Just Like a Woman: Female Cover Artists Bob Dylan

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Cher’s debut single, produced by then-husband Sonny Bono, was this catchy cover of the opening track on “The Other Side of Bob Dylan”—a sort of solo duet between the male and female ends of Cher’s vocal range. As she wrote in her entertaining 1998 autobiography The First Time, “No one thought I was alone, because I did the up and the down at the beginning of each verse.” She also recounts, later in that chapter, how she ran into Dylan in a New York recording studio while her version was climbing the charts. He told her he dug what she did to him, which Cher wrote, “made me feel like I was floating away.” (Listen on YouTube)

By the time she released her 1975 album “Diamonds and Rust,” Baez had been recording slick, revered covers of material written by Dylan — her folk music peer, collaborator, and former flame — for more than a decade. Her soulful cover of “Simple Twist of Fate” is something else, though: playful, self-assured, and even a little sassy, ​​especially when she uses a snarky Dylan nasal impression in the second half of the song. Writing the painful title track “diamond and rust” A poetic remembrance of their ’60s romance with Dylan must have freed her up to have some fun with his material. (Listen on YouTube)

In 1965, shortly after the release of her debut single “As Tears Go By”, Faithfull spent some time hanging out at the Savoy with Dylan and his entourage, while DA Pennebaker filmed “Don’t Look Back”. At one point, Dylan played Faithfull’s latest album: “Bringing It All Back Home.” Six years later, as her sound began to mature away from light pop fare and into this more visual ensemble, Faithfull recorded her own version of the album’s final track, “It’s Over Now, Baby Blue.” He prays reconsidering The song again many years later, too, on her 2018 album “Negative Capability.” (Listen on YouTube)

It is a rare experience, to hear the muse of the song sing and interpret the material about which it was written. (allegedly, We should also add with any speculation as to what Dylan’s song is or who it is “about”.) But such are the poignancy and power of Nico’s rendition of “I’ll Keep It With Mine,” which she recorded for her 1967 debut solo album, “Chelsea Girl.” Dylan wrote the song while traveling around Europe with Nico before the Velvet Underground during their brief 1964 romance, and though he tried to record it for “Bringing It All Back Home” and, later, “Blonde on Blonde,” he ended up Saving it for release in his bootleg collection. Nico’s version, then, is perhaps the best known: the distinctive richness of her voice makes it sound impossibly melancholy, but there’s a buoyancy in her rhythms that conveys the sweetness and devotion to companionship at the heart of the song. (Listen on YouTube)

I only discovered this flaming cover a few months ago, after reading about it in Grill Marcus’s wonderful 2022 book “Popular Music: A Biography of Bob Dylan in Seven Songs.” (Always read Greil Marcus about Bob Dylan.) One of those seven songs is the refreshingly creepy ballad “Ain’t Talkin’,” from Dylan’s 2006 album “Modern Times,” though Marcus rightly praises the reworking of beloved soul singer Betty Laffitte. Enliven the composition with its unique sensitivity. He quotes LaVette, speaking about this and a few other Dylan covers on her 2018 album “Things Have Changed”: “I’m not going to praise him.” Instead, she was looking to make the songs “fit in my mouth,” as she puts it, “just like they were written for me.” mission accomplished. (Listen on YouTube)