Almanac Music: Not Quite Bob – The Covers: In Bob We Trust




Not Quite Bob The Covers In Bob We Trust


The pervasiveness of Bob Dylans influence is obvious.  Everybody wants to have a crack at Bobs songs.  Everybody.  Here is a by no means comprehensive playlist I put together of covers of Bob songs.  I consulted two 80 song lists put together by Rolling Stone and Variety and while there is significant overlap between the two they couldnt leave out Jimis ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and continue to publish theres probably 120 tunes in these lists.


This playlist is a nudge over 40.  I was going to stop at 20 but couldnt, would still be growing it now but have to get on with the day.  Its top and tailed with my two favorites Nina Simones take on ‘Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues’ is sublime and Richard Hawleys ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ is note perfect but there are a lot of gems in between.  Plenty of the famous ones Jimi, The Band, Johnny Cash and a bunch of (I hope) surprises.  Not the songs but those doing them.  As I said everybody has had a crack at Bob.  


What makes a good cover then?  Is it faithful rendition, homage?  Australian Emma Swift has certainly done that in her album of covers called Blonde On The Tracks and is here with ‘Queen Jane Approximately’.





Or do you shake things up a bit as Rage Against The Machine does with ‘Maggies Farm’.




Now some might consider that murder but I like
it.  An 80s protestor picks up on a 60s protestor with due deference.   Thats a cover IMHO.


So dive in.  Theres more like that from Nick Cave, Eddie Vedder and My Chemical Romance and more like Emma Swift from Rosanne Cash and Harry Nilsson and Gene Clark.  And plenty more besides.





A few of my highlights.


Nina Simone ‘Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues’


The GOAT of Bob covers.  She did others but this is the gold standard.





The Band ‘I Shall Be Released’


Didnt make it into my piece on The Band but it has to be here.






Rosanne Cash ‘Girl From The North Country’


Rosanne flanked by two icons.  Who dont sing but anyway.





Nick Cave ‘Death Is Not The End’


You couldnt keep maudlin old Nick out of it.  Especially if hes doing Murder Ballads.





Etta James ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’


Change of pace.  Funk, soul, brass, guitars and the voice.  OMFG that voice.





And if you want some light relief find Isaac Hayes ‘Lay Lady Lay’. Another big voice but with some completely self conscious pastiche thrown in.


Dave Alvin ‘Highway 61 Revisited’


Bob has done his fair share of rollicking tunes and Dave is a master of the form.





Richard Hawley
‘Ballad of a Thin Man’


Richard Hawley is a pommy crooner and a mean guitarist.  Formerly of Pulp hes produced a clutch of ripping albums and Ive got the lot.  Worth every dime.  Here he provides a Bob classic for the soundtrack of Peaky Blinders and its in the quinella with Nina for my favorite Dylan cover.




Lucinda Williams
‘Idiot Wind’


During lockdowns a few years ago Lucinda Williams under the title of Lus Jukebox recorded a few albums of covers including the Stones, Tom Petty, some soul tunes, some country classics and Bob.  Of course.  At the time they were USD10 from her website.  A bargain.  While you can’t find them on Spotify thankfully she went into a studio with a crack band and did the Bob set which is on YouTube.  Cant miss this.




And the last word on Bob covers?  Why, that would be from the man himself.  Hes just released Shadow Kingdom, 13 covers of some of his best plus an instrumental outro.  A reconsideration of the genius earlier work from the genius at 80-something.  Filmed as though performed in a speakeasy.  Superb.



Listen to an old man singing ‘Forever Young’ without a scintilla of irony and maintain your composure.


Thats it then.  Bob covers by all and sundry.  Perhaps surprisingly Bob has suggested that Elvis Presleys cover of  ‘Tomorrow Is A Long Time’ is his favorite.  Its in this list so see what you think of that.  Ive left out hundreds of others or included versions of great songs that youd prefer from others.  And there are plenty of classics not here but whats clear is that this is contested space simply because the repertoire is so vast, the quality so good that all we can rely on is that In Bob We Trust.  Amen to that.



You can read more ‘Not Quite Bob’ from Trevor Blainey HERE.



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  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Ripper piece once again Trevor. I’ll be listening on my earplugs to the playlists above while relaxing by the pool here in Port Douglas. Bliss!

    Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings with Willie Watson do a cracking version of ‘Queen Jane Approximately’.

  2. How long is a piece of string, Trevor?
    I reckon you could re-produce this piece every week with a multitude of different covers.

