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The Greatest Bob Dylan Covers

10 artists with definitive takes on classic Dylan tracks

May 10, 2011 9:10 PM ET
 Jimi Hendrix, London, 1968.
Jimi Hendrix, London, 1968.
David Montgomery/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Happy Birthday BobJimi Hendrix, "All Along the Watchtower" (Electric Ladyland, 1968)
Hendrix echoes the apocalypse of Dylan's final verse with guitar riffs like gale-force winds. "It overwhelmed me," Dylan said.

The Byrds, "Mr. Tambourine Man" (Mr. Tambourine Man, 1965)
The first Dylan song to hit Number One on the pop charts, in June 1965 — their incandescent jangle made Dylan's word rush feel like a psychedelic experience.

Stevie Wonder, "Blowin' In The Wind" (Uptight (Everything's Alright), 1966)
On his 1966 version, Wonder brought out the gospel in a folk song that was itself based on an anti-slavery spiritual.

Them, "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" (Them Again, 1966)
Sung by a 20-year-old Van Morrison, Them's 1966 version turns the original's cerebral kiss-off into a boozy howl.

Jim James and Calexico, "Goin' To Acapulco" (I'm Not There soundtrack, 2007)
The My Morning Jacket frontman's high tenor takes this Basement Tapes gem to a distant place even Dylan and the Band couldn't reach.

Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders, "Positively 4th Street" (Garcia Plays Dylan, 2005)
Dylan's ultimate fuck-you gets sung with gentle California equanimity on this 1973 recording. Garcia shoots his solos straight at the heart, killing with kindness.

Emmylou Harris, "Every Grain of Sand" (Wrecking Ball, 1995)
Harris delivered Dylan's ballad of spiritual struggle in her sublimely weathered voice; produced by Daniel Lanois, it hangs perfectly between heaven and earth.

George Harrison, "If Not For You" (All Things Must Pass, 1970)
This gorgeous rendition of a handsomely simple love song appears on 1970's All Things Must Pass, lit up with harmonica and Harrison's silvery slide-guitar licks.

Roger McGuinn, "Up to Me" (Cardiff Rose, 1976)
In 1976, McGuinn took a shot at this storied Blood on the Tracks outtake about manning up and doing what needs to be done. McGuinn made it his own, changing the word "harmonica" to "Rickenbacker."

PJ Harvey, "Highway '61 Revisited" (Rid of Me, 1993)
Polly Jean Harvey brings forth a speaker-blowing Frankenstein of Delta blues, heavy-metal power chords and hyperventilating vocals, all animated by a slithering Captain Beefheart groove.

RELATED:

The 10 Best Bob Dylan Bootlegs

A History of Violence: Murder and Justice in Bob Dylan Songs

Bob Dylan's Funniest Songs

Bob Dylan's Most Inscrutable Songs

20 Overlooked Bob Dylan Classics

See all of our Bob Dylan at 70 coverage here.

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Song Stories

“Road to Nowhere”

Talking Heads | 1985

A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

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