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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

CHRISTMAS IN THE HEART

This comes from John Baldwin's Desolation Row e-newsletter today:

Bob Dylan will release a brand new album of holiday songs, Christmas In The Heart, on Tuesday, October 13, it was announced today by Columbia Records. All of the artist’s U.S. royalties from sales of these recordings will be donated to Feeding America, guaranteeing that more than four million meals will be provided to more than 1.4 million people in need in this country during this year’s holiday season. Bob Dylan is also donating all of his future U.S. royalties from this album to Feeding America in perpetuity.

Additionally, the artist is partnering with two international charities to provide meals during the holidays for millions in need in the United Kingdom and the developing world, and will be donating all of his future international royalties from Christmas In The Heart to those organizations in perpetuity. Details regarding the international partnerships will be announced next week.

“When we reached out to Bob Dylan about becoming involved with our organization, we could never have anticipated that he would so generously donate all royalties from his forthcoming album to our cause,” said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America. “This major initiative from such a world renowned artist and cultural icon will directly benefit so many people and have a major impact on spreading awareness of the epidemic of hunger in this country and around the world.”

Bob Dylan commented, “It’s a tragedy that more than 35 million people in this country alone -- 12 million of those children – often go to bed hungry and wake up each morning unsure of where their next meal is coming from. I join the good people of Feeding America in the hope that our efforts can bring some food security to people in need during this holiday season.”

Christmas In The Heart will be the 47th album from Bob Dylan, and follows his worldwide chart-topping Together Through Life, released earlier this year. Songs performed by Dylan on this new album include, 'Here Comes Santa Claus,' 'Winter Wonderland,' 'Little Drummer Boy' and 'Must Be Santa.'

Feeding America provides low-income individuals and families with the fuel to survive and even thrive. As the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity, our network members supply food to more than 25 million Americans each year, including 9 million children and 3 million seniors. Serving the entire United States, more than 200 member food banks supports 63,000 agencies that address hunger in all of its forms.

So. I owe Bob Dylan an apology for going along with various commentators to this blog in assuming that Christmas In The Heart was going to be another commercial move on his part. I still think the title is gooey, and that Together Through Life is a specious, soppy title too - but the fact that this blog was tut-tutting about motives we knew nothing about shows me that maybe I should just shut up about Bob Dylan for a while. So I shall.

I thank all those readers who have shown support for my work, especially those who've been with me for the long haul. I'm going to take a break from all this blogging and maybe I can remember to be more circumspect when I resume it. Meanwhile, er, Silent Night...

14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ichael, I've been with you since ca. '75 and the Abacus edition of S&DM, so please don't stop blogging on matters Dylan. That said, I'm unabashedly in favour of both MODERN TIMES and TOGETHER THROUGH LIFE. The latter title to me reads with a fine ambivalence - playing on the meanings of THROUGH as 'throughout' vs. 'by means of'. The latter in turn echoes a recurrent theme on the album, that of our radical un-knowledge beyond the term(s) of human life. Indeed, a devil's advocate could argue that TTL is Bob's most doubting record since g-d knows when. Given Bob's recurrent use of the Heaven's Door trope to signify an embattled faith, for example, the closer lines of 'Forgetful Heart' take on a really dark significance. As if a finely judged vocal didn't do that already. But maybe that's all down to R. Hunter . . .

Yours in respectful difference

Kingsley Bray

3:40 pm  
Anonymous McHenry Boatride said...

Michael, don't stop blogging just because you made a mistake. We all get it wrong sometimes.

And I am delighted by this news about Dylan's motives; whether the title is gooey or not is irrelevant - I'm sure we all hope that he sells many copies of this album. I'll certainly buy a copy; whether I play it very often remains to be seen.

5:11 pm  
Anonymous Lee Morgan said...

With this news, and further to my earlier comments, it seems Dylan is indeed cutting through his ‘commercialised self’. A truly selfless gesture, and I couldn’t be more delighted.

I have recently re-immersed myself in his excellent 1979-1981 material– the fire and brimstone years. In listening to exquisite songs like Precious Angel and Ain’t Gonna Go to Hell for Anybody, I have found myself wishing for that Dylan: the one who seems ill at ease with celebrity norms, and who sets his arrows dead on greed and selfishness.

Here he is again, and more than the announcement of the Christmas album itself, this pledge of money came as a real surprise; a pleasant rebuke to fans like me who continue to struggle with the overpriced tickets, CD’s and the surge of product endorsements.

Well done, Bob!

