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The 80 Greatest Dylan Covers of All Time

From Hendrix, Baez, and the Byrds to Cher, Adele, and the Roots, our list of the 80 greatest covers of Bob Dylan’s songs

Photographs in illustration by Bruce Fleming/AP; Yui Mok/PA Wire/AP; H. Thompson/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images; David Corio/Redferns/Getty Images;

Jason DeCrow/AP

For Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday we’ve compiled our list of the 80 greatest covers of his songs — a collective gift back to him to say thank you for everything he’s given us. The list has songs recorded by his folk peers nearly 60 years ago, and others from as recently as last year. Getting down to 80 wasn’t easy. As the greatest songwriter of all time, Dylan has inspired thousands of covers of his songs by artists from every corner of music. Our picks include everyone from Hendrix, Baez, and the Byrds to Cher, Adele, and the Roots.

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Dylan loved the ides of other people doing his songs, and it’s amazing how many songs here were recorded many times by other artists before the man himself ever released his own versions; often, they lived whole other lives, evolving and changing over the years, with his idea of the song as only a blueprint. And because there are so many kinds of Dylan songs, there’s a vast array of different kinds of Dylan covers: R&B singers love relaxing into the contours of “Lay Lady Lay”; country singers like his rootsy stuff; indie-rockers key into his sad side; heroic rock singers love scaling the peaks of open-ended classics — like “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” or “Like a Rolling Stone” — finding their own way to make new meanings amidst the intersecting, and often contradictory, emotions and ideas that can roil around within one Dylan song. Even weird, tossed-off or straight-up bad Dylan songs can make for great covers.

Upon reading this, true fans will immediately think of their own favorite covers that didn’t make the list. And that’s part of the fun. This story leads in a million directions. The road always ends wherever you’re at right now.

From Rolling Stone US


The Dead Weather, “New Pony” (2009)

The cryptic Street-Legal track about a horse named Lucifer gets the sludgy blues treatment from Jack White’s heavy rock supergroup. According to singer Alison Mosshart, this track, like much of the band’s debut LP Horehound, wasn’t even initially intended for release. “We were just seeing how we could attack it and what we could get from it.” she told Billboard at the time. They got maybe even more than they bargained for. K.H.


Jenny Lewis, “Standing in the Doorway” (2019)

Lewis is such a great songwriter nobody would wish she’d stick to other people’s material, but on those rare occasions she covers another artist she reveal what a terrific interpreter she can be. In 2019 she released an expressively sung home recording of this Time Out of Mind standout, subtly overdubbed, on her iPhone Demos EP. Lewis’ version is on a more down-to-earth human scale than Dylan’s doomy meditation of mortality, revealing just how adaptable the original composition was. K.H.


The Dream Syndicate, “Blind Willie McTell” (1988)

The psychedelic punks in the Dream Syndicate always had a tight connection with the Dylan songbook, even in their early 1980s days, when they were bashing out deep cuts like “Outlaw Blues” and “Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar” for Hollywood club kids. They were the first to release “Blind Willie McTell,” for a 1988 fanzine single, years before Dylan’s version came out. Steve Wynn’s acerbic sneer carries the song’s bitter indictment of American history. How could Dylan write a song this great for Infidels and leave it off the album? All we know for sure: nobody could play the blues like Blind Willie McTell. R.S.


Ministry, “Lay Lady Lay” (1996)

It’s fair to go out on a limb and call this the least seductive “Lay Lady Lay” ever recorded. That’s an achievement that Ministry’s Al Jourgensen must be proud of. The industrial metal kingpin just had a huge breakthrough hit with his 1992 Psalm 69, and to celebrate, he set out to make the noisiest, sludgiest, most antisocial follow-up album he could, calling it Filth Pig. “Lady Lady Lady” was the hilarious climax, with Jourgensen screaming the title in a druggy haze. “His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean”? Yeah right — this version makes you look for the nearest decontamination shower. R.S.


