Almanac Music: Dylan Cover Songs – The Top 10: Aussie Style

 

Dylan Cover Songs – The Top 10: Aussie Style

 

In this, the fifth article in my Dylan Covers series, I leave behind the land of the long white cloud and return to the sunburnt country.

 

In contrast to my second article, where I looked at rarely covered Dylan songs by Aussie artists, this time I look at the top 10 most covered songs from Dylan’s vast anthology and see how Aussie artists have treated them.

 

Using the ‘SecondHandSongs’ website as the most reliable ‘covers’ database for commercially available recording, I will work my way from the 10th to the 1st most covered Dylan songs.

 

 

  1. ‘Just Like A Woman’

 

Dylan recorded this song in March 1966 and it was released on his June 1966 Blonde On Blonde’double album.

 

The song has been covered by 148 artists, including Joe Cocker, the Hollies, Roberta Flack, Nina Simone, Rod Stewart, The Byrds, Judy Collins, Stevie Nicks, Jeff Buckley, Carly Simon, Charlie Daniels, Old Crow Medicine Show.

 

My personal favourite cover is Richie Havens’ ‘live’ performance at Madison Square Garden on 16 October 1992 for Bob Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert.

 

Two Aussie artists have recorded cover versions of ‘Just Like A Woman’:

 

  1. Brewster Brothers – Brewster Brothers Play Bob Dylan (2012
  2. .Renee Geyer – Renee Geyer (1973)

 

Renee’s version, released on her debut album as she was just turning 20 years of age, is my favourite by any female singer.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. ‘Like A Rolling Stone’

 

Dylan recorded this song in June 1965 and it was released as a single in July 1965.  At over 6mins, the song challenged conventional radio station standards on air play time but the sheer force of the song and public demand resulted in the song being played in full.  The song was also released on the August 1965 Highway 61 Revisited album.

 

The song has been covered by 175 artists, including The Four Seasons, The Turtles, Cher, Johnny Winter, Judy Collins, Mick Ronson, John Mellencamp, Nancy Sinatra, Michael Bolton, Green Day, Cat Power.

 

My personal favourite cover is, perhaps not surprisingly, The Rolling Stones ‘live’ performance on their November 1995 ‘Stripped’ album.

 

Two Aussie artists have recorded cover versions of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’:

 

  1. Brewster Brothers – Brewster Brothers Play Bob Dylan (2012)
  2. Jess & Matt – Songs From The Village (2018)

 

However, I couldn’t go past this live performance by Lisa Miller and Dave Faulkner from a live Rockwiz concert recorded in December 2011.

 

 

 

 

  1. The Times They Are A-Changin’

 

Dylan recorded this song in October 1963 and it was released on his January 1964 The Times They Are A-Changin’ album.

 

The song has been covered by 179 artists, including Peter Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkel, Odetta, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Cher, Nina Simone, The Hollies, Billy Joel, Tracy Chapman, Phil Collins, Judy Collins, Bryan Ferry, The Fureys, Willie Nile, Bettye LaVette.

 

My personal favourite cover is by the Brothers & Sisters of Los Angeles from their 1969  Dylan’s Gospel’ album.

 

Three Aussie artists have recorded cover versions of ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’’:

 

  1. The Seekers – A World Of Our Own (1965)
  2. Jess & Matt – Songs From The Village (2018)
  3. Damien Leith – Catch The Wind: Songs Of A Generation (2008)

 

Damien won Australian Idol in 2006 and on his second studio album he covered a number of classic folk songs, including ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’’.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. All Along The Watchtower

 

Dylan recorded this song in November 1967 and it was released on his December 1967 John Wesley Harding album. The song features Dylan on acoustic guitar & harmonica, accompanied by Nashville session musicians Charlie McCoy on bass and Kenneth Buttrey on drums.

 

Within a month of its release, Jimi Hendrix began work on re-inventing ‘All Along The Watchtower’ into one of the top 50 songs of all time, according to Rolling Stone’s ‘500 Greatest Songs Of All Time’ (2021). Jimi’s version – officially released in September 1968 – was the first ever cover of the song…and needless to say, it became the standard for future covers of the song.

 

Even Dylan performed the song based on Jimi’s version. With over 2200 renditions of ‘All Along The Watchtower’ performed by Dylan between February 1978 – November 2018, it is the song that he has sung ‘live in concert’ more than any other.

 

The song has been covered by 195 artists – mostly hard rock/heavy metal bands – including Spirit, Mahogany Rush, U2, Grateful Dead, Indigo Girls, Neil Young, Dave Matthews Band, Taj Mahal, The Dream Syndicate, Paul Weller, Bryan Ferry, Eddie Vedder, Jeff Healey Band, Thea Gilmore, La De Dahs.