    So, while I am here, let me weigh in with a handful of my favourites:
    “Tangled Up In Blue” by the Indigo Girls (off the live album ‘1200 Curfews’),
    “If You’ve Gotta Go, Go Now” by Weddings Parties Anything (off their ‘Donkey Serenade’ ep),
    “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” by Rod Stewart (off his “Every Picture Tells A Story” album),
    “One More Cup Of Coffee” by Robert Plant,
    “Mr Tambourine Man” by The Byrds.

  3. Trevor Blainey says

    Thanks Col and Smokie. A very deep rabbit hole Smokie. I made a few changes today but should stop. there are dozens of Dylan covers albums around that I could happily plunder all day.

  4. Surely, the breadth of cover versions tells you much about the artist and his songs.

  5. Fantastic piece Trevor. One I really liked going back a decade or more was Rebecca Barnard doing Boots of Spanish Leather on her album Fortified. Cheers

  6. I am on board with the Rage Against The Machine cover of ‘Maggie’s Farm’.

    I would have ‘All Along the Watchtower’ at the top of my list, but Hendrix also does a suitably loose and Hendrix-esque version of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ on Live at Monterey.

    The Whitlams did a pretty faithful version of ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ on their Eternal Nightcap album.
    Dylan wasn’t really on my 25 year old radar in 1997 but this song was a gateway, and the original is now one of my favourite songs (of all, not just Dylan’s).

  7. Trevor Blainey says

    Greg I’ve added in a live Stones version of Like A Rolling Stone along with a few others but feel as though I should stop at (now) 45 of what could easily be 200. Pleased this piece triggered some thoughts from the assembly.

    Thanks Ian, I’ll track that down. I’m sure you’ve been to some of the Shane O’Mara/Brian Wise curated Dylan performances where Rebecca amongst many others cover the master brilliantly.

  8. Peter Crossing says

    Thanks for this Trev. Love a Nod to Bob.
    In his recent opus, The Philosophy of Modern Song, Bob Dylan writes that Ry Cooder “improved every record he played on and many that he didn’t”.
    Could the same be said of Dylan and any number of the myriad Dylan covers?
    Many of the covers simply mean the artist is having a “let’s do a Dylan song” moment.
    Others, like those referenced above, take the song in an entirely different direction in terms of feeling, instrumentation and delivery. I particularly like the Nina Simone, Dave Alvin and Lucinda Williams versions you mention.
    Also, the ethereal Emma Swift cover of One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)
    “I told you as you clawed out my eyes
    I never really meant to do you any harm”.
    Is Rage Against The Machine’s “Maggie’s Farm” based on the Dylan/Bloomfield Newport ’65 rendition?

    Somewhere in the ABC Music Show program archives there is a brilliant analysis of how Jimi Hendrix made All Along The Watchtower his own.

    It becomes very subjective but here are some that appeal to me.
    Ballad of Hollis Brown – The Neville Brothers – love the vocals, the guitar, the brooding bass
    You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go – Madeleine Peyroux
    Just Like A Woman – Nina Simone – did she ever “break, just like a little girl”?
    When I Paint My Masterpiece – interesting to compare the swirling version by The Band with the off-the-wall rendition from Jeff Lang and Chris Whitley.
    Changing of the Guards – Jeff Lang and Chris Whitley

    Pub Rock/Smoky bar/Cabaret covers
    It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry – Chris Wilson: Live At The Continental
    Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues – Frankie Miller
    Tangled Up In Blue – The Whitlams
    Heart of Mine – Norah Jones & The Peter Malick Group
    Blowin’ In The Wind – Sam Cooke from Live at the Copa – shortly before he recorded A Change Is Gonna Come

    Mama You Been On My Mind – He Who Shall Not Be Named
    If You Gotta Go, Go Now – Manfred Mann – frantic harp
    Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat – Jimmy LaFave
    It’s All Over Now Baby Blue – Joan Baez – and so it was
    Knocking On Heaven’s Door – Warren Zevon – from his final album
    So it goes.

  9. Lucinda’s version of Idiot Wind is fabulous. And her smile at the end… made my day.

  10. Trevor Blainey says

    All notable entrants in the club Peter although I’m not sure who He Who Shall Not Be Named would be. That brief selection of covers by Emma Swift is as good as anyone has ever done I would have thought. Not sure what inspired the RAM version of Maggies Farm but I’d like to think it’s a bit like I suggested – homage from one group of protestors to another. And yes, Ry Cooder did/does make everything he works on better. no argument there. if you check the links I did one of these on him and David Lindley and Jackson Browne.

  11. Excellent list TB and agree with most comments (not much of a fan of RATM for example).

    The cover I most love (and yes, it’s personal) is Graham Bonnet’s Baby Blue. It came out in 79 and was our unofficial end of school song. I didn’t know Dylan’s version at the time but lines like “the carpet too is moving under you” blew my mind. So now I gotta add Manfred Mann’s version of Quinn the Eskimo. Another song that on finding out it was Dylan threw me and my world off our axis.