Kesha, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” (2011)

Kesha doesn’t so much perform this breakup song as she does endure it. Recorded for Amnesty International’s 76-song Dylan tribute, this spookily skeletal version establishes a raw mood even before she audibly breaks down in tears. “The emotion caught up with me and I just started weeping,” she told Rolling Stone at the time.“It seemed like a suicide note to the love of my life and to my former life. Because everything in my life has changed so much.” K.H.


The Roots, “Masters of War” (2007)

When the Roots were booked to play a Bob Dylan tribute show at New York’s Lincoln Center in 2006, they took a page from the Leon Russell playbook and set it to the tune of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” By this point in history, it was clear to most Americans that the war in Iraq had been a horrible mistake, and it was met with roars of approval and a standing ovation. It was enough to make them add it to their setlist and at Coachella in 2007, they stretched it out to eight incredible minutes. A.G.


Joe Cocker, “Catfish” (1976)

Dylan should have written more Seventies baseball songs, right? “Catfish” is an acoustic blues he cut in 1975, but left unreleased until his 1991 The Bootleg Series, a tribute to the great pitcher Catfish Hunter. Dylan turned the Carolina boy with the fastball into a folk hero a la Pretty Boy Floyd or Stagger Lee, smoking cigars and wearing alligator boots. As a Northern English bloke, Joe Cocker might not have been much of a baseball fan, but he wails it as a slow, bluesy boast. Some of us still hope we eventually get Dylan songs about Dock Ellis, Mark Fidrych, Vida Blue, and Bye Bye Balboni. R.S.


Sonic Youth, “I’m Not There” (2007)

“I’m Not There” is such a mysterious Bob Dylan song that nobody even knows the complete lyrics. It was recorded during the Basement Tapes sessions, but confined to bootleg recordings until he finally allowed it to see the light of day on the soundtrack to the surreal 2007 movie of the same title. The sole available Basement Tapes version begins with Dylan mid-word and he’s so slurry in some parts that fans have spent decades arguing over what exactly he’s saying. What everyone agrees is that “I’m Not There” is a haunting work worthy of endless examination. Covering it is a very difficult task, but Sonic Youth nailed it on the I’m Not There soundtrack. Their rendition keeps all the mystery of the original intact. A.G.


Johnny Thunders, “Joey” (1983)

Johnny Thunders was the ultimate NYC born-to-lose street punk, ever since he redefined feedback as the glam-trash guitar hero of the New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers. Born John Anthony Genzale in Queens, he related to Dylan’s tale of another Italian prince gone bad, Brooklyn mafioso Joey Gallo. “Joey” might be the most widely hated Dylan song of the Seventies, but Thunders claims it as a tribute from one great paisan hipster rock & roll star to another. He turns it into a Dion-worthy Fifties-style guitar/sax toast: “Joey Joey Joey, king of da street!” This is where “Like a Rolling Stone” meets L.A.M.F. — one of those rare Dylan covers that improves on the original. R.S.


Nanci Griffith, “Boots of Spanish Leather” (1993)

Griffith performed this study abroad blues with Carolyn Hester at Dylan’s star-studded 30th Anniversary Concert. He liked it enough to add his own harmonica to Griffith’s studio version, released the next year, in 1993, on her signature covers record Other Voices, Other Rooms. That album included covers by everyone from Kate Wolf to John Prine to Jerry Jeff Walker. She plays “Boots of Spanish Leather” completely straight, laying bare the song’s heartbreak and agony by letting the song speak for itself. J.B.


The Heptones, “I Shall Be Released” (1969)

Few artists have brightened up a Dylan recording as nicely as the Heptones did on their 1969 reggae iteration of the singer’s redemptive ballad “I Shall Be Released,” released just a year after the Band did it on Music From Big Pink. For whatever reason, the song was never included in any of the multiple album-length compilations of reggae Dylan covers, but the Jamaican trio recorded the song several times (including a 1977 version with dub master Lee “Scratch” Perry). In later years they would change the chorus to: “I see Jah light/Come shining.” J.B.


Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “Death Is Not the End” (1996)

After ranting about homicide for nearly an hour on his 1996 album, Murder Ballads, Nick Cave must have needed a hug, so he turned to Dylan’s uplifting Down in the Groove deep cut and made it a warm-and-fuzzy campfire singalong with some of his best friends and baddest seeds. Maintaining the easy, country-tinged vibe of the original, Cave trades verses on the recording with a cross section of his mid-Nineties dark-rock cabal and some pop-rock curveballs: PJ Harvey, the Pogues’ Shane MacGowan, Einstürzende Neubauten and the Bad Seeds’ Blixa Bargeld, Kylie Minogue, former Bad Seed Anita Lane, and the Bad Seeds’ Thomas Wylder. Other than Bargeld’s sinisterly whispered verse, it’s a sweet and sentimental palette cleanser, a refreshing after-dinner mint to follow the bloody massacre that was the rest of the album. K.G.


Al Kooper and Stephen Stills, “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” (1968)

On Highway 61 Revisited, Dylan approached this assemblage of railroad and blues-song images as a lanky shuffle. This souped-up overhaul, from the Super Session album that also featured guitarist Mike Bloomfield on other tracks, replaces the clank of a railway car with the souped-up feel of a jet airliner. Kooper’s delivery is even more laconic than Dylan’s, and Stills contributes a fluid solo with a hint of twang (egged on by Kooper’s “aww, pick it, Wilson!” exclamation). Kooper later wrote that he was inspired by Dylan’s earlier, “fast-tune” arrangement of the song. D.B.


Fairport Convention, “Million Dollar Bash” (1969)

Among the many playful songs Dylan wrote during his “Basement Tapes” era was his freewheeling, surrealistic tale of a party inhabited by all sorts of freaks and geeks. Fairport Convention’s cover delightfully heightens the bawdy-reverie aspect of the tune. With band members trading verses — listen close for Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson, both in Fairport at that point — “Million Dollar Bash” becomes a woozy, giddy, seemingly liquored-up sing-along. Even more so than Dylan and the Band did in their Big Pink version, Fairport make you want to join in on the party as soon as possible. D.B.


Dave Van Ronk, “If I Had To Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You” (1963)

When Dylan arrived in NYC in the early 1960s, Dave Van Ronk was the king of the Greenwich Village folkies, the Mayor of MacDougal Street. Dylan idolized him from afar and studied him up close — as he recalled in Chronicles, “He was passionate and stinging, sang like a soldier of fortune and sounded like he paid the price.” Van Ronk did one of the kid’s songs on his 1963 album In The Tradition — a ribald ragtime ditty Dylan played just a couple of times onstage. The immortal hook: “If I had to do it all over again, babe, I’d do it all over you!” R.S.


Jeff Buckley, “Just Like a Woman” (1993)

Dylan’s look back at a collapsed relationship has been tackled by a wide range of acts over the decades — from Richie Havens and Nina Simone to, later, Stevie Nicks and Old Crow Medicine Show. Buckley’s 1993 cover, which predates his Grace album, strips down the song musically and emotionally. In his Blonde on Blonde take, Dylan, encased in subdued folk-rock, sounded worn down and slightly dismissive of the woman with “her fog, her amphetamines and her pearls.” Here, accompanied only by his electric guitar, Buckley sings in a far more supple and consoling tone, as if he’s in as much anguish as his partner. By the end of the song, he seems on the verge of tears. The result is a rarity: a Dylan cover that sounds like an entirely different song, D.B. 


