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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