Evolution of a Song -- "I Shall Be Released" (videos)

by Jonas Jacobs

10 February 2010


“I Shall Be Released” is an iconic, universal anthem. It’s been covered by everyone under the sun, from Nina Simone to the Deftones. Below I’ve included several variations on the tune, starting of course with Bob Dylan’s original 1967 version from The Basement Tapes. Dylan’s original (where he is joined by the Band) is followed by the Band’s own rendition from their 1968 classic Music From Big Pink. It’s set to a socially motivated Vietnam YouTube video. The British Beatlesesque outfit, the Tremeloes, recorded their own version of the tune, which reached number 29 on the UK charts. 

Nina Simone’s take on the song is from her 1969 album To Love Somebody. I also had to include a 1969 version from the Mama Cass television program featuring the Mama herself, Joni Mitchell and Mary Travers. Joan Baez’s live performance of the song at Sing Sing Prison in 1972 follows.
There’s a star-studded version from the famous 1976 Martin Scorcese concert film, The Last Waltz. Bette Midler covered the song often in concert and below is a 1977 live rendition. Sting made the tune his own in a 1981 concert.
Lastly, Wilco and Fleet Foxes layed down a new take on the classic in 2008, and released it for free to fans who pledged to vote in the last presidential election.

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