By Tony Attwood
This is going to be an oddity in this series, because I can only find one cover of “Lenny Bruce” and obviously as that is the only version by another artist I’ll include it. If you know of any other versions please do write in.
I take it that the artist in this rendition is an amateur performer, but he’s none the worse for that, and does a damn sight better than I ever could achieve… which isn’t saying much, but it does show what can be achieved by people with real talent, even if there is no recording contract to go with it.
So why does no one cover this song? It can’t be because it doesn’t lend itself to re-interpretation as it is fairly easy to think up an orchestral accompaniment to the piece while keeping the time and rhythm the same, and indeed to deliver a performance with some heavy percussion to relate to the fact that it is about death.
But that is how it is, so since I don’t want to pass this song by I’m going to pick up on a few of Dylan’s own variations on the song. He has played the song 117 times on tour, so we have a few to choose from.
In the version above there are some really interesting slight variations in the melody, and the instrumentation changes its rhythm, while Bob restrains himself beautifully in terms of the vocals. Goodness knows what the crash from the lead guitar is doing at the very end, but still, it is at the very end so is not too hard to ignore!
In this next version with Tom Petty, Bob shows how the harmonies can work, and for me this is very effective indeed.
And of course, I do have to include this very strange version from 2019. I’m really not too sure about this; it feels to me like an experiment that has been made public before it is quite ready for release. The idea of the strings in the accompaniment is excellent, but I feel the piano part is just not right playing those half scales. And the electric bass and the viola seem to me to contradict each other. It is so frustrating because the idea is brilliant, but I just don’t feel the orchestration is right.
But that of course is just me, as ever.
Here’s a list of most of the articles from this series…
- The song with numbers in the title.
- Ain’t Talkin
- All I really want to do
- Apple Suckling and Are you Ready.
- As I went out one morning
- Ballad for a Friend
- Ballad in Plain D
- Ballad of a thin man
- Frankie Lee and Judas Priest
- The ballad of Hollis Brown
- Beyond here lies nothing
- Blind Willie McTell
- Black Crow Blues (more fun than you might recall)
- An unexpected cover of “Black Diamond Bay”
- Blowin in the wind as never before
- Bob Dylan’s Dream
- You will not believe this… 115th Dream revisited
- Boots of Spanish leather
- Born in Time
- Buckets of Rain
- Can you please crawl out your window
- Can’t wait
- Changing of the Guard
- Chimes of Freedom
- Country Pie
- Crash on the Levee
- Dark Eyes
- Dear Landlord
- Desolation Row as never ever before (twice)
- Don’t fall apart on me tonight.
- Don’t think twice
- Down along the cove
- Drifter’s Escape
- Duquesne Whistle
- Farewell Angelina
- Foot of Pride and Forever Young
- Fourth Time Around
- From a Buick 6
- Gates of Eden
- Gotta Serve Somebody
- Hard Rain’s a-gonna Fall.
- 42 Heart of Mine
- 43: High Water
- 44: Highway 61.5
- 45: Hurricane
- 46: I am a lonesome hobo
- 47: I believe in you
- 48: I contain multitudes
- 49: I don’t believe you.
- 50: I love you too much
- 51: I pity the poor immigrent.
- 52: I shall be released
- 53: I threw it all away
- 54: I want you
- 55: I was young when I left home
- 56: I’ll remember you
- 57: Idiot Wind and More idiot wind
- 58: If not for you, and a rant against prosody
- 59: A Dylan cover a Day: If you Gotta Go, please go and do something different
- 60: If you see her say hello
- 61: Dylan cover a day: I’ll be your baby tonight
- 62: I’m not there.
- 63: In the Summertime, Is your love and an amazing Isis
- 64: It ain’t me babe
- 65: It takes a lot to laugh
- 66: It’s all over now Baby Blue
- 67: It’s all right ma
- 68: Just Like a Woman
- 69: Knocking on Heaven’s Door
- 70: Lay down your weary tune
- 71: Lay Lady Lay