This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
Whenever a headline in a newspaper ends with a question mark, the answer is always an emphatic "No!", and so it is today.
I'm always happy to produce a column featuring the songs of the finest songwriter from the second half of the twentieth century (and continuing into the twenty-first).This isn't the first time I've done this.
My preference is for him to perform the songs but there are some, Norma, the Assistant Musicologist among them, who contend that others perform them better than he does.
I don't generally subscribe to that thesis but I will admit that some others have produced fine versions of his songs and even a couple, I'll admit, that are better. Here are some of the better ones; I'll leave it up to you to decide if these artists perform Bob Dylan's songs better than he does.
My inspiration for the column was hearing DAVE ALVIN perform Highway 61 Revisited.
It's not one of Bob's songs that has been covered very often (okay, Johnny Winter springs to mind), and Dave's version I find particularly interesting. Perhaps it's the dichotomy of his fine baritone voice over a full tilt rock band that does it for me. Whatever it is, here's Dave.
Bob recorded the song Wallflower on a Doug Sahm album called "Doug Sahm and Band" where Doug managed to get some heavy hitters along to record with him. That's the only place where Bob's version appears (apart from the now ubiquitous "Bootleg" series of albums of his).
Others have tackled the song since; one of those versions is by THE HOLMES BROTHERS.
This fine group consisted of Sherman and Wendell Holmes plus Popsy Dixon. They sound as if they should be a gospel group, and they did sing some of that, but they mostly performed soul, blues and even country music. Alas, as of the writing of this column, Sherman is the only survivor.
GORDON LIGHTFOOT rarely recorded anyone else's songs.
Anyway, here's Gordie performing Ring Them Bells, one of Bob's lesser known songs. Gordie makes it sound like one of his own.
The terrific duo of RODNEY CROWELL and EMMYLOU HARRIS can be counted on to make even inferior songs sound good. Bob's songs don't fall into that category.
Before he went out as a solo artist, Rodney was a member of Emmy's band, not just playing and singing, but writing songs that she recorded to great acclaim. Since then he has recorded them himself. Today, though, it's about Bob and the song they sing is Shelter from the Storm.
ALAN PRICE started a group called The Alan Price Rhythm and Blues Combo that later became The Animals.
He played keyboards, particularly the organ, an integral part of the music they made. Alan was instrumental in getting the group to the prominence it held in the sixties until a virtual coup d'état by the singer forced him out.
He later formed several other groups as well as performing with others such as Georgie Fame. Alan sings and plays a beautiful version of To Ramona.
FAIRPORT CONVENTION had three of Bob's songs on their finest album, "Unhalfbricking".
For some reason, they sang one of those in French. Bands did pretentious things like that back then. This isn't that one, it's one they sing straight, Percy's Song.
There are two artists whose presence in this column you could pretty much guarantee, so I won't disappoint you. Here's the first, JOAN BAEZ.
Farewell, Angelina was both the name of the song and the album from which it was taken.This was reasonably early in Joan's recording career but it gave hints of her move from straight folk songs to a more varied repertoire.
RICHIE HAVENS made a name for himself covering songs written by Bob and The Beatles.
He also made a name for himself for performing for three hours on the first day of the Woodstock festival when no other performer was in a fit state to go on. The song Just Like a Woman wasn't one he performed there, but it was on his fine early album "Mixed Bag".
THEM was responsible for the classic rock song, Gloria.
They started out in Belfast and a young musician called Van Morrison joined them to play the saxophone. He soon took over as lead singer as well as their main songwriter.
Here is the young Van out front of Them singing It's All Over Now, Baby Blue.
We couldn't have a column about Bob's cover versions without THE BYRDS, the second mandatory inclusion.
Their song is from the time they, if not invented, were seriously involved in country rock. This was completely due to the influence of the tragic Gram Parsons. The song is You Ain't Goin' Nowhere.