Freddie King, “Meet Me in the Morning” (1975)

Dylan bent the blues to his own artistic purposes, so it was always rewarding to hear bluesmen readjust his songs back into a more traditional shape. This riff-driven Blood on the Tracks number almost calls out for a straight blues cover, and the Texan-born Chicago guitar great leapt at the invitation, performing it on the last album he released in his lifetime, Larger Than Life. Where Dylan plays it cool, King rushes into it with soulful abandon, reeling off a stylishly fierce solo, with horns busting in at just the right moments. K.H.


Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” (1968)

Dylan famously loved this version of his Another Side ballad by his mentor (and Woody Guthrie pal) Elliott. “I bequeath it to you!” he announced as he watched Elliott perform the song one night. And it’s easy to hear why, especially in this original remake from 1965. If anyone could relate to the I’m-outta-here narrator, who decides to hit the road and not be pinned down, it would surely be Elliott. (“Where I’m bound, I can’t tell” in some ways sums up Elliott’s own zigzagging travels and personal life.) Elliott sings it with equal parts tenderness and crankiness, and the craggy harmonica adds a perfect Dust Bowl touch. D.B.


Doug Sahm, “Wallflower” (1973)

Doug Sahm was a legend of Tex-Mex rock & roll, from the Sir Douglas Quintet in the 1960s to the Texas Tornados in the 1990s. His first solo album, Doug Sahm and Band in 1972, had a freewheeling cast of friends including Dylan, who contributed “Wallflower,” a delightfully ragged waltz about yearning to dance with the shy gal across the room. Dylan plays guitar and sings harmony; Dr. John joins in on organ. Many years later, when Dylan’s son Jakob formed his own successful band, he called it the Wallflowers. R.S.


Craig Finn, “Sweetheart Like You” (2014)

“Sweetheart Like You” is one of the man’s sharpest Eighties love songs, from the 1983 gem Infidels. (It’s become an underrated deep cut now, though it was a MTV hit at the time.) The Hold Steady’s frontman Craig Finn gets the elusive tone exactly right: It’s the ballad of two lost souls in a bar at closing time, sizing each other up. When Finn sings the title question — “What’s a sweetheart like you doing in a dump like this?” — he sounds like a philosopher on a barstool, finding a little poetry in the eyes of a stranger. The most famous line unfortunately sounds as true as ever: “Steal a little and they throw you in jail / Steal a lot and they make you king.” R.S.


Caetano Veloso, “Jokerman” (1992)

Veloso’s been called Brazil’s answer to Bob Dylan, which, as such comparisons will, undersells the uniqueness of both artists. But his stature is comparable, so this take on the opaque Infidels opener, from Veloso’s live album Circulado Vivo. has the feel of one culture’s titan addressing another’s. The Brazilian legend and his band bring an elasticity to the number, which he sings in nimble English as thunderous hand percussion pounds upon a rubbery bassline, the instrumental break. K.H.


The Rolling Stones, “Like a Rolling Stone” (1995)

Dylan took his most famous song title from the Muddy Waters blues classic “Rollin’ Stone” — the same place the Stones got their name. (As did a certain magazine.) Given their tangled histories, it made sense for the Stones to pay tribute to Dylan by covering this song. (It basically had to happen, right?) They did “Like a Rolling Stone” on their 1995 live album Stripped, with Mick Jagger wailing away on harmonica. At the end, Keith Richards says, “Thanks, Bob” — a touching salute from one timeless rock & roll pirate to another. R.S.


Yo La Tengo, “I Threw It All Away” (1989)

Beloved indie-rock trio Yo La Tengo have always had impeccable taste in covers, and they’ve done many Dylan songs throughout their illustrious run, often pulling tunes from the sad, gentle side of the canon. They’re version of “I Threw It All Away,” off Nashville Skyline, appeared as the final track on their third album, President Yo La Tengo, full of sleepy Hoboken guitar prettiness and sung by Ira Kaplan with careworn late-night intimacy. For more Yo La/Dylan content, check out their arresting, slow-dissolve take on “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” or this great run through “Wallflower,” with Lucinda Williams and Janet Weiss, among many other fine offerings. J.D.


