This summer, the revolutionary voice of Bob Dylan returned to Ireland as a part of his endless tour of the globe. It is fair to say Bob Dylan lit the fuse for the anti-establishment voice that still burns today, becoming an architect, purposely or not, for the flower power generation.
Consider the timeline, with the assassination of JFK in November 1963, and the release of Dylan’s game-changing second album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan the prior May. This cry for peace from the 60s erupted from the Greenwich Village cafes like a tsunami of anarchic hope. A soundtrack firmly placed at the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis and in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement.
For a twenty-two year old, it’s an album of considerable depth and maturity, and a huge shift from his self-titled debut, which contained only two originals. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, by comparison, contains eleven original songs, a leap of artistic depth almost in the vein of Robert Johnson, the blues, soul-selling troubadour.
The songs below give a different perspective, reflecting the far-reaching influence of the record through genre-spanning covers. From the garage-rock of Neil Young, to roots-reggae with Toots & The Maytals, to blues with Eric Clapton and, of course, soul and country.
#1. ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ – Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Perhaps one of Dylan’s most covered songs, with Joan Baez, Stevie Wonder and even Elvis Presley offering their own versions. However, it is Neil Young & Crazy Horse who recorded the most incendiary cover, taken here from the explosive live album Weld.
#2. ‘Girl from the North Country’ – Rod Stewart
A song reinvented on Dylan’s Nashville Skyline with Johnny Cash, it is Rod’s version which is, surprisingly, more emotionally fuelled. Taken from Stewart’s 1974 Smiler album, a lukewarm hit, this is undeniably the standout.
#3. ‘Masters Of War’ – Eddie Vedder
The Pearl Jam frontman is no stranger to these shores, often performing his acoustic stripped back sets. This is a thundering retelling of the anti-war anthem, in Vedder’s own unique style.
#4. ‘Down the Highway’ – George Thorogood
Usually associated with his band The Destroyers, this track is taken from Thorogood’s first, and only, solo album to date, Party For One. He takes a more blues-inspired view of the track, adding a certain brilliance of style.
#5. ‘Bob Dylan’s Blues’ – Michel Montecrossa
Singer and Dylan fanatic Michel Montecrossa performs one of the least covered tracks from Bob‘s catalogue. Here though, ‘Bob Dylan’s Blues’ was featured and recorded at the 2006 Bob Dylan Fest and contains a nostalgic beauty and reverence.
#6. ‘A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall’ – Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
Perhaps the greatest retelling of a Bob Dylan track, the unique vision of Edie Brickell gave the track a new life and purpose. Included faithfully in the Oliver Stone movie Born On The Fourth Of July (1989).
#7. ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’ – Eric Clapton
A stellar performance from Clapton, re-imagining the song as a blues powerhouse. Here, Clapton proves that even after his cross over into pop territory in the 80s, he was still able to breathe fire through the strings of a guitar.
#8. ‘Bob Dylan’s Dream’ – Bryan Ferry
The Roxy Music frontman is no stranger to Dylan covers, considering his 2007 release Dylanesque. This track, however, is taken from Chimes of Freedom, an album celebrating fifty years of Amnesty International.
#9. ‘Oxford Town’ – Richie Havens
The man who opened the Woodstock festival, the late Richie Havens, gives a stellar rendition of an obscure Dylan classic. Recorded for Haven’s own classic 1966 release, the epic Electric Havens.
#10. ‘Talkin’ World War III Blues’ – Billy Bragg
Essex born Billy Bragg has spent a 40-year career on the trail of activism, with no better track for his anti-war manifesto than Talkin’ World War III Blues. This passionate cover song was included on a BBC tribute record and it still retains the impact it had 56 years ago
#11. ‘Corrina, Corrina’ – Steppenwolf
The first of two covers Bob included on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. A folk song dating back to the early 19th century gets a new lease of life from heavy metal originators Steppenwolf. This version is taken from their highly acclaimed 1970 album Steppenwolf Live.
#12. ‘Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance’ – Rory McLeod
London born folk purist Rory McLeod plays out an exceptional version of the second cover on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. This version comes from a specific folk tribute to Bob after the 50th anniversary of the original album.
#13. ‘I Shall Be Free’ – Toots & The Maytals
A song almost hand built for Toots & The Maytals. Frederick “Toots” Hibbert fashioned the Dylan standard into a ska-rocksteady classic. It stretches back 50 years to The Maytals classic Sweet And Dandy.
The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan: