Great Artists Pay Tribute to Their Favorite Bob Dylan Songs

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"Idiot Wind" (Blood on the Tracks, 1975)
By Sinéad O'Connor

"Idiot Wind" was the song that made me want to be a singer. I loved that he was saying these terrible things that you couldn't possibly say to anyone in real life: "Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth/You're an idiot, babe, it's a wonder that you still know how to breathe." I mean, Jesus. I'd love to fucking say that to someone. I learned from that that music is a place where you can say anything, all the stuff that's forbidden, whether it's "I love you" or "I hate you."

I like the way the song starts, too: "Someone's got it in for me, they're planting stories in the press." He's talking to a woman, whether it's a relative or a friend, who has bought into the idea of him as a famous person and forgotten that he's just an ordinary person. "Even you, you, yesterday, you had to ask me where it was at/I couldn't believe after all these years, you didn't know me better than that, sweet lady." Whoever it is has obviously let him down quite badly.

The way he delivers the words is fantastic. This voice just snarling, not bothering to hide anything. The rest of us are all busy trying to be nice people, when actually we're fucking bastards underneath it all – whereas he was quite comfortable letting the bastard hang out. He was way ahead of his time on that. The only people getting close to him now are rappers.

The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time: Bob Dylan

"Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" (Blonde on Blonde, 1966)
By Dave Stewart

I remember some friends and I got Blonde on Blonde and went back to my little place in London with some Thai grass. We opened the vinyl and looked at the cover and all the pictures – it was like entering an amazing world. Then we put it on and we were lying on our backs listening. And when we first heard "Sad-Eyed Lady," we didn't realize how long it was. At one point I said, "Is it me, or has this song been playing for 15 minutes?" But you were just drawn into it with all those surrealistic lyrics: "The kings of Tyrus with their convict list/Are waiting in line for their geranium kiss." It was like listening to a Dalí painting come to life. That song was a turning point for me, like, "Hang on, I knew he showed us you could write about anything, but now we've gone right down the worm hole!" It was stream-of-consciousness poetry set to music, and it all fit.

Next: Bob Weir and Boz Scaggs

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

More Song Stories entries »