On May 24th 1991, I was the program director of KTCZ in Minneapolis. It was part of my lovely 12 month sabbatical in the great white North. In honor of Bob Dylan’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 Soul Asylum 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, is Bob Dylan’s birthday! 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 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.