Roger McGuinn, “Up to Me” (1976)

Blood on the Tracks is a perfect record and it’s hard to quibble with any decision that Dylan made on it. That said, it might have been even more perfect had Dylan included “Up to Me” on it instead of “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.” The world didn’t hear Dylan’s “Up to Me” until the release of Biograph in 1985, but his Rolling Thunder tour mate Roger McGuinn (who knew a thing or two about covering Dylan songs) tackled it on his 1976 LP Cardiff Road. It’s hard to make much sense of the lyrics, but when McGuinn sings “I’ve only got me one good shirt left and it smells of stale perfume/In fourteen months I’ve only smiled once and I didn’t do it consciously” it somehow comes together. A.G.


Nico, “I’ll Keep It With Mine” (1967)

Many have recorded this song, from Judy Collins to Fairport Convention, but only Nico could put such a tragically tender spin on a simple song about friendship. She exudes the same melancholy as she does on her cover of Jackson Browne’s “These Days,” but instead of being lonely, she’s offering a helping hand. It’s certainly as far away from the imperious image she cast that same year as a singer for the Velvet Underground on songs like “Femme Fatale” and “All Tomorrow’s Parties.” A.M. 


Cheap Trick, “Please, Mrs. Henry” (1977)

In 1971, four years before the song would be released on The Basement Tapes, eclectic English rockers Manfred Mann recorded a great version of “Please, Mrs. Henry,” recasting a hobbled lope about being too drunk to function as hard-driving hippie-R&B boogie. It’s the takeoff point for Cheap Trick’s demolition job live rendition, which definitely inhabits the original song’s sloshed spirit, suggesting the Replacements doing a Rolling Stones cover. Cheap Trick’s take would in turn serve as the inspiration for the equally hot riff on the song that Silkworm and Stephen Malkmus did as the Crust Brothers. J.D. 


The Byrds, “Spanish Harlem Incident” (1965)

One of the most purely playful things the Byrds ever did, and a highlight from their classic debut album. “Spanish Harlem Incident” is a youthful fling, from Another Side of Bob Dylan — the tale of a fresh-faced country kid in the big city, under the spell of a mystic woman. The Byrds jangle it up, making it sound like Dylan’s version of a Brian Wilson song. Roger McGuinn sounds like he’s trying hard not to crack up in the last verse, but the humor jumps out when the boys sing, “I got to laugh halfways off my heels!” R.S.


Grateful Dead, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” (4/27/85)

The Dead always sounded great playing Dylan — that is, unless Dylan was singing with them. (When he toured with the Dead in the Eighties, not a peak live era for him, they did the maudlin gangster epic “Joey,” which was about as much fun as getting shot at Umberto’s Clam House.) “Tom Thumb’s Blues” became a fan fave for tape traders in the Eighties, with Phil Lesh on lead vocals. He plays around with the lyrics, from “I started out on Heineken but soon hit the harder stuff” to “My best friend, my drummer, won’t even tell me what it was that I dropped!” R.S.


Jim James & Calexico, “Goin’ to Acapulco” (2007)

Out of all the surreal, WTF moments in Todd Haynes’ 2007 Dylan film I’m Not There, Jim James singing this Basement Tapes track in Rolling Thunder-era white face is perhaps the wildest. The performance is included in one of Richard Gere’s scenes as Billy the Kid, as an open casket of a woman is propped up and the townspeople gather around to hear James and Calexico. It’s not only James’ best Dylan covers, but arguably one of his greatest vocal performances ever, as booming horns accompany his lines about visiting Rose Marie, who likes to go to big places. A.M.


Television, “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (1978)

Television, the original CBGBs garage punks, came up with the idea of turning “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” into a long, brooding guitar warhorse — an idea that a few other bands have tried since then. (Cough, Guns N Roses cough.) Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd crank gunshots out of their Fender Jazzmasters, catching all the morbid outlaw angst of the story, but with an extra dose of NYC urban sleaze. They make it worthy to stand next to their original guitar jams like “Marquee Moon” and “Little Johnny Jewel.” This 1978 live version was a bootleg fave until it surfaced on Television’s posthumous live album The Blow Up. R.S.


