New Jersey’s favourite son, Bruce Springsteen is perhaps the greatest fan of Bob Dylan that’s around. The Boss has been a big supporter of the freewheelin’ Bob Dylan since he first heard the iconic troubadour and has always paid tribute to the songwriter the only way he knew how — by covering his songs. Stretching as far back as 1972, Springsteen has used his time on stage to doff his cap to the Nobel Prize winner and this may well be the best we’ve ever seen.
Before Springsteen became The Boss, in fact, before he’d even won employee of the month in the music industry, Springsteen was a huge Bob Dylan fan. The ‘Born To Run’ singer once recalled, when inducting the ‘Forever Young’ singer into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, that the first time he heard a Bob Dylan album (Highway 61 Revisited, in 1965), Dylan’s performance “thrilled and scared,” him, capturing the attention of his mind, body and soul.
The singer continued: “It made me feel kind of irresponsibly innocent. And it still does. But it reached down and touched what little worldliness I think a 15-year-old kid, in high school, in New Jersey had in him at the time.” It’s the kind of feeling Dylan gave to millions of people worldwide as he connected with an audience through highly personal and expressive folk-pop songs. It would be a style that becomes a charged piece of Springsteen’s own iconography.
Later in the speech, he proclaimed that Bob Dylan “was the brother that I never had,” quoting from the man’s own song ‘Lenny Bruce’. It was a moment of gratitude from one rock star to the other, one currently dominating the charts and one gravitating towards his legendary status. But the real connection the pain felt was shared within the music.
It has meant that whenever Springsteen gets up in front of that microphone to sing one of Dylan’s songs they are once again singing from the same hymn sheet — straight from the heart.
One of the sadder songs in Bob Dylan’s arsenal is often overlooked as one of his best because of its undoubted popularity—as is often the way. But when Springsteen performed ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ with Wolfgang Niedecken and his band at Cafe Eckstein in Berlin back in 1995 it became so much more.
A song so often butchered in karaoke bars can often leave one feeling bored at even the first notes. But whether it’s because we know how much he adores Dylan or because he’s an excellent performer, there’s no doubting the poignancy of the performance.
Bruce Springsteen gives an unfathomably brilliant rendition of the track, that’s worth revisiting whenever you possibly can. So, what better time than now to revisit Springsteen singing the fantastic ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’.