Nina Simone, "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" (Greatest Song of All Time of the Day)

In the 60s, Columbia ran a "Nobody Sings Dylan Like Dylan" advertising campaign. It's absolutely true that Bob Dylan's unprecedented voice is the ideal way to deliver his unmatchable compositions, but it's also true that the guy is one of greatest songwriters we'll ever hear, so it's no surprise that a long list of top voices have wanted to wrap themselves in his words and music. For example, everyone from Neil Young to Bryan Ferry have performed ace interpretations of Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," which I present here in Nina Simone's version. I recognize that Simone's RCA years aren't among her best, in part because she performed too many songs intended to ingratiate her with a young audience and this recording was probably part of that attempt. But this slowed-down take brings the original new places, most of them both luxurious and unsettling. I couldn't find a clip of Simone singing this song, but Jesse Dylan did locate a weird mashup on YouTube: Simone's performance as the soundtrack for clips from an unfinished Marilyn Monroe movie. (It's very mildly NSFW.) "Somehow it works," Jesse notes.

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  1. Cool track. Here is another slowed-down take on dylan with simular effects: A Whisper in the Noise’s version of “The Times they are a Changin”, found on the soundtrack to the unfortunate “Lady in the Water”


  2. 13th Floor Elevators cover of It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue. There’s a lot to be said about Dylan’s voice, but this version is just plain haunting.

  3. I wonder if I could tell Marylin from any other pretty lady without her hair…

    Maybe that really is the hallmark of western beauty – indistinguishableness (it’s a word according to my Chrome spell-checker!)

    Nice mellow track – now back to Cauldron.

  4. Everybody should listen to more Nina Simone. Every time I listen I am surprised by how perfect she is.

  5. I’ve been trying to find a good Nina Simone cover of Dylan on YouTube for a long time. Thank you. This was excellent.

  6. Pretty much anything Nina Simone performs is terrific, but when she performs really good songs she is truly extraordinary.

  7. Hrgh. Sony Entertainment ahs obviously removed the vid; ERROR MESSAGE (original in German): “This content belongs to Sony Entertainment. It is no longer available in your country”

  8. You just cost me another hour or so on YouTube. Thanks a lot (and I mean that sincerely).

    (Out of many, many possible examples)

  9. I first discovered Nina when I watched the Thomas Crown Affair, and the final Heist scene had “Sinnerman” playing in the background.

  10. Nina Simone was a truly brilliant musical interpreter. Listen to her improvise on an old Christmas carol:

  11. I think her versions of some of those songs are better than the originals: “The Pusher”, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”, “Here Comes the Sun” (sacrilege!!)

    And Columbia would be proven wrong in 1975 when Sammy Walker released an LP on Smithsonian Folkways that still fools people into thinking they’re hearing a long lost Dylan album. A long lost GOOD Dylan album to boot.

    http://www.folkways.si.edu/listen2.aspx?type=preview&trackid=7192

  12. *The* **slowest** rendition of Dylan I ever heard was Odetta doing Tambourine Man. It was great, and took an entire side of an LP. I wish I knew where it was from so I could hunt for a copy.

  13. “It’s absolutely true that Bob Dylan’s unprecedented voice is the ideal way to deliver his unmatchable compositions” [citation needed]

  14. I’ve always used this song as an example of what happens when two geniuses collide.

    It could be a disaster, or, Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues from Nina Simone.

    Love reading your stuff Jimmy.

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