What does Knockin' On Heaven's Door mean?

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Bob Dylan: Knockin' On Heaven's Door Meaning

Song Released: 1973


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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

    #1 top rated interpretation:
    anonymous
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    Jun 8th 2017 report

    This song is written from the perspective of a dying sheriff: "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." Dylan wrote it for the 1973 western film, Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid. It plays while Sheriff Colin Baker is dying from his gunshot wounds. Dylan cameos in the movie as the character, Alias.

    (Songfacts)

    What it meant to the writer.

  2. 2TOP RATED

    #2 top rated interpretation:
    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Nov 5th 2018 report

    Okay let's go with the obvious: This is the story of a law enforcement official perhaps in a small town who has rid the town of some very bad and vile vermin. But in the exchange of gunfire (not like in the movies, the hero always lives) the Sheriff, police officer or Deputy has been gravely wounded. He has been a good, decent and committed man to what is right all his life. And he believes that he has a right to knock of heavens door.

    His mother is there observing her son as he lay in his blood apparently dying. He is aware of her presence and he asks her (strangely) to take his badge off of him, and to put his guns in the ground because he has no more use for them - as he is feeling the effects of death overcoming his body and his soul is knocking on heavens door. All that he was an all that he will ever be in this life - he dispatches it to his mother who seems to be either the only one that he trusts, or she is the only witness to his dying declaration.

  3. 3TOP RATED

    #3 top rated interpretation:
    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Nov 6th 2008 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.

  4. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Nov 13th 2021 report

    Maybe mine is not the correct interpretation, but this is how I always thought of the song - the picture that it pained in my mind. I picture a man - the sheriff - sitting down a the kitchen table while his wife cooks him a breakfast. His last. She goes about scrambling some eggs and frying some bacon, her blue flowered dress and a white apron, her hair in a bun. As he picks up his coffee, he starts in.

    Mama, take this badge off me….

    He’s referring to his wife. The love of his life. The mother of his children.

    He’s in fine health, though he’s gotten on in age. Looks out the window of their prairie home as the sun brightens the dusty day.

    He’s not trying to alarm his wife, but rather just trying to be matter of fact. And deep down she knows before he says a word. Today will be his last day. He’s off to settle a score with a true villain of a man. While he’s dead set on ending this man’s life, he knows that doing so will take his as well. And a gun fight is not how the sheriff intends to take this villain out. It’s not enough. He’s going to throw caution to the wind, he’s going to throw away the rule book. He’s going to surprise the villain and he’s going to look him deep in the eyes as he puts a knife in his gut and twists. The man will almost assuredly be armed. He won’t die immediately. And as the sheriff watches him face to face, breathing in his dying breaths, he knows the man will shoot him, finishing the job.

    For some reason kept out of the story, the sheriff knows that he deserves to meet his end just as much as the villain. It has to be done this way. The last decent act as a sheriff and a flawed, but good man.

    His wife finishes making the breakfast and serves him. She’s cried enough already and she’ll have plenty of time to cry some more after he walks out of the door. She knows she cannot persuade to reconsider this plan. And as much as it pains her, she also somehow knows that this is the only way.

    She keeps it together for the man she’s loved her whole life. She stares lovingly at her husband and he knows that she loves him just as much as he’s always loved her. Before he gives himself to his final good deed, he shares a pure moment of love and content. And he lays it out on the line: take my badge, burry my guns, I’m knocking on heaven’s door.

  5. anonymous
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    May 1st 2021 report

    mother He reffered to, mother nature. everything, material, you possess,, in the end, mother nature stay with it. He doesnt reffer literrally to his mother.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  6. rollin335s
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    Jan 11th 2021 report

    I would have requested this song for my funeral if I was killed on duty. Fortunately I was not and found my love after 50 years of looking for her. This song is the epitome of someone who was trying to uphold the law and was killed. For all those, Rest In Peace, especially Saul Martinez.

  7. Copacetic62
    click a star to vote
    Mar 16th 2020 report

    The analysis above might all have merit, except for the guy that said Dylan didn't write for 'Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid', '73.

    It is well documented Dylan was on site while shooting his part of Alias when the Director/ Producer approached him, after hearing him working a song (they didn't know who he was), for a film theme song as the contracted score composer (Kris Kristofferson) hadn't produced a song they liked. (I wasn't there, but recollections of those who were are are documented).

    Dylan later auditioned this song to the three of them and the song became the theme while Dylan was credited for the movie score. A beautifully simple song of two verses and two extended refrains with I V II I V IV progression (Fitting cowboy chords).

    Dylan breaking his usual mystifying lyric is quite literal. Sam Pickens' character (Sheriff) is killed and Pat or Billy are likely to die. Since both Pickens and Coburn wear badges its hard to say which or both Dylan refers to; or if alluding to the future death of Pat (Coburn) or Billy (Kristofferson). If Dylan was just being a song n dance man ... he succeeded writing a lovely song with strong imagery. tmj

  8. anonymous
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    Mar 9th 2020 report

    I think Heaven's door applies to a broader range of interpretation. It may also apply to politics where an elected official is elected based on false promises and ultimately realizes all the damage he has done to his country, and is asking for resolution & forgiveness!

  9. anonymous
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    Feb 23rd 2020 report

    Folks, the song was released in 1973. It cannot be about a movie made decades afterward. HEllo?

  10. anonymous
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    Feb 1st 2020 report

    I’m not really sure. But I love this song. Listen I it over and over.

  11. anonymous
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    May 17th 2018 report

    He keeps saying he's knocking on heaven's door. He's worn out. Nothing matters that he once believed. He's looking for a new life. "Heaven, are you there? Are you real, heaven? I want a taste of heaven. I'm dying for heaven. Please let me know."

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  12. anonymous
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    Dec 15th 2017 report

    The sheriff archetype often represents order and meaning in the universe (Think Fargo). "Mama take this badge off of me, I can't use it anymore." Take this badge off of me, meaning that the subject no longer subscribes to a philosophy of existential order, but rather a more nihilistic rejection of order. That chaos rules the universe: "It's getting dark, too dark to see". Remember that this song was written in 1972-73. Richard Nixon was just elected a second term, Vietnam festered, corruption ran rampant. "Feels like I'm knocking on heaven's door". So simple, so poignant. This is why Dylan is considered a master poet.

  13. anonymous
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    Jun 7th 2017 report

    In an episode of Blue Bloods where Danny Reagan pressured an ex cop to get a "black book" from a gangster involved with the Russians.

    Danny and his partner Baiez, went to a building in downtown New York and found his old friend, the ex cop dead with his throat slit in one of the rooms with the "black book" stuck in his mouth.

    At the end of the episode, Danny went to his church and sat in a pew when the Father turned around and asked what Danny was doing in church on a Monday. The Father said to Danny, "is everything alright"? and Danny just sat there, sad looking while Warren Zevon's version of the song Knock knock knocking on Heaven's Door was playing.

    It was obvious to me that Danny Reagan was feeling very guilty over causing the death of his old friend by asking him to try and get that "Black Book" for him.

    It was one of the most moving scenes I'd ever seen in any TV show or movie. It made me reflect on my own life after more than 37 years in Law Enforcement.

  14. anonymous
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    Oct 17th 2016 report

    For me this song just captures the essence of being ready to quit. The pleading to his mum, the relinquishing of duty (the badge) or even the right to perform it (I can't use it anymore), and the relinquishing of the will to fight on (bury my guns in the ground). When I use the phrase 'I feel I'm knocking on heavens door' it exclusively means I'm spent and done with this shit.

  15. anonymous
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    Aug 29th 2016 report

    What is everybody missing here (passing over)? This is not about a movie! Idiots! OK,I'm a little harsh. The key here is the first word "Mama". Mother, Take your attitude and what you have saddled me with, and who who think I am, or who you want me to be - and take it off my back. Why?. Because it's getting too dark to see.
    .

  16. m320753
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    Feb 25th 2014 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!

  17. anonymous
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    Feb 19th 2014 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.

  18. anonymous
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    Feb 2nd 2014 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

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