Neil Young’s love of Bob Dylan is a profound force. He inspired Young back when he was starting out and he still continues to inspire him now. And as it happens, that fact alone is just about the greatest gift you could ever give Dylan who once commented: “Art is the perpetual motion of illusion. The highest purpose of art is to inspire. What else can you do? What else can you do for anyone but inspire them?”
When recalling the Promethean wallop that Dylan delivered to him Young told Charlie Rose: “I love Bob Dylan, I think he is great. In the very beginning I knew he was great.” That might not sound like a great deal of ahead-of-the-curve thinking, but in actuality, Young was more of an early convert than most to the original vagabond who only reached 22 in the US charts with the album that changed everything The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t this moment that crystallised things for Young. As he continued: “I was walking on down the street and there is this guy in a Lincoln Navigator or continental, I can’t remember, was one of those black cars. He is in there and he is blasting ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and singing at the top of his lungs. It’s an afro-american guy sitting there, he is about 30 years-old in a suit, just rocking”.
Young continues: “I heard Bob’s voice and I went ‘This is Bob, you know. This is the essence of his feeling and everything. The moment that he was delivering that song is so powerful, you can’t keep that’. That comes and goes through you. You can’t strive to be that, there is no way you own it. I’ve heard Bob say that he doesn’t know who wrote, he doesn’t know the guy who wrote those songs anymore. I understand what he was saying, the feeling behind it. I look at it and I go ‘Well, I must been in a really different place doing that, but I was, I wrote those words, I sat down and I believe it”.
Thus, it was no surprise when he agreed to take part in the 30th-anniversary concert honouring Dylan, especially when he was going to be backed by the magnificent Booker T & The MGs. The song that chose to cover that fateful night in 1992 at Madison Square Garden was ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’.
The track appeared alongside ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and a collection of other masterpieces on Highway 61 Revisited. Together, Young and Booker T capture the effervescing vibe of the album with one of its mellower tracks, taking it in a completely different direction to the great Nina Simone. You can check out the beauteous cover below.