Eddie Vedder, “Masters of War” (1993)

Pearl Jam were just starting to break big when Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready were invited to perform at Bob Dylan’s 30th anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden. They were sharing the bill with heavyweights like George Harrison, Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and Tom Petty, but their haunting rendition of “Masters of War” early in the night was a clear highlight, especially since the Gulf War was a very recent memory at the time. Pearl Jam brought the song into their live show after the outbreak of the Iraq War over a decade later, but they never quite bested this first rendition. A.G.


Rod Stewart, “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar” (1995)

Dylan recorded “Groom’s Still Waiting At the Alter” in 1981, a rollicking apocalyptic blues-rocker that would’ve been good enough to make it on Highway 61 Revisited but was deemed unsuitable for the last of Dylan’s Christian albums, 1981’s Shot of Love. Dylan rectified this odd decision by including the song on subsequent editions of Shot of Love, but since people weren’t exactly running out and gobbling up subsequent editions of Shot of Love, it remained an obscurity. Yet, even if it wasn’t the most likely song for Rod Stewart to record in the early Nineties, he absolutely bodyslams it, with the raw joyful spirit of his finest Seventies moments. J.D. 


The Crust Brothers, “Going to Acapulco” (1998)

In December of 1997, Stephen Malkmus of Pavement and members of the indie-rock band Silkworm got together to play a show in Seattle to benefit the Washington Wilderness Coalition. The crowd was clamoring for Pavement songs. Instead, they got a killer covers set, including “Bitch,” “Tuesday’s Gone” and seven songs from The Basement Tapes. They opened with “Going to Acapulco,” turning a slow, mournful ode to beleaguered escape into a choogled-out guitar banger. When a recording of the show materialized under the title Marquee Mark, it immediately became a bootleg grail, just like The Basement Tapes had been decades earlier. J.D. 


Chrissie Hynde and James Walbourne, “Sweetheart Like You” (2020)

Chrissie Hynde has said that when Bob Dylan surprised the world with the release of “Murder Most Foul” a few weeks into pandemic lockdowns in 2020, “It knocked me sideways.” It helped her realize just how much Dylan’s music has meant to her, so she and Pretenders guitarist James Walbourne set about recording eight Dylan covers to get through the year. One of the best was “Sweetheart Like You,” the easygoing Infidels single, which doubles as a pickup line and a Dylan-esque statement of sympathy for the suffering of women everywhere. Hynde sings it in her typically breathy way, enunciating the words in her distinctive way and making lines like “You could be known as the most beautiful woman/Who ever crawled across cut glass to make a deal” cut with more pathos than that of the original. K.G.


Lou Reed, “Foot of Pride” (1993)

Leave it to Lou Reed to perform a super obscure 1983 studio outtake at a Bob Dylan tribute concert in front of 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden and countless more watching on television. A tiny fraction of the audience probably recognized “Foot of Pride” (which was released on the first edition of the Bootleg Series in 1991), but it’s hard to imagine that Reed cared. The lyrics (“Like the lion tears the flesh off of a man/So can a woman who passes herself off as a male”) seemed custom-made for Reed, and he made it seem like a lost classic from the Velvet Underground catalog. Dylan has never attempted the song live, so this remains the definitive concert version. A.G.


Rosanne Cash, “Girl From the North Country” (2009)

Dylan’s good friend Johnny Cash famously duetted with him on this folk ballad for Nashville Skyline in 1969. Cash also included the Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan number on a list of “essential” country songs that he passed along to his daughter Rosanne, and it was one that she chose for her album drawn from those selections, The List. With a lovely fingerpicked guitar and Cash’s pristine voice, the song becomes a tribute to two great artists from a third. K.H.


