Last year, I remember being quite surprised when I heard that Bob Dylan was going to release an album of Christmas songs. Still, Dylan’s one guy whose albums I always check out and I’ve enjoyed some of his recent ones just as much as the early ones. I wasn’t very impressed by the choice of carols and hymns on the collection, but I still gave it a listen. Christmas in the Heart is not one of my favourites, however. In fact, I only like one track on it and that’s his sprightly take on the old chestnut, Winter Wonderland. It was written nearly seventy years ago and has been recorded by everyone from Elvis to Radiohead. I actually prefer the version by Ray Charles, though I’ve decided to go for Bob today. I’ve always liked its melody and simple lyrics, in particular the song’s third verse. Take it to the bridge:
In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown.
He’ll say: Are you married? We’ll say: No man,
But you can do the job when you’re in town.
The song has become a festive favourite over the years, but it’s actually quite a secular song that’s more concerned with the effects of the seasonal weather than it is with the Christmas season. Its secularity is further highlighted by the hint at the couple’s single status and apparent casual attitude to marriage. At least that’s how it always seemed to me when I heard the song as a boy, though I’m sure I phrased it a little bit differently. Also, the song always conjures up images of snow-covered roads and fields that were not a common occurrence in the Ireland I grew up in. That’s certainly not the case this year
Image courtesy of Maggie’s Farm