By now I hope you’ve had a chance to read our massive Bob Dylan 70th Birthday post here at Popdose. It was an enormous undertaking, and we’re all very proud of the end result.

Since this is Dylan’s birthday week, I thought it would be a good idea to extend the celebration a little longer. Dylan’s songs have been among the most covered of any songwriter ever. In fact, a website called Cover Me has put together a post that gathers together a cover version for every song that has ever appeared on a Dylan album.

Dylan’s music has inspired tribute albums in many genres. There are country tributes, gospel tributes, reggae tributes, and of course soul tributes. Since this is Soul Serenade, I would like to focus on that latter category today.

The great Etta James has fallen on very hard times indeed. The legendary singer was recently admitted to the hospital where doctors are treating her for sepsis, a potentially fatal blood infection. She also suffers from dementia, leukemia, and kidney problems. Meanwhile, her family is squabbling about her money. It’s a sad end to an artist who has brought so much joy to people.

At times like this, people look to faith for their salvation. Bob Dylan himself was a seeker, during an era that became known at his “Christian” period. Dylan was widely derided for the music he made during that time. I’ve never quite understood it. What is so wrong with a person seeking answers? The criticism was so loud that you could barely hear some pretty cool music above the din.

Dylan’s first recorded effort in this period was the 1979 album Slow Train Coming. It was produced by Mark Knopfler, and featured some pretty tasty guitar work from the Dire Straits-leader. The opening track of side one was a song called “Gotta Serve Somebody“, which laid out Dylan’s beliefs as clearly as possible.

Etta James covered “Gotta Serve Somebody” on a 2000 album called Matriarch of the Blues. On the album she covered classic songs like “Miss You,” Try A Little Tenderness,” “Born on the Bayou,” and “Hound Dog,” but the true standout was clearly her Dylan cover.

Let’s all keep Etta James in our thoughts and prayers. It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

As a bonus for this week, I have a track from the great a capella group The Persuasions. “The Man In Me“, a cover of a Dylan song that first appeared on his New Morning album, comes from the classic 1971 Persuasions album Streetcorner Symphony.

About the Author

Ken Shane

Ken Shane lives in Narragansett, R.I. He is a freelance writer and far and away the oldest Popdose writer. In fact, he may be the oldest writer, period. He wants you to know that he generally does not share his colleagues' love for the music of the '80s, and he does not forgive them for loving it. (Ken passed away in November 2022. R.I.P. —Ed.)

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