6:43 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wise move Michael. The constant chat and day to day analysing of Dylan, is not really healthy for any of us; step back and look at the big picture. What's more the battle between the Dylan factions is somewhat pointless, no one can be convinced of anything other than their own rehearsed viewpoints, which seem to litter your comment pages.

If I may - on that note - state that I started out hating Together Through Life (certainly its title, I'm with you on that -sickly) but now when I'm biking along, and a track comes on from said record, I find myself loving it.

I hope the Winterlude's go well, I'm off to The Herault for a month of Vendange.
Many thanks for the blog...

Ruby Red

9:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Gray, this is a little off the subject matter, but still related to your Christmas album post. I've been following this website for over a year, and really respect your analysis of Dylan. However, I do think that there is a current of negativism running through this site that perplexes me (mostly from bloggers) regarding the recent Dylan albums (MT ant TTL) and live performances. I like both albums and I still listen to bootlegs of current concerts. I don't count MT and TTL among his best, but I do enjoy them. I believe they are well crafted and have artistic merit. I also saw him live recently in Stockton, CA. I was genuinely worried when Dylan came on stage given the recent tone of some of your and your bloggers' comments. I was with my girlfriend who didn't know who Bob Dylan was until she met me this summer. All I can say is I loved the show. He did not let me down, and I found the show to be powerful, mysterious, fun and uplifting. I admit I'm a Dylan believer, but she liked the show too. He was far better than Willie and Mellencamp and they were good. Dylan is still trying to bring it, and while he may be in "decline" there is still no other living artist who I respect more than him. Lastly, I've recently read your chapter "Down Wing and Up Wing" in Song and Dance Man again, and definitely don't regard this period in Dylan's career as a "down wing" part. I still love your website, but would like some more critical analysis from you and your bloggers rather than negative, dismissive comparisons with his past work.

9:26 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Notice that Sony, has not offered to match Dylan's contribution.
Pat Ford

10:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Michael
I see Dylan's gesture as a Political act and as such it is to be applauded. Given that the Obama honeymoon period is well and truly over, its now that liberals need to stand up and resist what is growing into a concerted conservative reaction to the credit crunch.


to blog or not to blog?
well to have something to say and have someone else listen is most important.
Debate isnt about being right all
the time
I will really miss your style and gravitas.

joe butler

1:09 pm  
Anonymous Lee Morgan said...

Dear Michael,

I would like to echo McHenry’s comments regarding this album; that all that matters is it selling many, many copies. It is with a strange curiosity that I now await October 13th, with a win-win sense that, no matter what its musical merit, the album is doing something truly honourable. I would also like to echo his comments in asking you to continue with your blog.

As I see it Michael, most of your recent criticisms are still valid. As those familiar with the site know, I am one of those who have been down on Dylan recently: the lacklustre concerts, the uninspired records and his peculiar commercial appearances. Before this news broke, my last comment on your blog took aim at the latter. And yet I honestly don’t feel my knocking a Pepsi commercial bears any particular relevance to, or has somehow been proven wrong by this latest development. Dylan is my favourite artist, yet I still wonder why he lent his name, image and music to a soft drink among other things.

With this most recent, selfless gesture, Dylan has managed to undermine some of my recent doubts and I am genuinely glad that he has. But will it stop me shaking my head when I hear him croak through another listless rendition of Thunder on the Mountain? If he appears in more commercials, will it stop me from asking why? Of course not! And nor should it. Dylan does not inhabit polar ends of the scale. He can madden and mesmerise, often in the same instant. It is the reason I remain so drawn to the man, and the reason criticism and praise so often go hand in hand. It is also the reason I appreciate your viewpoint– objective as it is, and removed from the blind fandom that seems to cloud the views of so many others.

All the best,

Lee.

7:29 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lee, You seem like a pretty articulate person. Could you just confirm that you really think those who don't share your opinions are, "blind." Or do I misunderstand you?
No hard feelings on my part. I'm quite comfortable with my own observations. I'm just trying to get an idea of where you are comming from. Thanks Pat Ford

5:32 pm  
Blogger Frank said...

I have to say that I have been somewhat puzzled by the persistent strain of criticism in this blog of Dylan’s commercial activities. Where does this moral squeamishness come from? I assume that Dylan’s critics are happy for well-known actors and sports stars to endorse products, but they somehow see something reprehensible in Dylan’s association with underwear or Pepsi or Starbuck or Cadillacs. Why? He’s only a song and dance man (as Michael has attested to three times) and he eschewed easy sloganising in ‘My Back Pages’ in 1964. He is, in many ways, an all-American boy, as his deep love (and knowledge) of American folk, country and blues music attests, and he has not had a strong left-wing or liberal bias for decades. He sells records, books, radio shows for profit, and therefore to indulge in the mainstream capitalist activity of endorsing products for money should not seem unnatural or reprehensible.

