Monday, April 28, 2008

Bob Dylan Covers Aren't A Four Letter Word

Last week I wrote that in my younger days I hated it when other artists recorded cover versions of Beatles' songs. Ironically, the opposite holds true with Bob Dylan. I learned to appreciate his music mostly through other artists covering his work.

While I've always liked Dylan I could never be counted among his most ardent fans and that is because of one very obvious reason: his voice. Regardless of how easy it is to write the man off as a vocalist there is no denying this giant's talent as a songwriter. His tremendous contributions to both rock and folk music are undeniable.

The following list of Dylan covers is not as diverse as the one I compiled for The Beatles and that is because artists like The Byrds, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and Austin's Jimmy Lafave (who Dave Marsh said is the best ever interpreter of Dylan songs) all have a special instinctive talent for performing his catalog. Those four appear here multiple times. One song, "All Along The Watchtower," is on the list twice. Here then are twenty-five impeccable cover versions of Bob Dylan's songs listed in alphabetical order by artist.

1. Simple Twist Of Fate - Joan Baez (Cate Blanchett wasn't the first woman to do a Dylan impression)
2. Love Is Just a Four Letter Word - Joan Baez
3. I Shall Be Released - The Band
4. From A Buick 6 - Gary US Bonds
5. Mr. Tambourine Man - The Byrds
6. You Ain't Goin' Nowhere - The Byrds
7. The Times they Are-a Changin' - Brandi Carlile (recorded for a live radio broadcast on WXPN, Philadelphia, from World Cafe Live on February 20, 2007)
8. All I Really Want To Do - Cher (Don't laugh)
9. Lay Lady Lay - The Everly Brothers
10. If Not For You - George Harrison
11. All Along The Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix
12. Not Dark Yet - Jimmy Lafave
13. Positively 4th Street - Jimmy Lafave
14. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight - Jimmy Lafave
15. She Belongs To Me -Rick Nelson
16. Blowin' In The Wind - Peter, Paul, and Mary (the most beautiful version ever put on vinyl)
17. Don't Think Twice - Peter, Paul, and Mary
18. Too Much Of Nothing - Peter, Paul, and Mary
19. You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go - Madeleine Peyroux
20. Man In The Long Black Coat - Joan Osborne
21. Let's Keep It Between Us - Bonnie Raitt
22. Just Like A Woman -Doug Sahm
23. Mama, You've Been On My Mind - Rod Stewart
24. It Ain't Me Babe - The Turtles
25. All Along The Watchtower - U2






Jimmy Lafave released the double CD, Trail, in 1999, with thirty-one songs, including a dozen Bob Dylan covers.

4 comments:

  1. Yep, I know exactly what you mean here. I am not a Dylan fan but I do like his songs. If we are in the 'don't laugh' category then I would add 'Mighty Quinn' (Manfred Mann) and 'Father of Day, Father of Night' (er...Manfred Mann!)

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  2. There are literally hundreds of great Dylan covers, many are definitive versions. "Mr. Tambourine Man" by the Byrds was one of the first singles I ever bought.

    Another early one that sticks in my mind is "Don't Think Twice" by the Wonder Who which was a hit single in the mid sixties, the Wonder Who actually being a pseudonym for the Four Seasons who do this song in a wicked falsetto. You can hear it now on youtube in an interesting post where the video is a picture of the 45 rpm single being played.

    Regarding Jimmy LaFave's Dylan covers, I totally agree. I've just posted some pictures from his recent SXSW set on my blog.

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  3. Both Billy Joel and Garth Brooks have covered Dylan's [i]To Make You Feel My Love[/i].

    I only have one Dylan album (Blood On the Tracks) but I absolutely love that album!

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  4. Not to mention all the fabulous Dead covers of his songs. Just in the last year I've seen Bob Weir play Queen Jane Approximately, Maggie's Farm and All Along the Watchtower. Also saw Phil Lesh do Tom Thumb's Blues a few months back.

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