13 Best Covers of Bob Dylan Songs

Best renditions of Bob Dylan's classics.

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13 Best Covers of Bob Dylan Songs

56 years ago (!) Bob Dylan made his recording debut when he played harmonica on the Harry Belafonte song "Calypso King" (Dylan made $50 for the session). And since that time he recorded many and many classic albums, and his legacy continues to inspire many different musicians.

So we have prepared a special list of 13 greatest covers of Bob Dylan's classics. Of course, the list is not complete - but we tried to pick the best 13 of them.

Let's start it!

13. Heart - Ring Them Bells (feat. Layne Staley)

In 1989 Bob Dylan released his "return to form" album "Oh Mercy," and four years later Heart released their own rendition of the hymn-like "Ring Them Bells" from it. And Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley made a really great vocal performance on it.

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12. 16 Horsepower - Nobody 'Cept You

American alternative/gothic country band 16 Horsepower put this cover of Dylan's gem into the heart of their third album, "Secret South." The album is a really dark but great record which brought briefly into the light by the dazzling rays of this song.

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11. Nina Simone - I Shall Be Released

Nina Simone released a couple of Dylan's covers, but "I Shall Be Released" is perhapd the best of them. Dylan's original version, released in 1968, already showed a significant gospel influence - which made it a perfect fit for Simone.

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10. Neil Young - Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues

Neil Young chose this sprawling set-piece from Dylan's 1965's landmark "Highway 61 Revisited" as his tribute wisely, since it gave full vent to his roaring guitar and sent him ranging off into the sunset like a man possessed.

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9. Rage Against the Machine - Maggie's Farm

Bob Dylan's original, released on his 1965 album "Bringing It All Back Home" was acoustic but with a tough lyrics. And RATM increased the anger, making it a real rebel song.

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8. Them - It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

Van Morrison's 1960s garage rock band Them recorded their version "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" in 1966. It's a rare Dylan cover that, in every way, stands up to the original. It might even be better. Dylan and Morrison finally sang it together in 1984, and Van occasionally sings it in his solo shows.

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7. The Band - I Shall Be Released

Nobody knows precisely when Bob Dylan wrote "I Shall Be Released" during the Basement Tapes period in 1967, but midway through the legendary sessions, he cut it with The Band. It wasn't heard by anyone but collectors of bootlegs until July of 1968 when it appeared as the final track on "Music From Big Pink" with The Band keyboardist Richard Manuel on lead vocals. It was a highlight of pretty much every Band concert over the next eight years, most notably when it wrapped up The Last Waltz in 1976.

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6. Robert Plant - One More Cup of Coffee

Being a Dylan fan since the '60s, Robert Plant recorded his impassioned cover of a Dylan's classic from his 1976 album "Desire."

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5. Pearl Jam - Masters of War

The archetypal Dylan protest song was revived by Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready at a Dylan tribute concert at Madison Square Garden in 1992...

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4. Jeff Buckley - Just Like a Woman

Not long before he signed to Columbia Records in early 1993, Jeff Buckley laid down this haunting rendition of "Just Like a Woman." He was playing it solo electric in his live show at the time, including his legendary set at Sin-é in 1993.

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3. Guns N' Roses - Knockin' on Heaven's Door

One of the most known covers ever, the Guns N' Roses version is even more famous than the Dylan's original. The band has been playing it live since 1987, and they recorded it in 1991 for "Use Your Illusion."

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2. The Byrds - Mr. Tambourine Man

In January of 1965, Bob Dylan stepped into a Columbia studio in New York to record his first electric songs as part of the "Bringing It All Back Home" sessions. At the same time, The Byrds entered a Columbia studio in Los Angeles and recorded an electric cover of "Mr. Tambourine Man." It became a huge hit, launching both the career of The Byrds and the entire folk rock movement.

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1. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - All Along the Watchtower

Even Dylan admitted that this version bettered his original, issued on his 1968 album "John Wesley Harding." Hendrix dialled up the rage and channelled that through his guitar. It sounds as if he were giving chase to the hounds of hell. Bob Dylan even said in 1985: "Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it's a tribute to [Jimi Hendrix] in some kind of way."

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That's all! Feel free to share your own favorite covers of Bob Dylan's songs in the comment section below.

