Why Don McLean Compared Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’ to The Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life’


  • “American Pie” singer Don McLean discussed hearing Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” live.
  • He compared the song to The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” and The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.”
  • “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” appeared on one of Dylan’s acclaimed albums.
"A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" singer Bob Dylan with a guitar
Bob Dylan | Bettmann / Contributor

Don McLean said Bob Dylan‘s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” was one of several classic rock songs that made him fall in love with music. In addition, he compared it to The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” He contrasted “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” with the work of modern songwriters.

Don McLean discussed the way Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’ impacted him when he heard it live

In a 2022 interview with The Red Bulletin, McLean discussed some of the songs that made him fall in love with music. He named Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine,” and Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.”

McLean elaborated on his relationship with “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” “I went to see Bob Dylan at a Hootenanny at Carnegie Hall in 1962,” he said. “It was the first time he’d ever been on stage in any magnitude.

“He starts playing his Gibson guitar and sings ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,'” he added. “It blew my mind. It was a whole new way of harnessing language to music.

“It got me thinking in a different way about music and the message I wanted to get across,” he added. “It wasn’t some simple folk song, it was something more apocalyptic and powerful.” McLean said “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” was an influence on his own work. Notably, “American Pie” is similar to a Dylan song in that it’s a folk-rock song that features many allusions to art and history.

Why Don McLean compared ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’ to ‘A Day in the Life’ and ‘Good Vibrations’

During a 2021 interview with The Times, McLean discussed modern songwriter. “I don’t think they have any brains,” he said. “The phone and the computer have prevented young people from concentrating, and you have to concentrate to write a song like ‘A Day in the Life’, ‘Good Vibrations,’ or ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.’

“I’m a philosopher,” he added. “I like to think things through. I’m not saying I’m anything special, but myself, The Beatles, and Dylan had long periods of silence and contemplation when nobody cared about us very much.”


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How Bob Dylan’s song and its parent album performed on the charts in the United States

“A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” was never a single, so it did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. The song appeared on the album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.

The album reached No. 22 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for 32 weeks. While it was not as successful on the charts as many of Dylan’s later albums, it’s often considered a key work in his discography.

“A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” is a classic track and it blew McLean away.