The 8 nights of musical tribute awesomeness began and ended with a literal bang! If you missed them, stay “tuned”, because they’re all listed here.
As Hanukkah 2021 rolled to a close, we look back on the eight nights of Jewish-inspired musicality gifted to us by Dave Grohl and Greg Kurstin for a second year. With more schmaltz and spangles! More lyrics and laughs! More ‘80s Bar Mitzvah VHS special effects!
Like those static-clingy tinsel streamers adorning the Sessions studio, or like sonorous tinnitus from a lifetime of rock concerts, each song the duo performed will linger long after. (But like, in a really good way.)
The inaugural Hanukkah Sessions were like Bubbe’s chicken soup for our locked down souls, the perfect way for the Festival of Lights to additionally brighten 2020’s dark pandemic nights.
Grohl and Kurstin’s series of covers made famous by Jewish artists, which this writer covered last year (whoah covering covers, how meta) were revealed each sundown and we were stoked to see them continue the holiday tradition this December.
Last year I updated the Sessions nightly, offering my initial predictions on what Jewish bands they’d choose. OK, so I was way off for a lot of them, but lo and behold, many of those Jewish musicians appeared this year! (Maybe I can join the mystic forces of Kabbalah, after all.)
Now, let’s turn up the volume on Hanukkah Sessions Vol. 2, shall we?
*Zildjian cymbal drum roll, please*
Night 1: Lisa Loeb, Stay
Yes! The Sessions kicked off with hilarity that was somewhat lacking last year, given that all good Foo Fighters music videos are comedy gold. There’s Dave, bespectacled and baby-dolled-up, channeling the Jewish Lilith Fair darling singing her biggest hit. (I guess he had to perform some KUGEL exercises to do that one, haha.) The mensch then switches to screaming metal for a totally surprising piece of first night fun.
Night 2: Blitzkrieg Bop, The Ramones
“Hey! Oy! Let’s Goy!” That’s what’s hilariously chanted, during this literal shout out to NYC’s OGs of punk. Joey Ramone, born Jeffrey Hyman, was actually one of my failed predictions for last year, but Grohl and Greg’s electric, energetic and seemingly effortless performance was worth the wait (and worth the embarrassment of being wrong last year. Oy!)
Night 3: Copacabana, Barry Manilow
I dare you to watch this and not smile! Who knew a song about murder could be so darn delightful?! And who knew Dave could wiggle his shoulders and hips in the most endearingly lounge singer way? The guy is committed to his craft, while Greg is seriously the best straight man to funny dude Dave. This has all the feelgood vibes, performed humorously yet genuinely, so instead of it being a mockery the result is a Manilow tribute as sweet as Manischewitz.
Night 4: Van Halen, Jump
David Lee Roth is indeed Jewish, but here’s a fun fact for you: the late guitar legend Eddie Van Halen credited Jewish guitarist Harvey Mandel as a huge influence, describing his style as “relentless fuzztone, feedback-edged solos, and unusual syncopated phrasing” — an apt description for Eddie’s mastery, too. So there’s that added layer of Jewishness, amirite? Gotta love the true-to-form jump montage performed by Grohl here, replete with the iconic Roth and Van Halen synchronized dance with him and Greg.
Night 5: Amy Winehouse, Take The Box
Here’s a treat folks, and a change of pace from what we’d enjoyed so far from the Hanukkah Sessions 2021, with this atmospheric selection filmed in black and white. Dave’s daughter, Violet Grohl, dazzles as the singing lead with her delicious milk and honey voice. This truly touching performance of the Amy Winehouse song from her debut album, is both hauntingly similar yet uniquely its own.
Night 6: Billy Joel, Big Shot
Billy Joel was another Jewish crooner I wagered a guess on last year, but here he takes centre stage on the sixth night of the Hanukkah Sessions 2021. It was an unexpected song choice given Joel’s discography but Grohl knocks it out of the park again in this playful rendition, and the uber-talented Kurstin shows that he is a true Piano Man.
Night 7: The Clash, Train In Vain
Another punk band on the list of Jewish extraction (after all, every Jewsh mother dreams of her son being a punk rocker), it’s amazing how the drum and keyboarding talents of our Sessions duo capture this Clash and cult classic. (Hmm, maybe Mick Jones penned those lyrics to his disapproving mother: You didn’t stand by me No, not at all /You didn’t stand by me/No way.”)
Night 8: KISS, Rock and Roll All Night
In my December 2020 email with music journalist Alan Cross about the Hanukkah Sessions Vol.1, I sent him some of my guesses. I had an afterthought and wrote, “KISS!” because duh, of course, wouldn’t they be the indisputable inclusion? All it did was make me worry that poor Alan thought I was sending him an unsolicited smooch as in the conclusion to our email thread, I simply wrote, “KISS!”
However, It would have been far more more shocking had the proud sons and rock kings of Queens NY, Chaim Witz and Stanley Eisen, who we all know as Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, been left off another year. In the conclusion of the Hanukkah Sessions 2021, they boys go big and go hard before they home. Replete with make-up and chutzpah, these menches are as on fire as the menorah on the 8th night! Even if Dave seems diabolic yet nerdy at the same time. Enjoy!