May 242021
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

best bob dylan covers

When we began our Best Covers Ever series a little over three years ago, Bob Dylan was about the first artist who came to mind. But we held off. We needed to work our way up to it. So we started with smaller artists to get our feet wet. You know, up-and-comers like The Rolling Stones and Nirvana, Beyoncé and Pink Floyd, Madonna and Queen.

We kid, obviously, but there’s a kernel of truth there. All those artists have been covered a million times, but in none of their stories do cover songs loom quote as large as they do in Bob Dylan’s. Every time one of his songs has topped the charts, it’s been via a cover. Most of his best-known songs, from “All Along the Watchtower” to “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” didn’t get that way because of his recordings. In some cases fans of the songs don’t even realize they are Bob Dylan songs. That’s been happening since Peter, Paul, and Mary sang “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and it’s still happening almost sixty years later – just look at the number of YouTube videos titled “Make You Feel My Love (cover of Adele)”.

So needless to say, there was a lot of competition for this list. We finally narrowed it down to 100 covers – our biggest list ever, but still only a drop in the bucket of rain. Many of the most famous Dylan covers are on here. Many of them aren’t. The only criteria for inclusion was, whether iconic or obscure, whether the cover reinvented, reimagined, and reinterpreted a Dylan song in a new voice.

With a list like this, and maybe especially with this list in particular, there’s an incentive to jump straight to number one. If you need to do that to assuage your curiosity, fine. But then come back to the start. Even the 100th best Dylan cover is superlative. Making it on this list at all marks a hell of a feat considering the competition. (In fact, Patreon supporters will get several hundred bonus covers, the honorable mentions it killed us to cut.)

In a 2006 interview with Jonathan Lethem, Dylan himself put it well: “My old songs, they’ve got something—I agree, they’ve got something! I think my songs have been covered—maybe not as much as ‘White Christmas’ or ‘Stardust,’ but there’s a list of over 5,000 recordings. That’s a lot of people covering your songs, they must have something. If I was me, I’d cover my songs too.”

The list begins on Page 2.

Jun 172016
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

BobDylanStreetLegal

When it was first released in 1978, Bob Dylan’s Street Legal got a bum rap. One culprit was the sound. Dylan always preferred recording with the whole band playing at once, and whereas with the right producer a wonderful spontaneity could emerge (think “Like a Rolling Stone”), here it just created a muddy mess. Reviews were scathing. Robert Christgau called it “horrendous” and Jon Pareles noted that “Dylan still needs a producer.” Even Rolling Stone – Dylan champions since way back – labeled it “dead air, or close to it.”

A remaster in the CD era has since redeemed it somewhat and helped push it its proper place in the Dylan pantheon. In the wake of albums like Empire Burlesque – really, all of the ’80s – the big band sound is no longer shocking, and not even bad. It’s no Blonde on Blonde, but a solid B-level effort with a number of gems. “Señor” and “Changing of the Guards” stand among his best songs of the ’70s (though they really fit in better with the late-’70s/early-’80s period than they do with the decade that led up to them). “New Pony” is a fun big-band blues jam, and “Where Are You Tonight” features a wonderfully emotive vocal. Continue reading »

Oct 022015
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

BobDylanEmpireBurlesqueCountry

Empire Burlesque is Bob Dylan’s best country album since New Morning. Or, well, it should have been. Instead, it is considered a nadir of his career.

All the previous Full Albums selections we’ve done for Bob have been undisputed classics: Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, John Wesley Harding. Empire Burlesque is the opposite. Bob reportedly asked his producer to make him sound like Prince for this 1985 album. Now, his voice is as far from Prince as you can get, so they surrounded his rasp with drum machines, synthesizers, and chirpy backing vocals. Needless to say, it sounds nothing like Prince, and not a lot like Dylan. I’ve always defended this album, but if you can’t stand Men At Work or Culture Club, this may not be the album for you. Continue reading »

Apr 012013
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

D. Boon was the energetic front man and guitarist for the highly influential Southern California punk band The Minutemen. If you watch videos of any of the Minutemen’s live shows, you’ll immediately notice the amount of energy that D. Boon exhibits as he bounces around the stage while belting out his politically infused lyrics. His funk- and blues-inspired guitar playing really opened up boundaries in an era of punk rock that was focused on two- and three-chord progressions. Unfortunately, he passed away at the too-young age of 27 in a tragic automobile accident, and the Minutemen called it quits immediately afterward. Continue reading »

Mar 222013
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

In 1975, Neil Young released Zuma, one of several albums he recorded in the ’70s which contained a single song that pretty much eclipsed the rest of the album. In Zuma’s case, it was “Cortez the Killer,” a three-chorder rumored to have been written to make it easier for Crazy Horse guitarist Frank Sampredo to play along on rhythm guitar. Young hadn’t played with Crazy Horse for several years, and during that time Sampredo had taken the place of founding guitarist Danny Whitten, who had died of a drug and alcohol overdose. Clocking in at over seven minutes, “Cortez” was originally even longer — it famously had to be faded out because tape ran out during the session. (Upon learning the song’s last verse didn’t get recorded, Young shrugged and said, “I never liked that verse anyway.”) Bands who have covered the song have been been tacking minutes onto it ever since. Continue reading »

Dec 212012
 

Adele dominated the cover song landscape in 2011, but Two-Aught-Twelve saw no similar galvanizing figure. Yes Lana Del Rey got covered a lot, but Leonard Cohen and Arcade Fire also seemed to garner an unexpected landslide of great covers (and speaking of landslides, so did Fleetwood Mac). “Call Me Maybe” was a huge hit that didn’t lead to much in the way of classic covers, and few seem to have even bothered attempting the Korean raps on “Gangnam Style.”

Which means that cover songs in 2012 were more diverse, ambitious, and left-field than ever before. A given YouTube search or Hype Machine browse would be as likely to turn up forgotten hits or underappreciated songwriters as it would the latest Top 40 smash. Find a sampling of all the diversity in Cover Me’s official Best Cover Songs of 2012 countdown. Start with #40-31 on the next page, and check back daily as we’ll be adding more til we hit #1.