 

My personal favourite cover is, with no shadow of doubt by The Jimi Hendrix Experience from their 1968 Electric Ladyland’ album.

 

Four Aussie artists have recorded cover versions of ‘All Along The Watchtower’:

 

  1. Brewster Brothers – Brewster Brothers Play Bob Dylan (2012)
  2. Danny Ross – As The Crow Flies (2013)
  3. Chris Turner & Phill Simmons – Double Header (2014)
  4. Lisa Gerrard – The Black Opal (2009)

 

With Dead Can Dance, Lisa and  partner Brendan Perry have released nine studio albums. Lisa’s solo efforts include award winning film music scores (eg Gladiator, Whale Rider, Burning Man) and 4 studio albums.

 

 

 

 

  1. I Shall Be Released

 

Dylan initially recorded this song with The Band during the Basement Tape sessions in Sept-Nov 1967 – although the recorded version was not released until the March 1991 The Bootleg Series Vol 1-3: Rare & Unreleased box set.  Dylan subsequently recorded a slightly altered version with Happy Traum in September 1971 and this version was released on the November 1971  Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II  double album.  The Band released their own version of the song on the July 1968  Music From Big Pink album.

 

The song has been covered by over 200 artists, including Peter Paul & Mary, Joan Baez, Joe Cocker, PJ Proby, Nina Simone, Hamilton Camp, The Box Tops, The Hollies, Rick Nelson, Bette Midler, Earl Scruggs, Chrissie Hynde, Elvis Presley*, Paul Weller, Jeff Buckley, Blind Boys of Alabama, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Maroon 5.

 

*The Elvis cover is a 1min impromptu performance included on the 2021 Elvis Back In Nashville’ 4CD box set.

 

My personal favourite cover is by the Wilco & Fleet Foxes from the 2014  Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks 1994-2014 album.

 

Three Aussie artists have recorded cover versions of ‘I Shall Be Released’:

 

  1. Shane Howard – Time Will Tell (1994)
  2. James Blundell – I Shall Be Released: The Best Of James Blundell (2001)
  3. Richard Clapton – Music Is Love 1966–70 (2021)

 

On his 16th (and latest) studio album, Richard covers twelve iconic songs from the late 60s, closing off the album with ‘I Shall Be Released’.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Mr. Tambourine Man

 

Dylan recorded this song in January 1965 and it was released on his March 1965 Bringing It All Back Home album.

 

Within a month of the song being released, The Byrds had reinvented the song – converting it from Dylan’s 5m30s, 5 chorus/4 verse original into a 2m30s, 2 chorus/1 verse cover (only verse 2 was used) and this hyper radio-friendly version, released as a single, reached #1 in both the UK & US in April 1965 – which shows the commercial power of Dylan’s songs when placed in the right hands. It is widely recognised that The Byrds version of ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ announced the beginning of a new music genre known as ‘folk rock’.

 

The song has been covered by over 220 artists – mostly using The Byrds version – including Odetta, Johnny Rivers, The Four Seasons, Stevie Wonder, Melanie, Crowded House, Charlie Daniels Band, Cat Power.

 

My personal favourite cover, not surprisingly, is by The Byrds from their 1965  Mr Tambourine Man  album. The song introduced me to Dylan well before I knew who Bob Dylan was.

 

Two Aussie artists have recorded cover versions of ‘Mr Tambourine Man’:

 

  1. Shirley Jacobs – Endless Highways (1967)
  2. Brewster Brothers – Brewster Brothers Play Bob Dylan (2012)

 

The Brewster Brothers comprise Rick and John – both founding (and ongoing) members of The Angels.  The ‘brothers’, as a duo, remain active on the live concert scene and have recorded two studio albums – the 2nd of which is dedicated entirely to twelve cover songs from Dylan’s 60’s period. The 3rd track from the album is ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

 

Dylan recorded this song in February 1973 and it was released on his July 1973 Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid soundtrack album.

 

The song has been covered by 228 artists, with a solid injection of ‘coverability cred’ following the Guns N’ Roses version released as a single in September 1987. Other artists to cover the song include: Eric Clapton, Roger McGuinn, Television, Fairport Convention, Randy Crawford, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Jerry Garcia, Roger Waters, Warren Zevon, Avril Lavinge, Bryan Ferry, Tom Petty.

 

My personal favourite cover is by the Leningrad Cowboys with the Russian Red Army Choir from their 1995  Nokia Balalaika Show album.

 

Four Aussie artists have recorded cover versions of ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’:

 

Cold Chisel – Swingshift (1981)

Cyrus – Cyrus (2015)

Luke Escombe – Bob Dylan’s Heroes & Villians (2020)

Warumpi Band –  Warumpi Rock: Papunya Sessions 1982 (2021)

 

The Warumpi Band were an Aboriginal rock band, founded in 1980 in Papunya, Northern Territory and active until 1987, reformed in 1995 and split in 2000. In 2021, a compilation album featuring mostly cover songs was released – with track 6 being ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Make You Feel My Love:

 

Dylan recorded this song in January 1997 and it was released on his September 1997 Time Out Of Mind  album.