  12. DBalassone says

    Great topic. I imagine the list would be endless. A few that spring to mind:

    Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word byJoan Baez
    My Back Pages by the Magokoro Brothers

    Joan also does magisterial versions of Forever Young and Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. Old Crow Medicine Show also do a great version of the latter (thanks to RK for the tip).

    It’s interesting. but I don’t reckon any cover of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ comes close to Dylan’s take. There was something magic in the air the day Bob recorded it.

  13. Trevor Blainey says

    Rick, my original premise was that I was a Bob Dylan fan who didn’t know it until late in the piece. I’m a long way behind mates, the Brians (Wise and Nankervis), aficionados, fans, musicians, writers, poets and multitudes of others. but i got there and truthfully the covers probably helped.

    And Damian, Joan Baez should be there so I’ve just added her version of Forever Young in.

    I do agree however that with very few exceptions (Jimi’s All Along The Watchtower perhaps being one) Bob’s versions are the best.

  14. Frank Perich says

    Great challenge. Could go on and on. However for me as a matter of personal taste all Ferry interpretations. In the initial instance Hard Rain bravely turned Bob upside down and inside out like no one else. As a separate one off OCMC rendition of Absolutely Sweet Marie blows me away especially as I caught this live at the Forum some time ago.

  15. Colin Ritchie says

    Hi Frank, New Orleans fellow traveller, I was at the Forum for OCMS. What a fantastic show that was!

  16. Yep, there as well. What a brilliant night. Valerie June as well.

    OCMS are terrific. Saw them down in Gippsland around 2010, at a music festival, headlined by Justin Townes Earle. That was one hell of a gig.


  17. Peter Warrington says

    The Super Session version of It Takes A Lot… just crackles in the way Bob must have meant it too

    PJ Harvey doing Highway 61, in her peak Rid of Me thunderstorm -nowhere near HER best work, but some of the best of his I reckon.

  18. Karl Dubravs says

    Hey Trevor
    When I read this editions ‘Bob’ topic, I got quite excited. For the past couple of years I have done some deep diving into Bob covers. In summary, this is what I uncovered:
    * there are over 105,000 covers of Dylan songs (& growing every day);
    * there are over 400 albums that are devoted between 50% – 100% to Dylan covers;
    * the first 100% Dylan covers album was by Linda Mason – ‘How Many Seas Must A White Dove Sail: Linda Mason Sings Bob Dylan’, released in 1964. It happened to be her only album.
    During my “research”, I have written up charts listing:
    * my favourite 100 Dylan covers,
    * 100 Dylan covers by Aust/NZ artists;
    * 100 Dylan covers by US/UK/Canadian & Irish artists; &
    * 100 Dylan covers by Internatonal artists other that those covered above.
    As a consequence, I could fill in lots of space peddling off seriously great & seriously awful Dylan covers. But if I narrowed down my favourites, excluding any of those listed above, I would add:
    Eddie Vedder’s version of ‘Masters Of War’ from the 1993 30th Anniversary Celebration Concert
    Richie Haven’s version of Just Like A Woman
    Johnny Winter’s version of Highway 61 Revisited
    BTW – if you are interested in pursuing the fascinating world of Dylan covers further, I am happy to continue discussions outside this forum.
    Cheers, Karl

  19. Trevor Blainey says

    Awesome Karl.

    The Eddie Vedder version of Masters of War is in that Spotify playlist I put in the article. It’s terrific. Richie Havens did a few covers of Bob, all exemplary. The one in that playlist is Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. And because I didn’t want to repeat songs I’ve got Dave Alvin doing Highway 61 but the Johnny Winter version is great and is on my first ever purchase which was Second Winter.

    The sheer volume is extraordinary and points, I think, to the premise of the series. The influence he’s had on (probably) thousands of artists.

  20. Colin Ritchie says

    Hi Karl, fascinating the research you have done re Bob, do you have a blog or is it accessible anywhere? I’m sure the many Bob fans on the site would love to be able to access your work.

  21. Karl Dubravs says

    Hi Colin – I have recorded my Bob Dylan covers research in personal charts that are stored on the ‘’ website – although access to my charts is only available to registered users.
    I hadn’t considered creating a blog but you have seeded an idea – and as I am looking at something to fill in those long hours of post paid work, I might put my mind & time to such an endeavour. Thanks for the tip.

  22. Thanks for all those references, Trevor. I can feel many hours will disappear as a result!
    I liked this Lily one too.

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