Dylan's Legacy Keeps Growing, Cover By Cover How much of Bob Dylan's staying power comes from his signature craggy voice? And how much comes from the poetry of his songs? It can be hard to separate the two, so it's intriguing to hear his songs covered by the likes of Bryan Ferry.

Dylan's Legacy Keeps Growing, Cover By Cover

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BOB DYLAN: (Singing) Mama, take this badge off of me, I can't use it anymore.

: That's the Bob Dylan classic, "Knocking on Heaven's Door," as sung by Bob Dylan. It is intriguing, though, to hear Dylan's songs when you take away his signature craggy voice and replace it with the voice of somebody else like, say, musician Brian Ferry, who has a CD of Dylan covers out today which he calls "Dylanesque."


BRIAN FERRY: (Singing) Mama, put my guns in the ground, I can't shoot them anymore.

: Brian Ferry has been singing the occasional Dylan cover since 1973. As the lead singer of the synth pop band Roxy Music, he wasn't exactly a natural Dylan impersonator. But who is? Music writer Kevin Phipps says that's beside the point.

KEVIN PHIPPS: Part of what makes a Dylan cover work is when you have something exciting and unexpected and not Dylanesque to draw on. That's why with Ferry covering Dylan - when it works, it's nothing you'd expect. It's sort of this velvety smooth, world-weary voice that seems to be untouched by time.

: Plenty of people have covered Bob Dylan, folk musicians, rock stars, hip-hop artists, reggae singers. Remember the reggae album a couple of years back, "Reggae Bob Dylan." They've all covered "Knocking on Heaven's Door," including Wyclef Jean.


WYCLEF JEAN: (Singing) It feels like I'm knockin' on heaven's door to Biggie Smalls and Tupac. Knock, knock, knockin' on the heaven's door hip-hop to (unintelligible).

PHIPPS: Dylan lays down something that's so open to interpretation - the voices. His voice is inimitable. You can probably do a Dylan impersonation, but you're not going to do the same thing he does. And no one else sounds like that.

: One of the most popular versions of the song doesn't sound like Bob Dylan at all. It's Guns N' Roses.


AXL ROSE: (Singing) Knock-knock-knockin' on heaven's door. Knock-knock-knockin' on heaven's door.

: "Knocking on Heaven's Door" as sung by Guns N' Roses. You can also hear it as sung by Bryan Ferry and Wyclef Jean and Bob Dylan just by going to npr.org/music.


ROSE: (Singing) Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door.

: This is NPR News.

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