Ten Favorites: Artists Cover Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI)

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On May 24th 1991, I was the program director of a station in Minneapolis. It was part of my lovely 12 month sabbatical in the Great White North. In honor of [lastfm]Bob Dylan[/lastfm]’s 50th birthday, I presided over a Bob-a-thon, 10 hours of Dylan. Dylan songs done by Bob and by others. We invited local musicians like [lastfm]Soul Asylum[/lastfm] to come by and play Dylan songs live on the air. I enjoyed the special programming more than my owner who thought I was insane. Hmmmmm.

Today, Mr. Dylan turns 70! He is arguably the greatest lyricist of the rock and roll generations and many of his songs received a better reception when they were done by other people. Here are my 10 favorite Dylan covers.

Jimi Hendrix- All Along the Watchtower

So many performers have recorded this one. Dave Mason, Michael Hedges, U2, Dave Matthews. Jimi’s version is so iconic that you will, someday, have a bitter argument with someone who believes that it is a Hendrix tune.

Simon and Garfunkel- The Times They Are a-Changin’

Not a particularly well-known version even though it appeared on Simon and Garfunkel’s debut. Legendary songwriters paying tribute to a legend.

Peter, Paul, and Mary- Blowin’ in the Wind

Dylan’s first hit, but not by him. Seminal folkies Peter, Paul, and Mary took this to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Byrds-Mr. Tambourine Man

Never underestimate the sonic majesty of a Rickenbacker 12-string with the Treble on 11. The Byrds’ first single goes to numero uno. Also, the name of their first album. The dawn of Roger McGuinn’s folk rock.

The Neville Brothers-Ballad of Hollis Brown

A relatively obscure Dylan song was done by the Neville Brothers on their Yellow Moon album. The Nevilles perfectly captured the brooding desperation

Manfred Mann-Mighty Quinn

The original Dylan title was “Quinn the Eskimo (Mighty Quinn).” This rollicking version was actually released long before a Dylan version was available to the public. Mann’s version seemed to be on the radio every hour in 1968 and maybe it was.

Johnny Winter- Highway 61 Revisited

A death-defying slide guitar solo turns this into a guitar hero workout.

Mavis Staples- Gotta Serve Somebody

Bob Dylan wanted to marry Mavis back in the 60’s and who wouldn’t? Mavis has never done a bad cover in her life and usually outdoes the original.

U2- Maggie’s Farm

U2’s live rendition appeared on “Live For Ireland” CD, but that version paled in comparison to a never released version. Amnesty International Tour at the U.I.C. Pavilion. U2 is the act before a Police reunion. Their “Maggie’s Farm” tore the roof off the place.

Warren Zevon- Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Especially poignant because Warren released “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” when he was.

What are your Dylan favorites?

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