Editor’s note: In what was considered a “radical” choice, Bob Dylan was announced as the winner of the Nobel Prize in literature on Oct. 13, 2016. Read the story here.
Bob Dylan has devoted the vast majority of his 55-year recording career to songs of his own, but occasionally he has displayed his ability as a vocal stylist, interpreting folk, country, blues, gospel and pop songs that most inspired him.
Here are seven worth seeking:
1. “See That My Grave is Kept Clean/One Kind Favor” (Blind Lemon Jefferson): Out of the gate in 1962 with his debut album “Bob Dylan,” the acclaimed young folk hero and Woody Guthrie acolyte demonstrated he could be as adept singing other writers’ songs as his own. Here he injects palpable terror into Jefferson’s haunting ode to awareness of an inevitable meeting with the Grim Reaper.
3. “Folsom Prison Blues” (Johnny Cash): In place of the rolling train rhythm of Cash’s original, Dylan applies a Jimmy Reed chugging blues pace to propel his keening vocal, bringing more existential acceptance to this confession from a man who knows he belongs behind bars for life for his sins.
Bob Dylan appears in a film still for “Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid” (for which he also did the soundtrack) which was released in May 1973 and filmed in Durango, Mexico.(Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)
Bob Dylan performs at the John F Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia during the first international live aid concert against hunger in Africa on July 13, 1985.(Micelotta Frank / AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama, background, presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Bob Dylan on May 29, 2012.(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)
People look at books by Bob Dylan who was announced the laureate of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, Sweden, on Oct. 13, 2016.(Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP/Getty Images)
4. “Four Strong Winds” (Ian Tyson): Soul-deep regret and heartache are at the heart of this reading of the respected Canadian folk-country songwriter’s best-known song.
5. “A Fool Such As I” (William Marvin Trader): The shadows of hit versions by Hank Snow and Elvis Presley loom large over this song, yet Dylan finds his own distinctive route into the anguish at the heart of Trader’s lyric.
7. “Delia” (Traditional): Dylan is at his most intimately confessional in this almost whispered rendition of the classic murder ballad, no doubt influenced by, but still determinedly different from, folk-blues singer Blind Willie McTell’s interpretation.