Today the Nobel Committee announced that it is awarding this year’s Prize in Literature to Minnesota native son Bob Dylan (“for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”). When we celebrated Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday on Power Line this past May, I observed that he is first and foremost an astounding songwriter. He somehow absorbed the folk, rock, country and blues traditions as a precocious young man growing up in Hibbing, Minnesota, and then recapitulated them in his own voice many times over while adding a twist of modernist poetry to the mix.
I posted a handful of notable cover versions of great songs that were not particularly well known, at least in these versions. I want to take the liberty of reposting them this morning in celebration of Bob’s recognition with the Nobel award today. 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.” They reunited briefly in 1990 and Bob Dylan came out to join them on this live version of the song while they added back a few of the verses they had previously left out.
Jimmie Lafave is a gifted interpreter. Here he performs Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet.”
“Not dark yet,” indeed. Congratulations, Bob.