Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Words and music Bob Dylan
Released on Pat Garret & Billy The Kid (1973) and on Biograph (1985), and in live versions on Before the Flood (1974), At Budokan (1978), Dylan and the Dead (1988), MTV Unplugged (1995), and Live 1975 (2002)
Tabbed and transcribed by Eyolf Østrem


The challenge with this song is not the chords, which are quite simple, actually, but the lyrics, which change quite a lot, almost from show to show, with improvised new lines about what brings him to the door, knockin'.

The Am7 is played as a simple Am in most versions.

Unplugged version same as below, but with a capo on the 2nd fret (on Jackson's guitar; Dylan fumbles around with an occasional lick on an uncapoed guitar).

In many live versions, the last line of the refrain is “Just like so many times before” (thanks to Wayne Hampton for reminding me).


|:G . D . Am7 . . . |G . D . C . . . :|
G               D            Am7
Mama, take this badge off of me
G        D         C
 I can't use it anymore.
G             D                 Am7
 It's gettin' dark, too dark to see
G                D                    C
 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

Live version, 2001

The most stable chord sequence in the world (maybe with the exception of "All Along the Watchtower") has been changed!

| E . B . | F#m . . . | E . B . | A . . . |
E               B            F#m
Mama, take this badge off of me
E        B         A
 I can't use it anymore.
A             E(/g#)            B
 It's gettin' dark, too dark to see
C#m              B                    A
 I feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door.
 

Live 1975 version

The chords are the same as above.

Mama wipe the blood off of my face
I can't see through it anymore
I need someone to talk to, and a new hiding place
I feel like I'm looking at heaven's door

[Roger McGuinn:]
Mama I can hear that thunder roar
Echoin' down from God's distant shore
I can hear 'em callin' for my soul
Feel I'm knockin' on heaven's door

Alternative outtake verses from the Burbank sessions, Feb 1973

Take #1:

Mama, put my guns in the ground
I don't need them anymore.
long black train is comin' round
I feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door.

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

Mama, put my guns in the ground
I can't shoot them anymore.
that long black train is comin' round
I'm knockin' up on heaven's door

Take #2:

"Ok, let's do it without the vocal. It's the last time I work for anybody though, on a movie. With music."


Various live lyric changes

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
    (1974, various locations, incl. the version on Before the Flood.
    This verse is inserted between the two verses on the original album)

Mama take these bells out of my ears
I can't hear them anymore
They're bringin' me down and givin' me tears
Feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door

Roger McGuinn's verse:
Mama I can hear that thunder roar
Echoin' down from God's distant shore
I can hear it callin' for my soul
Feel I'm knockin' on heaven's door
    (Waterbury CT, 751111)

Mama wipe the blood off of my face
I can't see through it anymore
I need someone to talk to, and a new hiding place
I feel like I'm knocking on heaven's door
    (Boston, 751121)

Mama take these tears out of my eyes
I can't see through them anymore
Just for once, I'd like to see the sunrise
Feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door
    (MSG, "Night of the Hurricane", 751208)

Mama take this badge off of me
I can't feel it anymore
It's getting dark, too dark to see
Feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door
    (New Orleans, 760503, Fort Worth 760516)

Mama tow my barge down to sea
Pull it down from shore to shore
Two brown eyes are lookin' at me
Feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door.

Goin' down by that road
Feelin' down and more and more
Take the train by [...]
Feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door.
    (Earl's Court, London 810628)

[...] on this scene
fallin' down like to the floor
Two brown eyes are looking at me
Feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door
    (Earl's Court, London 810629)

Mama take me above all that misery
Let it fall down to the floor
Two brown eyes are looking at me
Feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door
    (Drammen, Norway, 810710)

Mama take this [front part away]
I just don't want it anymore
Aah, when I get in front of something it's too much to pay
Yeah, Feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door

Mama take my boat [out of the sea]
Let it fall down to the floor
Two brown eyes are looking at me
Feel like I'm knockin' on heaven's door.
    (Avignon, 810725)

Mama wipe the blod from my face
I just can't see trough it any more
Sometimes you feel so damn out of place
And I feel like I'm knockin' on-a heavens door
    (Bristol Connecticut, Lake Compounce 4 Sep, 1988. Submitted by Patrik Winquist)

The sun is setting down
On this ill-forgotten town
Two riders are coming down
Bury my heart in this ground
    (Unknown date and location, submitted by Chris Barrett)