GAMBLE: Bob Humbug? Dylan does it again

MollyWhen I heard about Bob Dylan’s Christmas album that comes out in October, I was stunned. I wouldn’t have guessed the iconoclast himself would ever subscribe to mainstream music like “Winter Wonderland.” Then again, it makes perfect sense.

At Dylan’s Summerfest performance in July, all big-screen monitors were shut off at his demand. He never greeted the crowd. In fact, never spoke at all, other than brief introductions of his band near the end of the show. Seeing him on stage was like watching Boo Radley come out of his dilapidated house.

Now the Man of Mystery wants to sing “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Little Drummer Boy” on his first charity record. All U.S. royalties from “Christmas in the Heart” will be donated to Feeding America, a charity that funds soup kitchens and food banks. Though he’s doing this for a good cause, Dylan doesn’t come off as the most festive or spirited of carolers.

The songs he played at Summerfest were so re-arranged that I didn’t recognize some of them until the next day when I read the set list in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. As much as I respect him, I couldn’t help but feel cheated. He’s notorious for switching up his music to avoid boredom, but still, this was not how I wanted to remember my first Dylan experience.

But I should have known better. That concert wasn’t about my expectations — and for me to think otherwise, even for a split second, is subscribing to major Generation-Me thinking. It’s not like I showed up with “Tangled Up in Blue” written in glitter paint on a poster board, but still, it was pretty delusional to hope that Dylan would make this a show I’d tell grandkids about. He’s not that cliché.

Basically, the thing you think Bob Dylan would most likely do is probably the wrong answer. Case in point with this Christmas album. Holiday music is seen as a perennial seller by record labels. And he not only signed on, but actually approached Feeding America with the idea, according to reports by Rolling Stone.

Dylan wasn’t even insulted when cops stopped him in New Jersey this summer and didn’t know who he was. He apparently wanted to take a walk in the rain, and was peering in the windows of a house for sale when neighbors grew uneasy and called police.

The officers didn’t know who Dylan was and asked to see identification. Being Bob Dylan, he didn’t have any I.D. on him, so they followed him back to his tour bus. According to news reports, he was rather unfazed by the incident. It was probably one of the better moments of his life, as opposed to some musicians, who would have been irate.

My dad can’t wait to buy the Christmas album. My friends think it’s a disgrace. In other words, perfect. Dylan’s done it again. He’s confused the heck out of everyone, and this time he’s doing it while spreading holiday cheer.