 

The song has been covered by 250 artists, and was given a significant popularity boost by Adele’s February 2008 version on her 19 album. Prior to Adele’s version, less than 30 covers had been recorded in a 10-year period; and more than 230 covers in the 17 years since.

 

Perhaps surprisingly, Billy Joel released the first cover of the song on his August 1997  Greatest Hits Vol III’ album – a month before Dylan released his original.  Other artists to cover the song include: Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Joan Osborne, Maria Muldaur, Bryan Ferry, Neil Diamond, Ronan Keating, Michael Bolton, Nana Mouskouri, Engelbert Humperdinck with Willie Nelson, Lucinda Williams, Michael Buble.

 

My personal favourite cover is by Brazilian band Vanguart from their 2019  Sings Bob Dylan album.

 

Two notable Aussie artists have recorded cover versions of ‘Make You Feel My Love’:

 

  1. Rachael Beck – This Girl (2014)
  2. Kate Ceberano & Paul Grabowski – Tryst (2019)

 

The collaboration between Kate and Paul provides an exquisitely executed cover of the song.

 

 

 

 

 

      2. Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right

 

Dylan recorded this song in November 1962 and it was released on his May 1963  The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album.

 

The song has been covered by over 310 artists, including Joan Baez, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Cher, Jose Feliciano, John Martyn, Elvis Presley, Country Joe McDonald, Melanie, Susan Tedeschi, Bryan Ferry, Indigo Girls, Ralph McTell, Glen Campbell, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

 

My personal favourite cover is by Israeli band Diva de Lai from their 2013  Dylan At The Opera album.

 

Six Aussie artists have recorded cover versions of ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right’:

 

Gary Shearston – Songs Of Our Time (1964)

Merv Benton – Great Country Songs (1966)

The Waifs – A Brief History… (2004)

Brewster Brothers – Brewster Brothers Play Bob Dylan (2012)

Jess & Matt – Songs From The Village (2018)

Bondi Cigars – Down In The Valley (2001)

 

The Bondi Cigar’s 5th album,  Down In The Valley was nominated for a 2002 ARIA Award for Best Roots & Blues album. With songs like their live cover of ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright’, the nomination comes as no surprise.

 

 

 

 

  1. Blowin’ In The Wind

 

Dylan recorded this song in July 1962 and it was released on his May 1963 The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album.

 

The song has been covered by 425 artists, including Peter Paul & Mary, The Kingston Trio, Jacquie De Shannon, Stevie Wonder, Marianne Faithfull, Sam Cooke, Pete Seeger, Cliff Richard, Cher, Johnny Rivers, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, The Hollies, Etta James, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Neil Young, Dolly Parton, Ziggy Marley, Jimmy Buffett.

 

My personal favourite cover is by Marlene Dietrich on her 1964  Die Ne Marlene album.

 

Seven Aussie artists have recorded cover versions of ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’:

 

The Breakaways – instrumental single (1963)

The Seekers – Hide And Seekers (1964)

Shirley Jacobs – Endless Highways (1967) – lyrics sung in German

Jess & Matt – Songs From The Village (2018)

Damien Leith – Catch The Wind: Songs Of A Generation (2008)

Brewster Brothers – Brewster Brothers Play Bob Dylan (2012)

James Blundell – Campfire (2017)

 

James, with the help of Anne Kirkpatrick, Liam Kennedy-Clark & Abigail Grace, do a home recording of ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ – trying to capture singing the song the way you would around a campfire, with a beer and great friends.

 

 

 

 

Some concluding comments……

 

Firstly, eight of the top 10 Dylan covers were recorded in the 1960’s. For many, Dylan was in his creative prime during this period and his songs captured the times. He received strong support from the folk/folk rock & protests movements. These songs also have the advantage of being around for 60 years.

 

Secondly, at least 7 of the songs were given enormous commercial appeal by other artists of the time and opened up Dylan songs to other music genres.  Peter Paul & Mary championed ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’; Johnny Cash embraced Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright’ and introduced him to the influential C&W scene. Likewise Adele, Guns N’ Roses, The Byrds and Jimi Hendrix each provided a significant boost to the popularity & ‘coverability’ of songs that have made this top 10 list.

 

Finally, while Dylan is generally regarded as the 2nd most covered recording artist of the modern music era, his ‘statistics’ pale against the might of Lennon & McCartney.  They have at least 10 songs with over 500 cover version, with ‘Yesterday’ being the most covered song in modern recording history at over 1150 covers.

 

 

More from Karl Dubravs can be read Here.

