It was “dreidel night” at my home last night, and my kids (ages 8 and 11) were stoked. The menorah was lit, the comic books had been unwrapped and enjoyed. The dinner dishes were cleared, the gelt was distributed, and the glasses of wine for me and my husband were poured. It was time to play.
The only thing missing was some music, so I turned to my all-time favorite app, Spotify, to search for some Hanukkah tunes. Sure enough, the music streaming service (where I am a proud premium member!) had a Hanukkah playlist. Spotify’s catalog is super comprehensive, so no surprise there. But let me tell you what was truly a miracle: The Hanukkah playlist is amazing.
I had expected a certain thing — Adam Sandler, Matisyahu, and some cheesy versions of tried-and-true classics. And yes, those were all there. But there were also some incredible finds by some seriously famous musicians, past and present, as well as lively tunes by artists new to me. If a cappella music doesn’t do it for you (and yes, I truly adore all the parody videos, but still…) trust me: this Spotify playlist will.
Below are some of the standout, new-to-me songs that really grabbed me — and there’s a whole bunch I don’t even mention, including tracks from the Indigo Girls, Bela Fleck, Woody Guthrie, and more. So whether you’re playing dreidel (my youngest son cleaned house last night; we’re having a rematch tonight), enjoying a quiet evening, or throwing a huge Hanukkah bash, Spotify’s Hanukkah playlist will definitely bring some festivity to your Festival of Lights.
“How Do You Spell Channukkahh?” — The LeeVees
I somehow missed this rock band’s delightful album, “Hanukkah Rocks,” when it was released in 2005. This track is especially listenable — it’s funny and oh so relatable.
“Hanukkah oh Hanukkah” — Erran Baron Cohen
Did you know that actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen has an older brother who is a musician? Me neither! But apparently the composer and multi-instrumentalist released an engaging 2010 album, “Songs in the Key of Hanukkah.” This version of the classic “Hanukkah oh Hanukkah” is a little bit klezmer, a little bit hip hop, a little bit reggae, and features rapper Y-Love.
“Rock of Ages” — Ben Kweller
Turns out this stripped-down gem is on the third installment of “The O.C. Mix 3: Have a Very Merry Chrismukkah.” It’s just Kweller (a Jewish dad of two!), his acoustic guitar, and the classic verses from the Book of Isaiah — and it’s perfect.
“Chanukah Prayer” — Carole King
This one is an adorable, moving family affair from the 2011 “A Holiday Carole” album: the legendary songstress singing the Hanukkah blessings with her daughter, Louise Goffin, and her grandson.
“Dreidel” — Don McLean
This incredible tune came out in 1971, on McLean’s eponymous third album, and somehow I had no clue. The lyrics have little to do with the Festival of Lights — “I feel like a spinning top for a dreidel/The spinning don’t stop when you leave the cradle/You just slow down” — but they’re deep, man.
“Can I Interest You in Hannukah?” — Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert
OK, I was tempted not to include this one, thanks to the abominable spelling of Hanukkah in the song title. But to hear Stewart kibbitzing with Colbert about his “not least unfavorite time of year” is so worth it.
“Adir Adirim” — Balkan Beat Box
This one hails from yet another album I completely missed (are you sensing a theme here?): “Hip Hop Hanukkah: The Best of Jewish Rap,” which features a host of top-notch artists, including Socalled and Gonzales. This ditty from Balkan Beat Box has got some serious groove.
“8 Days of Hanukkah” — Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
Finally, Hanukkah gets funky! This soul song actually has a permanent place on my year-round playlist since it was released in 2015, but it’s just too good not to include here. (Plus, the Sesame Street-ish video is a must-watch!)