Eight Days of Indie Chanukah: Day 2: Woody Guthrie’s Hanukkah Dance

Happy Hanukkey, my little latkey, from an unlikely Chanukah balladeer.

- Nov 28, 2013

Chanukah is early this year, so we thought it’d be a good chance to go against the tinsel-covered grain and give you some latke-and-candle-friendly anthems. Eight crazy nights of them, to be exact. Today, we dig into the vaults for some a lost holiday gem by Woody Guthrie.


We all know about Bob Dylan’s complicated is-he-isn’t-he relationship with his own Jewish ancestry, but what about his hero and mentor, Woody Guthrie? Turns out his machine did more than kill fascists; it also spun dreidels. No, Guthrie wasn’t Jewish himself, but his wife was, and so was his mother-in-law, Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt. An insatiable student of old folk traditions, Guthrie ate up her immigrant rituals and sought to pass them onto his own half-Jewish children. And that gifts us with this little gem, “Hanukkah Dance.” Sounding every bit the down-home Oklahoma yokel adopting the words of another culture, Guthrie writes a post-dinner dance that should accompany every oil-drenched meal this year. Just try not to grin as he sings the words “my little lat-key.” It’s impossible.

A band called the Klezmatics later put his dug-up Chanukah lyrics and set them to music, Wilco and Billy Bragg-style, but we're going to stick to the original recipe above.

And check out yesterday’s Chanukah jam: Yo La Tengo’s Hanukkahpaloozathon

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