8: Audio excerpt, the Klezmatics performing Woody Guthrie’s “Hanukah Gelt,” 2003.
Woody Guthrie is considered one of the fathers of American folk music. In addition to his left-leaning political music and Americana, he also composed a lesser-known oeuvre of Jewish-oriented songs as a result of his involvement with the Coney Island Jewish Community and his relationship with his mother-in-law, Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt. Many of these songs were never recorded until they were rediscovered in 1998 by his daughter, Nora Guthrie, who commissioned new music for the lyrics from the Klezmatics, a prominent band of the Klezmer revival. You can listen to the song in its entirety here, and the lyrics are available here.
Suggested Activity: This is a children’s counting song revolving around Chanukah gelt. To what extent do you think it affirms the idea of Chanukah gelt as a fun reward for children? Does this seem like a song for children, or does the complex virtuosic klezmer performance suggest an adult audience? Invite students to add a new verse to this song that describes their own thoughts or feelings about Chanukah gelt (with a similar structure: Chanukah, Chanukah 1, 2, 3…. rhyme) and then discuss what they chose to emphasize and why.
Source: The Klezmatics. Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanukkah. Shout Factory. 2006.