This would have to be the song that's most influenced me. Normally I'm interested in melody and harmony and yet this song is not strong on either. There's certainly no harmony in it, but it's based on a simple folk song melody, so it's the kind of song which makes you want to harmonise as you listen to it. I first heard 'A Hard Rain' when I was about 13, and a complete Bob Dylan fanatic. It was hard to get my friends to like it. I was in a folk protest group called The Sun Doughnuts - we were going to be the Sundowners but someone was already called that - and we wrote and covered protest songs, and this was one I wanted us to do. But the rest of the band said no. The lyric is full of symbolism and it captures the intensity of the times. It sounds like a stream of consciousness, as if it just poured out of him. And it's political without being didactic: it doesn't hit you over the head, but as you listen you get more and more stirred up, until, by the end, you're feeling, change the world. There's so much in this song about America that is still true. I went to the Democratic convention and heard Clinton's speech, and it was about America divided, segregated. Things haven't changed that much. But I like the line about hope: 'I'm a'goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin' . ' I love that it's a call to action by the end.
'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall' is on Freewheelin' (CBS CD 32390)