Joan Osborne, “Man in the Long Black Coat” (1995)

Dylan’s catalog is rife with spooky, ominous parables, and this tale of a woman who leaves her husband to run off with a shadowy stranger — and is never heard from again — is one of his eeriest. “In some kind of weird way, I thought of it as my ‘I Walk the Line,’” he wrote in Chronicles Volume One, “a song I’d always considered to be up there at the top, one of the most mysterious and revolutionary of all time.” Dylan’s version on Oh Mercy sounded, in his word, “deserted,” but Osborne’s cover slows the tempo just a bit, making the song even more haunting. Almost as if she’s singing in the voice of the vanished woman herself, Osborne sounds increasingly desperate as the song continues, while the music stays muted, never giving in to her pleas. “She’s gone, she’s gone,” Osborne ad-libs at the end, and you know she is. D.B.


Bettye LaVette, “It Ain’t Me Babe” (2018)

Soul singer Betty LaVette is a peerless song reimaginer, and she puts on yet another master class in interpretation here. In Lavette’s hands, “It Ain’t Me Babe” becomes more vulnerable, bruised, dejected. The original was a highlight on Things Have Changed, her 2018 collection of Dylan covers. “When people ask me, ‘How do you make these songs your own?’ she told Rolling Stone that year. “I tell them it’s so much easier for me to sound like Bettye Lavette than it is for me to sound like Bob Dylan.” J.B.


Gregg Allman, “Going Going Gone” (2017)

Allman made his final album, 2017’s Southern Blood, as he was dying of liver cancer, creating a work similar to the swan-song LPs of David Bowie and Leonard Cohen. It’s highlighted by this powerful reading of “Going Going Gone,” a raggedly beautiful intimation of suicide from 1974’s Planet Waves. Allman turns it into an honest, graceful reckoning with his own mortality, gilded with steel guitar and a Southern-soul horn section. When he sings “I’m closing the book on pages and texts/And I don’t really care what happens next,” it’s almost too real to take. J.D.


The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Like a Rolling Stone” (1967)

When Jimi Hendrix stepped onstage at the Monterey Pop Festival, in the summer of 1967, he was a complete unknown in his native land. But an hour later, he was the guitar hero of all guitar heroes. Hendrix capped his triumphant Monterey homecoming gig by telling the crowd, “I’d like to bore you for about six or seven minutes…I wanna do a little thing by Bob Dylan — that’s his grandma over there,” pointing to frizzy-haired bassist Noel Redding. “A little thing called ‘Like a Rolling Stone.’” Then he turned it into a screaming electric storm, blowing the minds of an audience who’d never heard him before. R.S.


Leon Russell, “Masters of War” (1970)

Leon Rusell’s 1970 cover of “Masters of War” is a mere one minute and 24 seconds long, and he stops it after the first verse, leaving the vast majority of it un-sung. But he made the genius decision to sing it to the tune of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” This was the height of the Vietnam War and many Americans were incredibly disillusioned by the real-life Masters of War calling the shots in that never-ending nightmare. By taking Dylan’s 1963 words and delivering them in this context, he spoke for much of his audience. And even though Dylan never spoke out against the war himself, he gave followers songs like “Masters of War” to use at their discretion. It was never used more effectively than it was here. A.G.


Willie Nelson & Calexico, “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)” (2007)

The soundtrack to the trippy 2007 Dylan biopic I’m Not There is packed with amazing covers of famous songs like “All Along The Watchtower,” “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and “Maggie’s Farm,” but Willie Nelson and Calexico dug deep into his catalog for the Street Legal tune “Señor (Takes of Yankee Power).” Like many songs from that time, the lyrics make little sense, but Nelson infuses them with incredible gravitas. He has sang many duets with Dylan over the years and they even wrote the song “Heartland” together, but his voice and Dylan’s lyrics have never sounded as majestic together as they do here. A.G.


