Bob Dylan: 4 versions of “Let Me Die In My Footsteps”

I will not go down under the ground
‘Cause somebody tells me that death’s coming ’round
And I will not carry myself down to die,
When I go to my grave, my head will be high.
Let me die in my footsteps before I go down under the ground.

“Let Me Die In My Footsteps” is a song written by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in February 1962. The song was selected for the original sequence of Dylan’s 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, but was replaced by “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”. This version was recorded at Columbia studios on April 25, 1962, during the first Freewheelin’ session, and was subsequently released in March 1991 on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991.

I was going through some town and they were making this bomb shelter right outside of town, one of these sort of Coliseum-type things and there were construction workers and everything. I was there for about an hour, just looking at them build, and I just wrote the song in my head back then, but I carried it with me for two years until I finally wrote it down. As I watched them building, it struck me sort of funny that they would concentrate so much on digging a hole underground when there were so many other things they should do in life. If nothing else, they could look at the sky, and walk around and live a little bit, instead of doing this immoral thing.
–> Bob Dylan (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan original liner notes – 1963)

Studio A
Columbia Recording Studios
New York City, New York
25 April 1962

The 2nd Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan session, produced by John Hammond
Bob Dylan (guitar, vocal, harmonica)

There’s been rumors of war and wars that have been,
The meaning of the life has been lost in the wind,
And some people thinking that the end is close by,
‘Stead of learning to live, they are learning to die.
Let me die in my footsteps before I go down under the ground.

Finjan Club
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
2 July 1962

Bob Dylan (guitar, harmonica & vocal)

I don’t know if I’m smart, but I think I can see
When someone is pulling the wool over me,
And, if this war comes and death’s all around,
Let me die on this land ‘fore I die underground.
Let me die in my footsteps before I go down under the ground.

Witmark & Sons Demos
New York City, New York
December 1962

Bob Dylan (guitar, harmonica, vocal).

There’s always been people that have to cause fear,
They’ve been talking about a war now for a-many long years.
I have read all their statements and I’ve not said a word,
But, now, lord God, let my poor voice be heard.
Let me die in my footsteps before I go down under the ground.

Folkways Studio
New York City, New York
24 January 1963

Bob Dylan (guitar), Happy Traum (vocal & guitar)

Let me drink from the waters where the mountain streams flood,
Let the smell of wildflowers flow free through my blood,
Let me sleep in your meadows with the green, grassy leaves,
Let me walk down the highway with my brother in peace,
Let me die in my footsteps before I go down under the ground

One thought on “Bob Dylan: 4 versions of “Let Me Die In My Footsteps”

  1. Please state the missing verse that was omitted by ??? from Bootleg Series Volume 1-3
    That is from the original Freewheelin’ album & why was it omitted ?? Was it omitted / edited by the Dylan Camp ?
    If I had rubies and riches and crowns
    I’d buy the whole world and change things around
    I’d throw all the guns and the tanks in the sea
    For they are mistakes of a past history.
    Let me die in my footsteps
    Before I go down under the ground.

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