Bob Dylan, who turned 76 on May 24, has left an immeasurable impact on music in many ways, not the least of which is how he has placed greater emphasis on the songwriter. Thanks to songs like “Desolation Row” and “Like A Rolling Stone,” greater value is now placed on artists who write the songs they perform on their own. The irony of this is that a good portion of Dylan’s catalog owes its notoriety to other artists who have taken songs he wrote and turned them into smash hits.
Probably the most famous Dylan cover of all time is Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower,” which the legendary guitarist included in 1968 on “Electric Ladyland” but which Dylan had released a year earlier. The songwriter has said that he considers Hendrix’s version to be the definitive one.
“It Ain’t Me Babe” was the closing song on the 1964 album “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” but The Turtles’ cover a year later was the version that climbed into the Billboard Top 10. It has also been covered by Johnny Cash, Nancy Sinatra, and most recently, Kesha and Ben Folds at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards.
“Love Is Just A Four Letter Word” is a song that Dylan never recorded, but became famous when Joan Baez released it in 1968. Baez covered several other Dylan songs and helped introduce him to the masses when he was getting his career started.
One of Manfred Mann’s most famous singles was “Mighty Quinn,” which hit the top of the U.K. charts and cracked the Billboard Top 10 in 1968. Dylan had first written and recorded the song a year earlier during his famous Basement Tapes sessions, but did not officially release it until 1970.
Some music fans may be surprised to learn that for all of Dylan’s accomplishments, he has never released a single that hit the top of the Billboard charts. He did write a #1 single, though. The Byrds’ cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man” topped the charts in both the U.S. and U.K. and effectively gave birth to the folk rock movement of the 60s. Both the original and The Byrds’ cover have been honored by the Grammys.
In 1972, Dylan was tasked with recording the soundtrack for the film “Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid.” While doing that, he wrote a chorus for a song called “Wagon Wheel” that he ultimately decided to scrap. Recordings of Dylan’s chorus lived on through bootlegs, and in 1995, the Americana group Old Crow Medicine Show fleshed it out into a single that went platinum. In 2013, Darius Rucker did a country cover of “Wagon Wheel” that won him a Grammy.
Dylan released the song “Make You Feel My Love” in 1997 a month after Billy Joel released a cover for it as part of a greatest hits compilation album. Later, Garth Brooks released a cover that earned Dylan a Grammy nomination for Best Country Song. Then, in 2008, Adele covered the song as part of her debut album, “19.” As a single, Adele’s cover went gold in the U.S. and platinum in the U.K.