50 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I really like My Chemicals Romance's version of Desolation Row, too. Well worth a listen if you haven't heard it.
    Weybl Himself
    I feel like this one got a lot of hate just because it was MCR. I always quite liked it too. Made for a badass movie too.
    One of my favorite songs is Johnny Cash's cover of "Wanted Man".  I was hoping it was on the list, but was not surprised it was absent.
    Always loved the Mike Ness (Social Distortion) cover of Don't Think Twice
    I know it probably won't be appreciated as much here, but I've always liked Jerry Reed's version of that. Especially this live one with Chet Atkins...
    With all these reaction videos blowing up on the internet, I just wish I could have seen a reaction video of the crowd when this big dad looking guy started singing and playing. Warren is just THE best.
    I understand that The Band made "I Shall Be Released" their own. Still, my favorite Dylan cover by The Band is When I Paint My Masterpiece." Also, the are two very good covers of "To Make You Feel My Love." It is a powerful song. Johnny Cash - The Man in the Long Black Coat. Manfred Mann - The Mighty Quinn I could go on. I won't.
    Good list, I'd have put Nina Simones cover of "The times they are a changin'" above "i shall be released" but hey each to their own.
    Mountain did an album with covers of Dylan's songs in 2007. Personally, I like their rendition of "Masters of War" a little more than the one made by Pearl Jam.
    I quite liked the other two Jeff Buckley covered - 'Mama, you been on my mind' and 'If you see her, say hello'.
    I didn't know Plant did a cover, though I still prefer the White Stripes version from One More Cup Of Coffee. Surely Hendrix's version is the best from All ALong The Whatchtower, but I have some other favourites as honorable mentions.
    The version from Battlestar Galactica just had me staring at the tv in amazement, I was just so happy to hear that rendition on my favourite show...its such a wonderful rendition too 
    how the shit have I reached 26 years of age without knowing Hendrix's All Along the Watchtower was actually of a cover of a Dylan song. Seriously.
    Don't feel bad. I'm 36 and have listened to rock all my life and I'm always learning something. That's what's so great about the genre, the heritage is so vast and amazing. Keep learning!!!
    The GNR cover of Knockin is overrated. And I'm a big fan of Guns. Pearl Jam's Masters of War is PHENOMENAL. I've always really enjoyed Stevie Wonder's Blowin' In The Wind cover too.
    I wouldn't call it overrated, definitely overplayed, but not overrated. Although, I admit the dialing of the phone bit is kind of cringe worthy and out of place. It'd been a lot cooler if they replicated their live performance of it in the studio and got rid of the gospel singing in the background as well. 
    I feel the same way. It's just not one of the Guns N Roses songs I really ever choose to go back to. It's alright. It's just overdone. 
    Dylan first played harmonica on midnight special. I'm not sure belafonte ever recorded a song called calypso king
    Off the top of my head i would say. Willie Nelson - Senor Rosanne Cash - You aint going nowhere Arlo Guthrie - When the ships come in George Harrison - If not for you kris kristofferson - i'll be your baby today  Manfred Mann - The mighty quinn john mellencamp - like a rolling stone sinead o'conner - property of jesus tom petty - licence to kill pattie smith - the changing of the gaurds bruce springsteen - the chimes of freedom townes van zandt - man gave name to all the animals mark lanegan - man in the long black coat paul rodgers and nils lofgren - abandoned love I know thats 14 but i couldnt pick one of leave out.Joan baez is the obvious one i havent mentioned with great covers like lilly rosemary. Nanci Griffith vesions of boots of spanish leather and clapton has done a few great songs as well. Also some of the songs the greatful dead/garcia done where excellent. The Revelator done a great version of carribean wind. I would suggest people listen to "Chimes of Freedom - The songs of Bob Dylan" Although im a dylan nut and no-one is better than bob there are some great versions of his songs on there and as some-one else mentioned Brian Ferry's album is well worth a listen as well. 
    White Stripes - One More Cup of Coffee  White Stripes - Love Sick Queens of the Stone Age - Outlaw Blues  Cage the Elephant - The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll 
    Some of these choices are pretty questionable. No White Stripes? No Johnny Cash "It aint me Babe" ? Peter Paul and Mary? Instead Heart and Jeff Buckley? You serious?
    Unless I somehow missed it seems like no one thought of the cover that Bob himself once claimed as his favorite cover of his own songs: Tomorrow Is A Long Time by Elvis Presley! But thanks for the other mentions. I'm familiar with many of them but will be looking up the others.