Bob Dylan’s Christmas Album: What Good Is It? (Part 4)

Seth Rogovoy, author of Bob Dylan: Prophet, Mystic, Poet, wrote about Bob Dylan’s Judaism, Jews who write Christmas music, and the album itself. He is guest-blogging all week for MyJewishLearning and the Jewish Book Council.

When I first heard the songs on Bob Dylan’s Christmas in the Heart, I thought, not only is this the worst recording Bob Dylan has ever made, but it is literally unlistenable. Continue reading here.

5 responses to “Bob Dylan’s Christmas Album: What Good Is It? (Part 4)

  1. I understand what you are saying in regard to Bob’s religious affiliation with regard to making a Christmas album. I can agree with that. I do seem to be getting to like the album more with each listen. The question I have for you is how do you explain Bob doing “Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking” with the newer more religious words? That fact could hurt what I expect to learn from your book.

  2. Also-

    By way of placing the Christmas album in context with Dylan’s overall career you omitted the fact that unlike other Jewish contributors to the holiday genre who wrote or performed secular holiday tunes Bob Dylan repeatedly expressed a belief in Jesus, and extends his album to include carols and Hymns that actually celebrate the holiday for what it is- a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Hence the title “Christmas in the Heart.”

    Why must it be an either or question and not both.

    No one can prove anothers beliefs let alone their own. The best we have of anyone is circumstantial evidence and to ignore that in the case of Bob Dylan is to suspend the use common sense.

    In addition to Change My Way of Thinking (1 example of many that are to numerous to mention) every show since at least 2002 begins with the announcement:

    “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the poet laureate of rock ‘n’ roll. The voice of the promise of the ’60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock. Who donned makeup in the ’70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse. Who emerged to find Jesus. Who was written off as a has-been by the end ’80s, and who suddenly shifted gears releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late ’90s. Ladies and gentlemen – Columbia recording artist, Bob Dylan!”

  3. Why did Dylan make this album? First and foremost – it’s to raise money for homeless people all around the world. Secondly, it may surprise some people to find that he has a great sense of humour. Isn’t Bob having a good old laugh? And why not? The whole thing creates a warm, kitsch, glow. In the larger scheme of things, and in terms of Bob’s career, it doesn’t matter a great deal.

    As far as what it tells us about Bob’s spiritual quest and his Jewishness, you’d have to ask him about that. Seems to me he’s a man of God, whatever other label you might want to put on it.

  4. hi Seth
    thank you for your personal review of Dylan’s “Xmas in the Heart”. I had the same reaction as you did. “What the fuck is this?” about sums up how I felt on first listen. Then it grew on me. “Must be Santa” is my favorite.
    I’m looking forward to reading “Dylan – Prophet, Mystic and Poet” as soon as it’s released.
    In the meantime, a friend and I are wondering if you’d be willing to share your take on 2 of Dylan’s songs.
    1. Desolation Row and
    2. Ballad of a Thin Man
    Ballad of a Thin Man fascinates me. Being a gay man I was startled by all the sexual references. i.e. one eyed midget, the sword swallower, here’s your throat back thanks for the loan, give me some milk or else go home, you have many contacts among the lumberjacks etc. etc.
    This is MY interpretation of the lyrics.
    My friend and I would love to know what your interpretation is of these lyrics.
    And ‘Desolation Row’. Mind blowing to use an old hippie phrase.
    Any insights you have into these songs and would care to share with us would be a delight.
    Thank you.

  5. Jeff: Yes, I agree with your reading of “Ballad of a Thin Man” in that there is obviously plenty of homosexual or homoerotic imagery in that song, as well as, of course, an indictment of clueless journalists.

    I regret that I cannot just dash off idle thoughts about an epic such as “Desolation Row” in this space. Maybe I will find the time to tackle that in a blogpost on my website,

    In the meantime, thanks for writing, and I hope you enjoy “BOB DYLAN: Prophet, Mystic, Poet.” I’m eager to hear your thoughts.

    Seth Rogovoy

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