Tears of Rage

"Tears of Rage" is a song written by Bob Dylan (lyrics) and Richard Manuel (melody) and recorded by Dylan and The Band on The Basement Tapes and by The Band on Music from Big Pink.

"Tears of Rage"
Song by Bob Dylan & The Band
from the album The Basement Tapes
ReleasedJune 26, 1975
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan, Richard Manuel
Producer(s)Bob Dylan & The Band
"Tears of Rage"
Song by The Band
from the album Music from Big Pink
ReleasedJuly 1, 1968
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan, Richard Manuel
Producer(s)John Simon

Initial recordingsEdit

The song was first recorded in rehearsal sessions at The Band's upstate New York residence, Big Pink, in 1967, with Dylan on lead vocal and The Band backing him. These sessions were not officially released until the 1975 double-album The Basement Tapes, although they were widely bootlegged in the late 1960s and early '70s. "Tears of Rage" appeared at the end of Side Two of The Basement Tapes and all three takes of the song from 1967 were included on The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete in 2014. It is considered one of the most widely acclaimed tracks from The Basement Tapes.[by whom?]

The first official release of the song was as the first track on The Band's debut, 1968 album Music from Big Pink, without Dylan and featuring Manuel on lead vocal. According to Levon Helm, "Richard sang one of the best performances of his life."[1]


Andy Gill likens the song to King Lear's soliloquy on the blasted heath in Shakespeare's tragedy: "Wracked with bitterness and regret, its narrator reflects upon promises broken and truths ignored, on how greed has poisoned the well of best intentions, and how even daughters can deny their father's wishes." He suggests that Dylan is linking the anguish of Lear’s soliloquy to the divisions in American society apparent in 1967, as the Vietnam War escalated: "In its narrowest and most contemporaneous interpretation, the song could be the first to register the pain of betrayal felt by many of America’s Vietnam war veterans. … In a wider interpretation [it] harks back to what anti-war protesters and critics of American materialism in general felt was a more fundamental betrayal of the American Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights."[2]

A strong Biblical theme runs through the song, according to Sid Griffin, who also notes that "life is brief" is a recurrent message in the Old Testament books Psalms and Isaiah. As a father, Dylan realizes now that "no broken heart hurts more than the broken heart of a distraught parent." Griffin calls the four minutes of this song "as representative of community, ageless truths and the unbreakable bonds of family as anything in The Band's canon—or anyone else's canon."[3]

Greil Marcus suggests that the "famous beginning"—"We carried you/In our arms/On Independence Day"—evokes a naming ceremony not just for a child but also for a whole nation. He writes that "in Dylan's singing—an ache from deep in the chest, a voice thick with care in the first recording of the song—the song is from the start a sermon and an elegy, a Kaddish."[4]

Other recorded versionsEdit

"Tears of Rage"
Song by Ian & Sylvia
from the album Full Circle
ReleasedJuly 1, 1968
Songwriter(s)Bob Dylan, Richard Manuel
Producer(s)Elliot Mazer

The song has been recorded by a number of other artists, including Jimi Hendrix on the album West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology, Gene Clark, Jerry Garcia, Ian & Sylvia, Albert Lee, Marty Ehrlich, Karate, Barbara Dickson, Bob Margolin, Totta Näslund and Chantal Kreviazuk. Joan Baez recorded a purely a cappella version.

A 1970 performance of "Tears of Rage" by Great Speckled Bird can be seen in the special features of the DVD release of the film Festival Express. Manuel also performs in the film, with The Band, though not this song.


1967 recording on Bob Dylan & The Band's The Basement Tapes

1968 recording for The Band's Music from Big Pink

1968 recording for Ian & Sylvia's Full Circle[5]

1970 performance by Great Speckled Bird depicted in Festival Express DVD extra features[6]


  • Gill, Andy (1998). Classic Bob Dylan: My Back Pages. Carlton. ISBN 1-85868-599-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Griffin, Sid (2007). Million Dollar Bash: Bob Dylan, the Band, and the Basement Tapes. Jawbone. ISBN 1-906002-05-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Marcus, Greil (1975). The Basement Tapes (CD booklet). New York: Columbia Records.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Marcus, Greil (1997). Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes. Picador. ISBN 0-330-33624-X.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • https://www.allmusic.com/album/r6433
  • http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=17:4469750


  1. ^ Levon Helm & Stephen Davies. This Wheel's On Fire.
  2. ^ Gill 1998, pp. 117–118
  3. ^ Griffin 2007, pp. 208–210
  4. ^ Marcus 1997, p. 205
  5. ^ http://www.warr.org/ianandsylvia.html#FullCircle
  6. ^ http://www.thecoolgroove.com/gsb_festivalxpress.html

External linksEdit