When is a cover song better than the original? Only you can decide. This week David Bazan takes on Bob Dylan’s “The Man In Me.” MAGNET’s Ryan Burleson pulls the pin. Take cover!
Over the course of their colorful and influential filmmaking careers, Ethan and Joel Coen have arguably left no greater mark on the medium than when The Big Lebowski made Jeff Bridges’ The Dude the most unremarkable character nearly everyone would want to call a friend. Sure, the Coens’ other films have earned them a combined 23 Oscar nominations (since 1991!), but rarely have Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou? or No Country For Old Men been invoked in pop culture with the fondness that’s regularly dispensed on His Dudeness’ stoned, accidental vigilantism. Rollicking underneath the opening credits of The Big Lebowski is Bob Dylan’s “The Man In Me,” which originally appeared on Mr. Zimmerman’s 1970 album New Morning. The song serves as a sort of sign of themes to come, as its feel-good folk would reappear upon The Dude’s realization that his rug—you know, the one that really tied the room together—had been stolen. The Coen brothers obviously meant for the song to serve as a centerpiece for the film, and this becomes evermore clear when you consider how Dylan’s lyrics easily parallel the earnest escapism of The Dude.
Though “The Man in Me” has also been covered by the Clash and Say Anything, David Bazan’s take strikes us as the most worthy contender to compete with the original. Bazan, perhaps better known to some as the man responsible for Pedro The Lion, turned in distinctive covers of Radiohead’s “Let Down,” Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and a host of Christmas songs (check out his annual holiday seven-inch series) before tackling what’s now known as the Lebowski theme song to many. Stripping away the electric keys, female vocals and swagger of Dylan’s trademark delivery, Bazan honored the original’s romanticism while sobering it up slightly, giving it more of a classic, heart-on-his-sleeve feel without taking the sentimentality too far.
The choice is now yours.