Hear Patti Smith sing “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” here at the 1 hour, 3 minute mark.
Dylan wrote the song in the summer of 1962, for his second album, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.” He has said it was inspired, structurally, by seventeenth-century balladry: a question is posed, and answers stack up, though none are particularly comforting. It’s the questioning, though—and, moreover, the accounting it inspires—that seems essential. Who hasn’t, in a moment of true desperation or fear, surveyed our world and found only ugliness? Dylan’s intelligence is often antagonistic—his instinct is to seethe—but here, he seems to be encouraging his listeners to shore each other up, to acknowledge the darkness and to bear it.