Bob Dylan loves playing music, whether in his own band or sitting in as a guest with other musicians. He always adds a special touch no matter who’s sharing the stage with him.
Joining others on stage during live performances isn’t uncommon for this troubadour. But Dylan also lends his talents to several albums released by some top-notch performers.
From bluegrass to psychedelic rock, Bob Dylan does it all. We’ll roll through some albums that include the musical stylings of one of the greatest musicians of our time.
Let’s hit it!
The Story of Bob Dylan
Born on May 24, 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota, Robert Allen Zimmerman got a taste for music during his teen years. At 14, he picked up his first guitar. Early influences included Little Richard, Elvis, and Hank Williams.
During high school, Robert formed a few different rock and roll bands, mostly playing covers of some of his favorite musicians. After graduating, he moved to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota.
Spending time in the bohemian section of Minneapolis known as Dinkytown, Robert’s taste in music switched from rock to folk. While playing gigs at local coffeehouses, he changed his last name to Dylan, after the poet Dylan Thomas. He legally changed it in 1962.
In 1960, Bob dropped out of college after a year and moved to New York City. He met his idol Woody Guthrie who played a huge role in his musical development. A year later, Dylan signed his first recording contract with Columbia Records. The rest, as they say, is history!
The following albums include Bob Dylan as a guest performing songs written primarily by him, with just a few exceptions. It’s hard to find appearances by Dylan, whether on stage or recorded, where he didn’t play on his own songs. But we found a few!
#1 Earl Scruggs: His Family and Friends
Bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs helped popularize the five-string banjo with his unique playing style. Scruggs performed with other musical greats, including Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt.
On this 1972 album, Bob Dylan performs an instrumental song he wrote in 1969. Many of his fans complained when he released it because it was too country. But for this bluegrass-centric album, it was a perfect fit.
Two other songs written by Dylan appear on this album but are performed by other musicians. Joan Baez sang Love is Just a Four-Letter Word and The Byrds performed You Ain’t Going Nowhere.
#2 Clinch Mountain Country by Ralph Stanley & Friends
Fans of traditional bluegrass are very familiar with Ralph Stanley. A banjo picker and talented singer, he formed The Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys with his brother Carter in the 1940s.
Clinch Mountain Country, released in 1998, includes guest Bob Dylan performing The Lonesome River. Carter and Ralph Stanley wrote the song in 1951 and, in the 1998 album, Dylan accompanies Ralph on vocals of this classic bluegrass tune.
#3 Postcards of the Hanging by the Grateful Dead
San Francisco-based psychedelic rock group, the Grateful Dead, banded together in the mid-1960s. They played almost continuously until lead singer Jerry Garcia passed away in 1995.
Bob Dylan and the Dead, as their fans affectionately call them, were long-time friends. Postcards From the Hanging is a collection of Dylan songs performed live by the Grateful Dead from various concerts between 1973 and 1990.
You can hear Dylan’s performance on Man of Peace from a rehearsal with the Dead for a 1987 tour they did together.
#4 The Essential Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash, the Man in Black, was a singer and songwriter known for songs of sorrow, hardship, and redemption. One of the best-selling artists of all time, his music spanned country, rock, folk, and even gospel.
This 2002 compilation album celebrates Cash’s 70th birthday. It contains previously-recorded songs from 1955 to 1993.
This double CD includes Girl From the North Country, a song by Dylan from 1963. The two superstars recorded a duet of this tune in 1969. While Cash never added the piece to any of his albums, it did appear as a track on Dylan’s 1969 release Nashville Skyline.
#5 Rock of Ages: The Band in Concert
The Band started as the backup group for singer Ronnie Hawkins between 1958 and 1963. In 1966, they joined Bob Dylan for his first “electric” tour. The band branched out on their own the following year, making a solid name for themselves.
Rock of Ages is a double album released in 1972. Recorded on New Year’s Eve 1971, it includes four songs written by and featuring Bob Dylan. Two of the tunes, Don’t Ya Tell Henry and Down in the Flood, were written when The Band performed as Dylan’s backing group.
#6 Timeless: Tribute to Hank Williams
Singer and songwriter Hank Williams lived a short but impactful life. His legacy in country music reached far beyond his 29 years and continues today.
Timeless is a Williams tribute album released in 2001. The first track features Bob Dylan performing Hank’s 1948 song I Can’t Get You Off of My Mind. While it’s unusual for Dylan to perform songs he didn’t write, this was a fitting tribute from one legend to another.
#7 Band of the Hand Soundtrack
If you’ve never heard of this 1986 action movie, it’s for a good reason! Stinkers Bad Movie Awards nominated it as Worst Movie of the Year. It lost to Howard the Duck.
The film’s redeeming quality may be its soundtrack, which includes Bob Dylan performing the title song, produced by Tom Petty. Backing Dylan is Petty’s band, the Heartbreakers. If you’re a hardcore fan of Bob Dylan, this soundtrack is the only place you’ll find this song.
It’s Rare to See Bob Dylan as a Guest Artist
With a career spanning 60 years, there’s no shortage of Dylan material. But finding albums featuring Bob Dylan as a guest in some form wasn’t the easiest. It was sure fun digging deep for them, though!
What’s your favorite Dylan song or album? Let us know in the comments below.