The Clash, “The Man In Me” (1979)

The mass public didn’t come around to Bob Dylan’s New Morning deep cut “The Man In Me” until the Coen Brothers used it in their 1998 movie The Big Lebowski, but the Clash beat them to it by a good 19 years when they covered it during the London Calling sessions. As heard on the “Vanilla Tapes” taken from the London Calling Legacy Edition, they transform it into a slow reggae tune, and somehow it fits seamlessly onto the same LP as “Death or Glory” and “Lost In The Supermarket.” They never played the song live (or any Bob Dylan song for the matter) and their one-off take was never meant to be heard by the public, but it’s brilliant nonetheless. The Dude must definitely would abide. A.G.


Isaac Hayes, “Lay Lady Lay” (1999)

Was any Dylan song better intended for a make-over by the make-out king of R&B? In the Seventies, Hayes reveled in recasting other people’s songs into extended, sensual, orchestral vamps. For a 1999 album of Dylan covers, Hayes returned to that turf and proved he hadn’t lost any of his moves. “It’s too early to go home … Why don’t you just chill, relax,” he improvs in the intro before amplifying the sexuality of Dylan’s Nashville Skyline song. In Hayes’ rendition, “You can have your cake and eat it too” takes on an all-new meaning. D.B.


Susanna Hoffs & Rainy Day, “I’ll Keep It With Mine” (1984)

In 1984, years before he started Mazzy Star, the late great guitarist David Roback did an album called Rainy Day, covering 1960s faves with friends from L.A.’s neo-psychedelic “Paisley Underground” scene. It was hugely influential, turning postpunk kids on to the Byrds and the Buffalo Springfield. Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles sang two of the highlights: Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It With Mine” and the Velvets’ “I’ll Be Your Mirror.” (Dylan didn’t release his own version of “I’ll Keep It With Mine” until his 1985 Biograph box.) Most singers who attempt this tune stumble over the quizzical lyrics, but Hoffs just savors the melody with a smile in her voice — the most purely beguiling version ever heard. R.S.


Grateful Dead, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” ( 9/26/72)

The Dead started playing their favorite Dylan tune in their early days, and never stopped. Of all their many Dylan covers, “Baby Blue” was the one they played most often, right up to the year Jerry Garcia died. There’s a fine 1981 performance on Postcards of the Hanging, but their toughest “Baby Blue” comes from their legendary Jersey City run, the night of September 26th, 1972. (The following night was released as Dick’s Picks Volume 11.) Garcia puts on the chill with his voice and guitar, as if he sees all the song’s dire prophecies coming true. R.S.


Siouxsie and the Banshees, “This Wheel’s on Fire ” (1987)

If anyone could translate Dylan into goth, it had to be Siouxsie. The Eighties icon rode this Basement Tapes classic from Big Pink to the Batcave. Siouxsie and the Banshees took pride in reworking Sixties classics for the black-lipstick crowd; they had a U.K. Top Ten hit with the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence,” one of the few goth hits about enjoying sunshine. On their 1987 album Through The Looking Glass, they covered Iggy (“The Passenger”), the Doors (“You’re Lost Little Girl”), and Dylan. Siouxsie did a trippy performance of “This Wheel’s on Fire” on Top of the Pops, vamping in her purple catsuit, doing an awesome version of the goth cobweb-gathering dance. R.S.


Rick Nelson & the Stone Canyon Band, “She Belongs to Me” (1969)

A TV star and teen heartthrob in the 1950s, Ricky Nelson had been trying to move away from his bubblegum image throughout the Sixties, signaling his new phase by dropping the “y” from his first name. By the end of the decade, he hadn’t a hit for a while, but his version of Dylan’s caustically elegiac ballad eased him back into the Top 40 with a strikingly lovely country-rock treatment in step with the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers, featuring a steel guitar player borrowed from Buck Owens’ backing band and including future Eagle Randy Meisner on bass. J.D.