From Joni Mitchell to Frank Sinatra: Bob Dylan’s 6 greatest covers of all time
Bob Dylan, like many of his generation, is partial to a cover or two of his favourite songs. We thought we’d gather them all up and bring you six of the best Bob Dylan covers you’re ever likely to hear.
The man with one of the most iconic voices in the world loves to lend his vocal and arrangement expertise to a lot of different tracks. Some songs found their way on to his live set or featured in Self Portrait, Dylan, the ill-fated album of discontent, but all of them have the same tonal richness and complexity which makes a great Bob Dylan track.
Now, with any list like this, the aficionados of everything Dylan will be out in full force, while we welcome our Bob brothers and sisters, we would just like to suggest caution when attacking our fragile souls. We love Dylan as much as you, we just think this is him at his swashbuckling best but be sure to let us know your suggestions in the comments below.
For now, though, ranging from Joni Mitchell to Frank Sinatra, enjoy the troubadour of a generation taking on some classic numbers.
See the full list, here.
Bob Dylan’s 6 best covers:
‘Big Yellow Taxi’ – Joni Mitchell
However strange it may be to hear this iconic tune without Joni Mitchell’s effortless vocal performance, it feels just as joyous to hear Bob Dylan doing his best to sing one of the most infamous songs of the sixties.
Often seen as an outtake from Self-Portrait, the Dylan record that was essentially a collection of covers put together by his record company without his permission, the track is still wholesome, charming and charismatic enough to put a smile on our face.
One thing Bob Dylan can always be given credit for is his honesty.
Whether it’s honesty about his work, about others or about both of the two combined, Dylan tells it like it is. He was equally honest about his 1962 release of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ later saying that it paled in comparison to the more-well-known The Animals version.
Although Dylan’s rendition does possess a little more folky twang alongside a more vintage and gritty sound, it’s hard to argue with the man himself—but it still ranks as one hell of a cover.
‘Baby, Let Me Follow You Down’ – Eric Von Schmidt
A traditional folk song popularised in the 1950s by Eric Von Schmidt the track is most well-known for its non-appearance on Dylan’s eponymous debut LP.
Von Schmidt’s version is a folky-scratchy song without pomp or pageantry. Dylan’s first real foray into the track was when he joined The Band on stage to rip through it with a host of heavily fuzzed guitars.
‘Hard Times’ – Stephen Foster
Dylan, always a man to favour the American classic rather than the new-wave used a lot of his early album space to explore Americana at it’s finest. One track, however, only found its way into modern times via his 1992 album Good As I Been To You, the soulful classic ‘Hard Times’.
An American parlour song written by Stephen Foster and first published in 1854, the song has been taken on by the likes of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Harvey Reid and more. Dylan’s effort, however, offers up a tenderness he only reserves for the rarest occasions, using the special delicacy of the instrumentals to allow the song to bloom fully as a touching moment.
‘Young at Heart’ – Frank Sinatra
A few years ago one word was thrown at Dylan more than any other — ‘crooner’. The title was slung at him mainly because of this one cover. A Frank Sinatra stalwart, Dylan put on his figurative suit and tie, tipped his hat and found himself atop a stool with a cold cocktail and a cigarette billowing blue smoke.
He gives the track another slice of authenticity, clearly offering the title’s proposition and being young at heart. Dylan sings the song with a sentiment and unabashed joy that separates the track form most of his other work.
‘Some Enchanted Evening’ – Rogers & Hammerstein
Originally written as part of the iconic Rogers & Hammerstein musical South Pacific, we see Dylan covering the sweet and soulful ‘Some Enchanted Evening’. Not in his usual area of expertise the latter years of Bob’s career have offered him the chance to experiment across all genres.
Far from detracting from Dylan’s early work, it has only gone to further cement himself as an auteur of his age, as he offers his own take on classic songs—instantly turning them into Bob Dylan songs. A feat that should not be overlooked.
Bonus: ‘Free Bird’ – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Quite simply astounding, this cover from 2016 is ‘Dylan Goes Electric‘ x 1000. Only 46 seconds of pure unbridled joy, but it sees Dylan and his band offering their crowd the chance to let loose as ‘Free Bird’.
The story goes that someone yelled “Free Bird!” from the back of the Greek Theatre in Berkley, California, and Dylan, well he did an un-Dylan like thing and actually played it.