Of course, the easy answer is Hendrix’ “All Along the Watchtower.” Maybe the second most easy answer is The Byrds’ version of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” on which Roger McGuinn invented the 12-string Rickenbacker jangle twang that would eventually send R.E.M. to the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame.
Okay, that’s safe and conventional wisdom. However, weepingelvis.com isn’t about the safe and the conventional. So I’d love to get everyone’s input.
My three nominations off the top of my head and off the “I’m Not There” soundtrack are: John Doe’s version of “Pressing On” (from Dylan’s widely–and largely deservedly– panned Christian phase; this take will make you consider being born again with its plaintive urgency and tale of perseverance and belief); Richie Haven’s cover of “Tombstone Blues” (Havens also does the GREATEST Beatles cover of all time, “Here Comes the Sun”); Jim James/Calexico’s version of “Going to Acapulco.” This last one is particularly hypnotic, especially when you see the visual in the Todd Haynes “I’m Not There” movie with James in white-face echoing Dylan’s “Rolling Thunder Review” makeup choice and giving new resonance to this “Basement Tapes”-era classic.