Though Bob Dylan moved away from his role as a ‘protest singer’ long ago — we saw Another Side by his fourth album — his name will forever be associated with social activism. The international human rights organization Amnesty International rose out of the same turbulent era as Dylan, forming in 1961, the year Dylan recorded his first album. Fitting, then, that in celebration of their 50th birthday, Amnesty would call on artists to contribute their Dylan covers to the massive four disc set Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International.
Back in September, we heard Scarlett Johansson’s contribution to the new Serge Gainsbourg tribute From Gainsbourg to Lulu. The full album is now out in Europe and you can stream some choice cuts below. Though Lulu himself takes about half the tracks, the guests he bring in range from the obvious (Rufus Wainwright) to the mildly startling (Shane MacGowan). Heck, there’s even a few more actors (Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis) for those who loved the ScarJo vibe.
They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Active in various music scenes since 1994, Neko Case has built herself an impressively deep resume. That’s based primarily on her position as super-pop group The New Pornographers’ co-lead singer, as well as her solo alt-country/folk career. Meanwhile, her non-musical projects command almost as much attention, whether it’s her considerable charity work for organizations like 826 National or her guest spots on Adult Swim shows like Aqua Teen Hunger Force or the truly bizarre Cheyenne Cinnamon and the Fantabulous Unicorn of Sugar Town Candy Fudge.
These days, even Transylvanians are sick of vampires, particularly those of the brooding, sexy variety. So we’re gonna throw it back to the days of Sabrina the Teenage Witch with a post on all things black cat and pointed hat.
Omnia – Wytches’ Brew (William Shakespeare)
“Double, double, toil and trouble.” The three witches who open Macbeth enjoy one of the most famous speeches in history, brewing their mischief both figuratively and literally. Putting those lyrics to music seems natural – they may well have had a tune in Shakespeare’s time. We can be sure it didn’t come from the “pagan folk” genre though. [Buy]
Lou Rawls – Season of the Witch (Donovan)
In all honesty, it’s a little silly to think that Donovan was once thought of as serious competition to Bob Dylan in the lyrics department. “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is”? Thankfully, this one holds up better than some of his others. [Buy]
Aimee Allen – Santeria (Sublime)
Santería merges the African Yoruba religion with Roman Catholicism and Native American traditions. In the 2000 Census it claimed 22,000 adherents in the United States. As Brad Nowell makes clear, the Sublime trio are not in that number. [Buy]
Devo – Witch Doctor (David Seville)
This song first hit the charts in 1958 as sung by “David Seville,” a pseudonym of its author Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., who two years later had another hit with it using his group Alvin and the Chipmunks. Devo turned the lyrics Jungle Book-esq for the primate-friendly cover from the Rugrats Movie soundtrack. [Buy]
Yat-Kha – Black Magic Woman (Fleetwood Mac)
If you think Tom Waits is the voice of Halloween, wait ‘til you hear Tuvan throat-singing. These Siberians can sing two notes at once (hear it on this one starting at 2:22). With their low-pitched growl, creating a heavy metal band must have seemed only natural. [Buy]
Marilyn Manson – I Put a Spell On You (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins)
The mad musician of Halloween, ol’ Mari “Giggles” Manson is the perfect shock-rockers to take on this creepy Hawkins classic. For similarly Halloween-themed Manson, check out his take on the Nightmare Before Christmas favorite “This Is Halloween.” [Buy]
Steeleye Span – Allison Gross (Trad.)
This traditional Scottish tune comes from the 305-song “Child Ballad” collection. It tells tells the tale of “the ugliest witch in the north country” trying to enslave the narrator. The Steeleye version grew out of a production they did of Robert Louis Stephenson’ Kidnapped. [Buy]
The Gresham Flyers – Magic (Bruce Springsteen)
The title track off of Springsteen’s 2007 hit album, this “Magic” comes not from the cauldron but from the government. Somehow, that’s even more spooky. [Buy]
Lost Sounds – You Must Be a Witch (The Lollipop Shoppe)
This one originally appeared on the Lenny Kaye-curated Nuggets compilation, later turning up in Lollipop Shoppe member Fred Cole’s new band Dead Moon. The Sounds updated this in the late ‘90s without losing that early punk feel. [Buy]
Juliana Hatfield – Witches’ Song (Marianne Faithfull)
Marianne Faithfull is quite the cover girl herself (for most recent evidence of this, see last year’s Easy Come, Easy Go), so it’s nice to see her own tunes getting some love. The original comes off Faithfull’s ’79 LP Broken English, which itself contains a phenomenal version of Shel Silverstein’s “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan.” [Buy]