Bob Dylan’s Favorite Cover of ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door ‘


“Knockin ‘on Heaven’s Door” is one of Bob Dylan’s greatest moments. Written in 1973, the track features a glamorous and star group. Benefiting from Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn on six strings and Jim Keltner on drums, it also used the talents of iconic backing singers Carol Hunter, Donna Weiss and Brenda Patterson. Together this stellar range created something spiritual and emotionally impactful.

Of all of Dylan’s work after the 1960s, “Knockin ‘on Heaven’s Door” is one of his most beloved. Described by Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin as “an exercise of splendid simplicity,” it discusses notions of life and death, and thanks to its glorious composition, it has won legions of fans with an intergenerational appeal that is largely invisible in music.

Dylan originally wrote the song as part of the soundtrack to Sam Peckinpah’s classic film, Pat Garrett and Billy the Child in 1973. The irony of the song is that Dylan’s version has been totally eclipsed by the sheer number of covers it has spawned over the years. Everyone from Guns N ‘Roses to Eric Clapton has tried to make the song their own. In fact, there are over 150 covers performed by artists of varying credibility.

Legends such as Neil Young, Nick Cave, Patti Smith, Paul Simon, Jerry Garcia and Television have also delivered renditions of the song in the past. Another icon who delivered a stellar version, although only a live version, was ‘The Boss’, Mr. Bruce Springsteen.

Dylan himself called it “amazing”. It happened in 2015, after Dylan was named that year’s MusiCares Person Of The Year. The show featured legends from all eras of music including Beck, Neil Young, Jack White & Crosby, Stills & Nash, and all of them covered Dylan songs.

It was Springsteen who really caught the eye, however. Joined on stage by Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, the praise he received from Dylan was unprecedented. The praise he gave Springsteen eclipsed the praise he rained on Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower.”

“(Springsteen) made this song like the record, something I never tried myself. I never even thought it was worth it. Maybe he never did. had the manpower in a band to be successful. I don’t know, but I never thought about it. To tell you the truth, I forgot how the song should play out, “Dylan said about of the performance. “Bruce drew all the power, spirituality and beauty out of it like no one has ever done. He was true, really true to the version on the record, obviously the only one he needs to trust. “

Unfortunately, no sequence of the performance exists of the entire performance except for the excerpts. What we can understand from these short clips is that, as Dylan said, the coverage of Springsteen and Morello was on full blast.

It looks exactly like the original save of Morello’s screaming guitar solo in the background. Springsteen sprinkled the original in its own magic formula, the honest, blue-collar style that has seen it fill stadiums around the world for the past 40 years. In a sense, he stuck with the original but fully realized his anthemic ability and increased it.

When you stop to think about it, there are a lot of parallels that can be drawn between Dylan and Springsteen as songwriters, and there seems to be a mutual understanding between the two. Their unique social commentaries on America’s social fabric are unmatched and will remain timeless.

Watch a short clip from Springsteen and Morello’s cover of “Knockin ‘on Heaven’s Door” below.

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