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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

“Love Is the Answer”

Utopia | 1977

The message of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" proved to be a universal and long-lasting one, which Utopia revisited 10 years later on this ballad. "From a lyrical standpoint, it's part of a whole class of songs that I write, which are about filial love," Todd Rundgren explained. "I'm not a Christian, but it's called Christian love, the love that people are supposed to naturally feel because we are all of the same species. That may be mythical, but it's still a subject." Though "Love Is the Answer" wasn't a hit, a cover version two years later by England Dan & John Ford Coley peaked at Number Ten on the Billboard singles chart.

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