Time and time again people have made the mistake of wanted to fix for perpetuity their image of Dylan, and have been outraged when this eternal shape-shifter has morphed into something else. Hence the indignation of the folkies when Dylan went electric, the disappointed puzzlement when he sang other people’s songs on ‘Self Portrait’, the sense of betrayal when this secular saint and prophet became an evangelical Christian. Even the change in lyric style that came with ‘Modern Times’ has disturbed some people.

Well, I’m me and Dylan’s Dylan. I don’t like all he does, but I do not see that I have the right to tell him (or at least expect him) to do what I want him to do.

11:44 am  
Blogger Frank said...

I have to say that I have been somewhat puzzled by the persistent strain of criticism in this blog of Dylan’s commercial activities. Where does this moral squeamishness come from? I assume that Dylan’s critics are happy for well-known actors and sports stars to endorse products, but they somehow see something reprehensible in Dylan’s association with underwear or Pepsi or Starbuck or Cadillacs. Why? He’s only a song and dance man (as Michael has attested to three times) and he eschewed easy sloganising in ‘My Back Pages’ in 1964. He is, in many ways, an all-American boy, as his deep love (and knowledge) of American folk, country and blues music attests, and he has not had a strong left-wing or liberal bias for decades. He sells records, books, radio shows for profit, and therefore to indulge in the mainstream capitalist activity of endorsing products for money should not seem unnatural or reprehensible.

Time and time again people have made the mistake of wanted to fix for perpetuity their image of Dylan, and have been outraged when this eternal shape-shifter has morphed into something else. Hence the indignation of the folkies when Dylan went electric, the disappointed puzzlement when he sang other people’s songs on ‘Self Portrait’, the sense of betrayal when this secular saint and prophet became an evangelical Christian. Even the change in lyric style that came with ‘Modern Times’ has disturbed some people.

Well, I’m me and Dylan’s Dylan. I don’t like all he does, but I do not see that I have the right to tell him (or at least expect him) to do what I want him to do.

11:45 am  
Anonymous Kieran said...

Michael,

It's a Dylan blog. If you jack it in for a while, then what will it be?

I think you got it wrong about TTL, and maybe you were ungenerous about the Christmas album, but so what? You get more right than wrong and maybe you're being spot-on in these things but have lost a bit of confidence in your own judgment. Or if not this, you feel you have nothing to say.

Get back on the bike and tell us if you're still listening to TTL and have you moved your appreciation for Dylan beyond 2001... :)

4:57 pm  
Anonymous Lee Morgan said...

Dear Pat,

By blind fandom, of course I do not mean those who don’t share my opinions. I mean those who struggle to criticise Dylan in any small measure, and who leap immediately to his defence with a reactionary stance. Those who seem to feel that, by virtue of being a fan, they can’t say anything negative about him; or acknowledge in any way his recent shortcomings.

For example, the sort of person who would respond to a criticism like his modern day concerts are terrible, with something like: “People were saying the same when he played with The Hawks in 1966!” Often they will do it while manipulating a line from the great man himself, as if they are part of an inner-circle that the nasty critics just don’t get. A hypothetical example: “Hey, you want Dylan to play great music? Well he ain’t going to work on Morgan’s farm no more!” That sort of thing. Or maybe someone who defends his every move as symptomatic of his genius. Anyone who does question him? “You just don’t get Dylan.” In short, I guess it is anyone who invokes the Dylan mythology at every turn, never making clear why they find so much to admire in his substandard offerings.

On a final note, I would like to say that the ‘blind fandom’ comment was not aimed at anyone on the site in particular. I quite enjoy the discussions here, feeling we are all a pretty even headed bunch; hence my asking Michael to continue with his blogs.

Best wishes,

Lee.

5:16 pm  
Anonymous AVS said...

It's a shame that the blog is to stop as I enjoy both it and the articles. Having said that it does seem that the default position of late has been cynicism and that can never be a good thing.

I do wonder if writing in depth about an artist means that his work can never be enjoyed for enjoyment's sake?

TTL is (in my opinion) a loose and enjoyable album that doesn't deserve the outright criticism that it received here.

Sometimes music is just music.

2:48 am  

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