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On Nov. 7, 2007, Todd Haynes’s lyrical Bob Dylan pseudo-biopic I’m Not There was generating buzz on the festival circuit ahead of a Nov. 21 release in American theaters. As part of the build-up to release, a concert was organized at the Beacon Theatre in New York to showcase the music on the soundtrack, featuring many of the performers who had covered Dylan songs for the film. Among the guests that night: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros played “All I Really Want to Do,” Yo La Tengo played “Fourth Time Around,” and Tift Merritt played “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall.” But the show was stolen by the penultimate performance of the night: The Roots playing an epic, 14-minute, dramatic “Masters of War,” from Dylan’s 1963 classic The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
In The Roots’ ever capable hands, “Masters of War”—which at the time was a direct reference George W. Bush’s spiraling war in Iraq—makes musical references to “The Star Spangled Banner” and Jimi Hendrix’s Vietnam saga “Machine Gun.” There are a cappella passages, and instrumental cacophonies. Questlove weaves in and out of the song with precision drumming, and the band follows his lead through several distinct musical chapters.
Listen here to The Roots’ covering “Masters of War” on this date 10 years ago. But that’s not all! We also have exclusive recordings of Barbara Dane, Joan Osborne, and Dylan himself performing the song.