It’s difficult to know where to begin with an artist like Bob Dylan. Calling him the most influential artist of his generation is almost inarguably true, but even that grand statement seems reductive of his singular achievements.
This week he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday for “having created new poetic expression within the great American song tradition,” according to the Swedish Academy. They went on to say, “Dylan has the status of an icon. His influence on contemporary music is profound, and he is the object of a steady stream of secondary literature.”
Perhaps no artist has served as inspiration for so many other artists, and few artists have as many songs for the inspired to pull from. It would be foolish to consider any list of Dylan covers to be The definitive list of the best covers, but you could do a lot worse than this list.
Marcus Mumford – “Kansas City”
Sufjan Stevens – “Ring Them Bells”
Beck – “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”
Cat Power – “Stuck Inside of Mobile”
Phoenix – “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”
Coldplay – “Simple Twist of Fate”
The White Stripes – “Love Sick”
Karen O & The Million Dollar Bashers – “Highway 61 Revisited”
Cage The Elephant – “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”
Jeff Buckley – “I Shall Be Released”
K’naan – “God on Our Side
Yo La Tengo – “Fourth Time Around”
Adele – ‘Make You Feel My Love’
The Airborne Toxic Event – “Boots Of Spanish Leather”
Ke$ha – “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”
The Lumineers – “When the Ships Come In”
Patti Labelle – “Forever Young”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated and adapted from an earlier version that first ran in 2014. Thanks to the commenters for some additional recommendations.
Jesse Carey is a mainstay on the weekly RELEVANT Podcast and member of RELEVANT's executive board. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two kids.