after Louis's version was released as a single in July 1975. Clapton's single peaked at No. 38 in the UK Singles Chart. The single was less successful in the US, only reaching No. 109 in Cash Box. Clapton's 1996 boxed set Crossroads 2: Live in the Seventies features a performance recorded in London in April 1977. The song was also performed during the Journeyman and One More Car, One More Rider world tours in 1990 and 2003. Additionally, the song has been included on several Clapton compilation albums, such as Time Pieces: The Best of Eric Clapton, Backtrackin', The Cream of Clapton and Complete Clapton.

    Guns N' Roses version

    In 1987, Guns N' Roses started including the song in their live sets. A live version of the song was released on the maxi-single of "Welcome to the Jungle" the same year. They recorded a studio version in 1990 for the soundtrack of the film Days of Thunder which reached No. 18 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart in 1990. This version 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 No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart as well as No. 12 in Australia and No. 1 in Ireland. Their performance of the song at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 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. The music video for this version of the song was directed by Andy Morahan.


  • W. Axl Rose – lead vocals
  • Slash – lead guitar
  • Izzy Stradlin – rhythm guitar
  • Duff McKagan – bass
  • Matt Sorum - drums
  • Additional Musicians
  • The Waters - backing vocals
  • Dunblane tribute

    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 the Dunblane school massacre. This has been, according to some sources, one of the few times Dylan has officially authorized anybody to add or change the lyrics to one of his songs. 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 No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart. The proceeds went to charities for children. The song was featured on the compilation album Hits 97, where all royalties from the song were given to three separate charities.

    Other cover versions

  • Two different live versions by Fairport Convention recorded in February 1974 at the Troubadour in Los Angeles were released. One on the Sandy Denny box set Who Knows Where the Time Goes in 1985, and the other on her anthology A Boxful of Treasures in 2004.
  • A live version by Cold Chisel appears on their 1981 live album Swingshift.
  • Danny & Dusty released a version of the song on their 1985 album The Lost Weekend.
  • Heaven released a version of the song on the group's 1985 album, Knockin' On Heaven's Door.
  • Randy Crawford released a version of this song on her album Rich and Poor in 1989, featuring Eric Clapton and David Sanborn.
  • Vlado Kreslin released his live version on his album Pikapolonica in 1996. It was performed by Beltinška banda.
  • The Brazilian singer Zé Ramalho released a Portuguese version of Dylan's song called "Batendo na Porta do Céu" in his 1997 album Antologia Acústica (Acoustic Anthology).
  • Warren Zevon released a version of the song on his 2003 album The Wind, shortly before his death from cancer in September of that year.
  • Avril Lavigne released a cover version on the bonus CD of her My World video release in 2003, as one of the B-Sides from her single "Nobody's Home" and afterwards as a Japanese bonus track for her 2011 album Goodbye Lullaby.
  • Larry Norman released his cover on his 2004 album Sessions. With the exception of the chorus line, the song has completely original lyrics.
  • Roger Waters released a cover version on his album Flickering Flame: The Solo Years Volume 1.
  • Wyclef Jean recorded a version of the song, which was used in the 2004 documentary Ghosts of Cité Soleil.
  • Babyface released a version on his 2007 album Playlist.
  • A version by Antony and the Johnsons was included on the Bob Dylan cover album I'm Not There, which served as the soundtrack for the film of the same name.
  • Mungo Jerry founder Ray Dorset released a Caribbean version of the song.
  • Dolly Parton performed a version with Ladysmith Black Mombazo.
  • Jerry Garcia Band often covered the song in their live sets, one recorded example being the live album Don't Let Go
  • Sampled version

    Gabrielle's single "Rise" (2000) sampled from this song.

    Nick Talevski used the title for his book, Knocking On Heaven's Door: Rock Obituaries. A version of this song was performed by Raign for the TV show "The 100"

    The title is used as a name of a Stand, "Heaven's Door", in the manga Diamond is Unbreakable.

    Covered by The Jenerators, the song was used during a tribute to the death of cast member Miguel Ferrer of NCIS: Los Angeles at the end of the Season 8 Episode 16 "New Tricks", broadcast on March 5, 2017. Ferrer was a member of The Jenerators.


    Knockin' on Heaven's Door Wikipedia