Great Artists Pay Tribute to Their Favorite Bob Dylan Songs

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"The Times They Are A-Changin'" (The Times They Are A-Changin', 1964)
By Bob Weir

Back in high school, there were two things that I marked my days by. Every few months I’d get a new Beatles record, and every few months I’d get a new Dylan record. "The Times They are A-Changin'" has always been one of my favorites. I wasn’t a politico back then, but he managed to articulate in undeniable poetic terms everything I was thinking and feeling at the time.

The song has an open-ended kind of spirituality to it, equally about faith and reason. He was telling the government to lose their self interests. He was telling journalists to use a lighter hand. And when he sang, "Come mothers and fathers throughout the land, and don’t criticize what you can’t understand," he was locked into an eternal truth there. His main message seemed to be, “Use your head, and follow your heart, and above all, be open.”

His records helped Jerry and I bond when we first started playing together. We were kids when we met; I was 16, Jerry was 21. We went and saw Dylan in 1965 at the Berkeley Community Center when he was pounding out with the guys in the Band. He did his first set solo and then the second set with the Band, to the considerable annoyance of some “purists” who booed. That seemed to me totally contrary to what he was saying in his early songs, about being open.

Jerry and Dylan later became great buddies. They understood what it was like to be idolized beyond any reasonable standard. They became tight right after John Lennon was shot, so they were pretty much the only two guys who knew what it was like to be held to that standard. We toured with Dylan in 1987, and being in an improvisational situation, we developed a musical bond that a lot of folks don’t get to have. Sometimes we missed the wave, but when we caught it, it was a beautiful thing that made life worth living. If we could do it all over again, I wish we had played "The Times They are A-Changin'."

The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Highway 61 Revisited

"It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry" (Highway 61 Revisited, 1965)
By Boz Scaggs

When Bob Dylan released Highway 61 Revisited in 1965, it was like a clarion call that a new generation had arrived that was ready to kick out the jams. It was a new morality, the old order was out, it was a blazing new world and it was gonna be weird and fast and very funny. "It Takes A Lot To Laugh..." has that wonderful imagery of the open, high and lonesome railroad, which came out of the beat generation. One of my favorite lines in all of Dylan is "can't buy a thrill" – it's a lament, in a way. And from a musical standpoint, it has a great dynamic." You can play it in a loping country style, and you can play it like a B.B. King style bluesy shuffle. Mike Bloomfield, who plays guitar on it, helped bring Dylan into the new electric rock & roll world. He had that frenetic, nervous sound and energy, and he knew just what to do with Bob Dylan.

Next: Roger McGuinn and Merle Haggard

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