Bob Dylan is first and foremost a songwriter. He somehow absorbed the folk, rock, country and blues traditions as a precocious young man and then recapitulated them in his own voice many times over while adding a twist of modernist poetry to the mix. On his birthday, I want to take the liberty of reposting some notable cover versions of great songs you may not have heard before, at least in these versions. We can only scratch the surface here, but these covers have all struck a deep chord with me over the years. Without further ado, we gratefully present…
From the first album of all-Dylan covers, Odetta’s version of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.”
Joan Baez looms large in Dylan’s career, and you have to go to Baez for this one, from another album of all-Dylan covers: “Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word.”
Richie Havens made me hear the beauty in this one: “Just Like a Woman.”
Dylan can be funny and touching at the same time. Shawn Colvin brings out both the humor and the pathos in “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.”
Tim O’Brien also came out with a set of all-Dylan covers a few years ago. I love “Farewell, Angelina.”
The Byrds placed Dylan in the top 10 for the first time in 1965 with “Mr. Tambourine Man.” The great Roger McGuinn, David Crosby and Chris Hillman reunited briefly in 1990. Bob Dylan came out to join them on this live version of the song that added back a few of the verses they had previously left out.
Jimmy Lafave died on May 17, 2017, at the age of 61. He was a wonderful interpreter. Here he performs Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet.”
Bob, thanks and happy birthday.