It’s that time of year again. Mariah Carey is letting us in on her wishlist and John Lennon is declaring the end of war. But for those hoping to light the menorah with some musical ambiance, Hanukkah melodies are rather few and far between. Sure, occasionally someone plays the infamous Adam Sandler song, but only people over 40 get the references. If you’re catering to the (much) younger crowd, there’s plenty of cutesy preschool ditties out there, including a song from every parent’s nemesis, the ever-annoying Caillou. (Trust me: Skip it if you can.) Of course there’s the one tried and true, but you don’t need to break out the clay and spin your head dizzy with the dreidel song to hear some Hanukkah tunes. These days, there’s plenty for your playlist that are sure to schmear some simcha.
For those wishing to slip their wool socks into Birkenstocks—which, by the way, can be a great look (see my high school yearbook photo for evidence)—there’s a few good folk choices. The Indigo Girls’ “Happy Joyous Hanukkah” and Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Light One Candle” blend their well-known peaceful harmonies, perfect for a night by the fireplace or listening with the kiddos. Woody Guthrie’s “Hanukkah Dance” will get those feet tapping, and “Driedel” (no, not the one out of clay) by “American Pie” artist Don McLean has the political undertones of a Woodstock revival.
If Weird Al is your thing, there’s a number of parodies that are “Pretty Fly for a Rabbi.” Six13’s “Chanukah” will have you “Shake It Off” Jewish-style, and The Maccabeats’ “Candlelight” gets the party rockin’ like the cool kid’s bar mitzvah—you remember, the one with glow sticks AND a candy bar.
For something for the over-30 bunch, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings’ “8 Days of Hanukkah” was featured on NPR a few years back and is a Jewish soul-lover’s dream song. Or if you need a reminder of the college days, Barenaked Ladies’ “Hanukkah Blessings” sounds a bit like “If I had a Million Dollars” sans monkey and Kraft dinner.
For newer, original tunes, one of my favorites is “Miracle” by Matisyahu. The lyrics are fitting to today without being cheesy, and the tempo is on point. Another one (again by The Maccabeats) is “Shine,” which sounds like a Jewish Boyz II Men—in a good way. Julie Geller’s “The Spark” is an uplifting, spiritual song without being too preachy. And finally, for some humor we can all relate to when sending out dozens of holiday cards later this month, there’s “How Do You Spell Channukkahh” by The LeeVees.
Now, we can’t forget the timeless classics. “Glee” put out an “Oh Hanukkah” song that has all the traditional charm but with a beat more rock and less hora. And if you’re really in the mood to spin that dreidel, check out Rockapella’s version of “Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel” and start baking the clay.