Monday, October 19, 2009


Watch and listen to this song from 1965 by Bob Dylan, as he sung it about a year ago. The lyrics are here.

Bob Dylan's recently released "Christmas in the Heart" CD opens with "Here Comes Santa Claus" and closes with these words from "O Little Town of Bethlehem":

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

Reinhold Niebuhr said, "Humor is a prelude to faith and
Laughter is the beginning of prayer."

I laughed when I heard Bob Dylan singing "Here Comes Santa Claus" and laughed at various places throughout the CD. He is funny, and he knows it. He is also apparently a man of unconventional faith. The CD alternates between popular Christmas songs (many of which I have never liked, even in childhood, because they depressed me -- I still can smell alcohol on their breath and they make me wary of adults) and traditional Christmas hymms and ends with Bob Dylan singing a solemn "Amen," as is done at the end of prayers in Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition.

Although I was raised as a Christian, I began to question what I had been taught at church at about the time I first heard Bob Dylan -- when I was 14 years old. I knew then that I wasn't alone with my questions. I am not a member of any organized religious or spiritual community, but I am still not alone with my questions either. As a woman of unconventional faith, I've got to say that I like Bob Dylan's Christmas CD. It's got heart, levity and gravity. It's not a sermon. He's not preaching. It's not that far from "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," a song he continues to sing in concert:

"It's easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred"
(Bob Dylan, 1965)

He didn't say that nothing is sacred.

And you've got to hear him sing at the speed of light in "Must Be Santa":

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen
Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon
Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen
Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton

(Scroll down to my "Feeding America Christmas in the Heart" post and click on the triangle next to "Must be Santa" in the donation widget)

To my ears, "Christmas in the Heart" is a meditation on the oneness of the absurd and the sacred, which ends enigmatically in the manner of a prayer.


stylesignaturephotography said...

what a wonderful and spectacular collections here .. full of inspiration and spirit ..

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for this appraisal of 'Christmas in the Heart'! I'll get round to listening to it as soon as I can.

Word verification: spiin

Anonymous said...

saw the american masterpiece on joan baez last night and thought of your link to a mimi and richard farina clip. the bits on mimi really touched me. kjm

gleaner said...

Thanks for this post - I'm yet to listen to it.
I really like the photo too.

robin andrea said...

I like how you understand this latest endeavor. I wouldn't have considered listening to it at all, but your perceptions make it possible.

I thought of you while watching the PBS show on Joan Baez. Did you get to see it?

am said...

robin andrea and kjm -- Although I didn't see the show on television, I did watch it on the PBS website. The film footage of Joan Baez and Mima Farina as teenagers was moving, wasn't it? They were always older than I was. I looked up to them. It was a revelation to see them so young.

Zhoen said...

I look forward to hearing this. I knew it would be... different.