Under the Radar

What About Bob?

Every once in a while, Bob Dylan does something that causes a huge problem for his most devoted fans, the ones who want to see him as the ultimate symbol of everything smart and hip. 

His late 70s/early 80s fascination with fundamentalist Christianity led him to record albums like Slow Train Coming and Saved. He's acted in less-than-beloved pictures like Hearts of Fire and Masked and Anonymous

Now Bob's really thrown down the gauntlet with Christmas in the Heart, an album of holiday songs recorded with very traditional arrangements. The sound of Dylan's senior-citizen croak against a backing choir is so startling that the usual fans at places like New York Magazine and the Los Angeles Times are telling themselves that the whole thing must be a big joke.

Except Bob's not joking. In his 2004 memoir Chronicles Volume 1, Dylan reveals how he sees himself: as an enthusiastic working musician who pays tribute to the music, books and movies that moved him as a kid. If you got the guy in a room, he'd probably tell you that he likes Hearts of Fire or this new album every bit as much as Blonde on Blonde or Blood on the Tracks.

All of which makes this notorious interview from the documentary Don't Look Back even more hilarious. Who would have believed, back in the 60s, that Bob was completely sincere all along?

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