From The Staple Singers to Miles Davis: Bob Dylan’s ultimate Christmas playlist
Christmas is a time for sharing, spending time with loved ones and creating cherished memories. While this year’s festive season is going to be slightly different, we needn’t worry as Bob Dylan is on hand to make sure it’s a merry occasion. There’s nothing more heartwarming than handing out presents and, this time around, Dylan has offered up the most luxurious gift that he could. This present is to share his undying thirst for music and his ‘Christmas and New Year’s’ playlist is utter perfection.
Dylan once dedicated an entire episode of his rested Theme Time Radio Hour to this subject back in 2006. The radio show, aired on Sirius XM, was a weekly, one-hour programme hosted by Dylan and one that initially aired from May 2006 to April 2009. The musician revived the show back to life earlier this year for a special one-off episode to celebrate one of Dylan’s great loves, Whiskey.
The legendary artist has recorded 100 episodes of Theme Time Radio Hour, each of them providing a fascinating insight into the world of Dylan. Every single episode is a dosage of an eclectic, swirling blend of music that Dylan loves from the world of blues, folk, rockabilly, R&B, soul, bebop, rock and roll, country and any other 45s he fancied spinning.
The only remit for the programme was that each episode centred on a specific theme. This topic could be something as mundane as ‘weather’, or abstract like ‘luck’ and Dylan often uses these themes loosely to meander around his favourite records. However, the ‘Christmas and New Years’ episode sees Dylan stick to the subject in question and deliver a smattering of alternative festive anthems. Some are more obscure than others, whilst there’s also a good helping of reimagined versions of Christmas classics.
If you’ve ever wondered what spending Christmas in the company of Dylan will be like, you’ll have to keep on imagining but this playlist is second best to that. The show gets off to a jazzy start, with Tom Archia and Gene Ammons’ ‘Swinging for Christmas (Boppin’ for Santa)’. Dylan then introduces Leadbelly’s ‘Christmas is A-Comin” in characteristic fashion by hilariously noting Leadbelly is “one of the few ex-cons who recorded a popular children’s album.”
Bob Seger and The Last Heard’s ‘Sock it to Me Santa’ sees Dylan heap a helping of poetic praise on the singer, saying: “Some people call Bob the poor man’s Bruce Springsteen, but personally, I always thought Bruce was the rich man’s Bob Seger…love ’em both though.” The Staple Singers are on the receiving end on the biggest love-in from Dylan, with him introducing their track ‘Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas’ by calling the group, ‘God’s greatest hitmakers’, before adding “managed to mix a serious message with a soulful dancing beat.”
Dylan provides the most intriguing look at what makes a great piece of songwriting in his eyes when he commented on Kay Martin’s track ‘I Want A Casting Couch For Christmas’. Noting: “One of the most popular features on Theme Time Radio Hour is the double entendre – the song that says one thing and maybe means another. This one skates dangerously close to being a single entendre.”
Adding: “Kay Martin played in a lot of hotel lounges; our paths crossed more than once when I was on the road. She’s a fine performer, always put on a good show.”
The whole episode is a beautiful antidote to all the chaos that is making this Christmas season such a strange time for everybody across the world. Dylan’s soothing voice, unparalleled exquisite taste is the perfect method of escapism. To enjoy the episode correctly, and in a bid to channel your inner Dylan, one must consume the show with a generous helping of Whiskey.
Bob Dylan’s Christmas Playlist
‘Swinging For Christmas (Boppin’ For Santa)’ — Tom Archia (1948)
‘Christmas Is A-Coming (Chicken Crowns At Midnight)’ — Lead Belly (194 ?)
‘A Party For Santa’ — Lord Nelson (1963)
‘Sock It To Me Santa’ — Bob Seger & The Last Heard (1966)
‘Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas’ — The Staple Singers (1970)
‘Please Come Home For Christmas’ — Charles Brown (1960)
‘Jingle Bells’ — Johnny Paycheck (1967)
‘It Must Be Christmas’ — Gerry Mulligan & Judy Holliday (1980)
‘Christmas Morning’ — Titus Turner (1952)
‘Poor Old Rudolph’ — The BellRays (2001)
‘Blue Xmas’ — Bob Dorough & Miles Davis (1962)
‘Far Away Christmas Blues’ — Little Esther with Johnny Otis Orchestra (1950)
‘Beatnik’s Wish’ — Patsy Raye & The Beatniks (1959)
‘Don’t Believe In Christmas’ — The Sonics (1965)
‘Christmas Tree’ — King Stitt (1969)
‘Silent Night’ — Huey ‘Piano’ Smith & the Clowns (1962)
‘Must Be Santa’ — Brave Combo (1991)
‘Mambo Santa Mambo’ — The Enchanters (1957)
‘Fiesta De Navidad’ — Celia Cruz Y La Sonora Matancera (1961)
‘Merry Christmas Darling’ — Hop Wilson & His Buddies (1960)
‘Merry Merry Christmas’ — Alton Ellis & The Lipsticks (1972)
‘The Merriest’ — June Christy (1961)
‘Truckin’ Trees For Christmas’ — Red Simpson (1973)
‘Christmas In Jail’ — The Youngsters (1956)
‘I Want A Casting Couch For Christmas’ — Kay Martin & Her Body Guards (1962)
‘Santa Claus’ — Sonny Boy Williamson II (1960)
‘Hello Mr New Year’ — Cool Breezers (1958)
‘Happy Christmas, Happy New Year’ — Mabel Mafuya (1958)
‘Christmas To New Years’ — The Larks (1951)
‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve’ — Nancy Wilson (1965)