Nine Of My Favorite Sad Songs

3. Pearl Jam – Masters of War

As with so many of Bob Dylan’s songs, it’s reasonably decent in the original, but when the right artist covers it, it becomes something else entirely.  Like Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower” and  Guns ‘n Roses “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” the minute this song made it into PJ’s setlist, it became theirs forever.

This isn’t to say that Dylan’s incapable of making his own songs great – one is hard-pressed to imagine “Like A Rolling Stone” or “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” in anyone else’s voice, and when it’s been attempted it hasn’t gone very well no matter how much music journalists want to pretend otherwise.  But with Dylan’s work, it often takes another artist to really define the song as a classic, to get the audience to really hear just how great it is.

Here, we have PJ not just covering one of Dylan’s most ascerbic and biting anti-war commentaries, but taking it and making it their own, permanently, forever.  Any other artist who ever covers this song will have to measure up to this…and what sounds like a slightly detuned bass only adds to the incredible power.  I’m having a tough time thinking of another song performed entirely on acoustic equipment that is as metal, punk, rock-and-roll, and just plain damned heavy as this.  Vedder’s growl makes you believe that he not only will “stand over your grave until (he’s) sure that you’re dead,” he just might put you in it.

This is what music is about, kids – it grabs you by the neck and inexorably chokes the apathy out of you with the unrelenting force of an oncoming nuke.

  • This song does not appear to be currently available for purchase through any legitimate source.  Live versions may be available on one of the many “bootlegs” available at PearlJam.Com

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