Author: Luisa Perkins
•6:40 AM

Let me just get this out of the way: I don't love Bob Dylan's voice. I appreciate it on classic folk hits such as "Like a Rolling Stone," but his voice doesn't get me all goosebumpy the way Brian Stokes Mitchell's, Bryn Terfel's, and Alan Doyle's do. Dylan purists, feel free to sue me (be warned: I have a fabulous lawyer).

But as a pop songwriter? Bob Dylan is unparalleled in both quality and quantity of output. My respect for him approaches worship. It never fails to amaze me how great his songs are, how outstanding his genius is. I'll give you a couple of examples.

I absolutely adore the bluegrass band Nickel Creek. These kids are amazingly talented writers and performers, hopefully with a very long and successful career in front of them. But when their album Why Should the Fire Die? came out, what was the best song on it? Bob Dylan's "Tomorrow is a Long Time," by a country mile.

Solas? One of my favorite Celtic bands. They write great stuff, and they can jig and reel like nobody's business. But once again, when I first got their album The Edge of Silence, one of the two stand-out tracks was Dylan's "Dignity" (the other was Jesse Colin Young's "Darkness, Darkness").

Plenty of top-tier songwriters seem to agree with me. Joan Baez, June Carter, and Bono aren't exactly slouches when it comes to crafting a great piece of music, yet they've all chosen to record Dylan songs. Fabulous performers like Hugues Aufray, Robyn Hitchcock, Bryan Ferry, and The Hollies have recorded entire albums of Dylan covers. The breadth of Bob's appeal astonishes me: from Echo and the Bunnymen to Earl Scruggs, from The Dubliners to Waylon Jennings, they've all done some Dylan in their time.

There are SO many from which to choose, but after some soul-searching, here are my top ten favorite Dylan covers:

10. Olivia Newton-John: "If Not for You"
9. Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash: "It Ain't Me, Babe"
8. Bryan Ferry: "Positively 4th Street"
7. Buckwheat Zydeco: "On a Night Like This"
6. Felicia and the Hotheads: "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
5. The Byrds: "Mr. Tambourine Man"
4. Sting: "I Shall Be Released"
3. Solas: "Dignity"
2. Nickel Creek: "Tomorrow is a Long Time"
1. Jimi Hendrix: "All Along the Watchtower"

Here's a Youtube 'response video' with Nickel Creek singing my second favorite. The melody and words are so very lovely; the song is pure joy. See what you think.






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19 comments:

On 2/3/08 , dawn said...

That is truly lovely. I am finding more and more, I am leaning toward folk and Celtic type music.

 
On 3/3/08 , soccer mom in denial said...

Olivia Newtwon-John did a DYLAN cover? Well lady you taught me something today.

Thanks for playing along!!

 
On 3/3/08 , lilacspecs said...

Yes! I agree with you a million and ten percent! I have the exact same opinion that, while his voice leaves major things to be desired, when it comes to writing lyrics and music the man is almost a deity.
You also included three of my favorite Dylan covers in your list: Cash and Carter, Hendrix, and The Byrds.

 
On 3/3/08 , Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Dylan is my DH's fave. He even likes the voice, and I agree with you totally.

And Hendrix's cover of "All Along the Watchtower" is my all-time favorite.

 
On 3/3/08 , cablegirl said...

There are no two ways about it, Dylan is a genius. I don't love his voice either, but there are just certain songs that I can't imagine sung by anyone else. My personal favorite it Masters of War.

Of course if you know an awesome cover of that one I'd love to hear it.

 
On 3/3/08 , Luisa Perkins said...

Cablegirl, Ben Harper and Pearl Jam have both done "Masters of War" live.

In my opinion, Ben Harper can do no wrong, and while I don't love Pearl Jam, I think their version is pretty great.

I agree with you on the 'certain songs' thing, though.

 
On 3/3/08 , Anonymous said...

Your post reminded me of some Dylan news from last spring.
http://www.nypost.com/seven/05032007/gossip/pagesix/easily_scared_pagesix_.htm
K

 
On 3/3/08 , Jenna Consolo said...

How do you have time to be SO fluent in music??? I learn, I learn. Thank you.

And thanks for posting the video to this song. It is one of my faves too. Great work!

 
On 3/3/08 , cablegirl said...

OOoohh. Ben Harper did Masters of War? Seriously? How did I not know that? I love Ben Harper.

I love Pearl Jam too, but I just can't imagine Eddie Vedder singing Dylan.

 
On 3/3/08 , Mariposa said...

Love your list!

 
On 3/3/08 , Singing Bear said...

Let's get one thing straight...Dylan's voice is beautiful and now better than ever. OK...you're entitled to think he sounds like a demented wolfman but beauty is in the ear of the beholder! ;)

I like you post.

Peace.

 
On 3/3/08 , Mariposa said...

Btw, I know still owe you a story, and bec I felt terribly guilty about it...I'm still on it...and I hope to give it to you soon!

 
On 3/3/08 , jientje said...

That's a very sweet song, I enjoyed it very much!

 
On 3/3/08 , citizen jane said...

Great list -- the Hendrix, Byrds and ONJ cuts are personal faves. Oh -- and Brian Ferry too!

 
On 3/3/08 , Annette Lyon said...

oooh-I liked that. Hadn't heard Nickel Creek before. And I'm with Jenna. Freak, woman. Is there ANYTHING you're not completely versed in?

 
On 3/3/08 , Mary said...

I just heard "Tomorrow Is A Long Time" on the radio today! And I loved it! :D
It is one of my favorites that they do.

 
On 4/3/08 , anjmae said...

Yah, seriously, what can't you do? I feel privileged to be related to you...
But I love that song. The mandolin is magic!

 
On 4/3/08 , Kimberly said...

I had no idea how prolific a songwriter he's been. Incredible!

 
On 5/3/08 , rjlight said...

I can't remember the last time I heard "If not for you" -- my older brother had an Olivia-Newton John 8 track and I borrowed it growing up!