 

 

 

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About Karl Dubravs

I was born in 1956 to Latvian parents who migrated to Australia in the late 1940's following WWII. My career was mostly in Human Resources within University and Public Service settings & allowed me to work & live in Sydney, Cabramurra (Australia's highest township), Townsville, Bathurst, Canberra & Shellharbour. I have now left paid employment & settled in the Blue Mountains. My true passion, ever since I was 16, has been songwriting - and my anthology is creeping towards 400 songs. In 2019, I unexpectedly crossed paths with a talented music producer & musician, who helped to produce my one & only album - 'Life & Love'.

Comments

  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Well done Karl, another fascinating look at the songs of Bob Dylan and the many covers recorded of them. Some cracking covers there.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Wonderfully encyclopedic and informative, Karl – and very well-researched to boot!

    For what it’s worth, two Dylan songs I played in bands of my youth were ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ and ‘All Along the Watchtower’, probably because they weren’t too difficult musically, at least in terms of chords and rhythm.

  3. Tony Forbes says

    The flip side of Somebody’s Image single ‘Hush’ was ‘Its all over now, baby blue’. Russell Morris on vocals did a nice version of it!
    The Waifs did a great cover of ‘Dont think twice it’s alright’’. Kevin Borich did a nice live cover of Hendrix’s fantastic interpretation of ‘All along the Watchtower’. Berle Ives had a hit with ‘I’ll be your bay tonight’. Texas blues man Johnny Nicholas does a great rockin’ version of ‘Its all over now, baby blue’. Who hasn’t recorded a Bob Dylan song?

  4. Karl Dubravs says

    Thanks for your comment Colin.
    I was really happy to find The Warumpi Band & Bondi Cigar covers – they were not as obvious as the others.

  5. Karl Dubravs says

    Thanks Kevin!
    Yes, ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’ is perhaps the easiest (musically & lyrically) of all Dylan songs to perform and the chorus is as easy as it gets for a gathered masses sing along.

  6. Karl Dubravs says

    Thanks for your comment & info Tony (I’ll send you an email about what you wrote).
    As for who hasn’t recorded a Bob Dylan song – I don’t think Paul Kelly has (at least on a commercial recording), despite being referred to as the Aussie Bob Dylan. I respect Paul for that.

  7. An interesting list. Thanks, Karl.

  8. Andrew Gaylard says

    Thank you so much for this series, Karl – it’s turned up a lot of releases that I was unaware of.and have enjoyed greatly.

    As for Paul Kelly, I think you’re correct in saying no recorded covers, although there are those quoted lines from “Like a Rolling Stone” as a coda to the version of “Taught by Experts” on “Smoke”. I saw Kelly open for Bob on his sixth (I think it was) tour here. Every support act says how honoured and privileged they are to open for [insert big name here] but PK, as I recall, did it better than most. But I have never heard him answer that question “What was Bob like?”

    I’ll take the slightly off-topic opportunity to vote for my favourite complete albums of Dylan covers, one Aussie and one not. One is our own Emma Swift’s “Blonde on the Tracks”, which you mentioned earlier. The other is Old Crow Medicine Show’s cracking complete live concert cover of “Blonde on Blonde”.

  9. DBalassone says

    Wonderful work again Karl. An intriguing list. You know your subject. I wasn’t aware of the Warumpi and Shane Howard covers and can’t wait to check them out.

    Andrew, Paul Kelly did talk a bit about that Dylan tour in his bio – I think Dylan gave him a cowboy belt as a gift on the last date of the tour.

  10. Karl Dubravs says

    Thanks for your comment Smokie!

  11. Karl Dubravs says

    Thanks Andrew – I’m glad you enjoyed the new finds.

    On the subject of favourite complete albums of Dylan covers – the contenders by Aussies is somewhat limited. I have only discovered 5 such albums and I would agree that Emma’s album is best of the bunch:
    1. Brewster Brothers Play Bob Dylan (2012) – which is referenced in the above article.
    2. The Sports Play Dylan (& Donovan) EP (1981) – referenced in my second article
    3. Luke Escombe’s – Bob Dylan’s Heroes & Villians (2020) – this is a self release album.
    4. Emma Swift’s – Blonde On the Tracks (2020) – also referenced in my second article
    5. The Woodstock Sessions: Songs Of Bob Dylan (2000) – featuring Kevin Borich, Ross Wilson, Joe Camilleri, Stephen Cummings, Tess McKenna – but I haven’t found any e-music clips of the songs.

    On the subject of favourite non-Aussie complete albums – well, so far I have uncovered over 200 such albums by individual artists and another 57 compilation albums by various artists. No doubt I will consider a future article (or 2) on complete albums of Dylan covers.

  12. Karl Dubravs says

    Hi Damian
    Glad you liked this latest instalment in the Dylan covers series and found a few more covers to check out.

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