Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Orrin Hatch a Songwriter? Who knew?

Professor Jacobson over at Legal Insurrection has a great video displaying the song stylings of Senator Orrin Hatch.  He's quite talented and surprisingly committed to a unique challenge posed by Jeffrey Goldberg, who asked the prominent member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints if he could write an inspiring song about Hannukah:
 I was writing for The New York Times Magazine and Hatch was thinking of running for president. We talked about politics for a few minutes, and then he said, “Have you heard my love songs?”

No senator had asked me that question before. It turned out that Hatch was a prolific songwriter, not only of love songs, but of Christian spirituals as well. We spent an hour in his office listening to some of his music, a regular Mormon platter party. After five or six Christmas songs, I asked, him, “What about Hanukkah songs? You have any of those?”

I have always felt that the song canon for Hanukkah, a particularly interesting historical holiday, is sparse and uninspiring, in part because Jewish songwriters spend so much time writing Christmas music. Several years earlier, as a columnist for The Jerusalem Post, I sponsored a Write-a-New-Song-for-Hanukkah contest. I received more than 200 entries. Most were dreck. The songs I liked best were the ones uninfected by self-distancing Jewish irony, songs that actually wrestled with the complicated themes of Hanukkah—religious freedom, political extremism, the existence, or non-existence, of an interventionist God—in a more earnest way.
Goldberg was pleased with the result:
“Senator,” I said, “I love the song.”
 And I do. It’s a delightful thing to have Orrin Hatch write a song for Hanukkah. Of course I appreciate the absurdist quality to this project, but I also deeply appreciate Hatch’s earnestness. His lyrics are not postmodern or cynical, which is a blessing, because I for one have tired of the Adam Sandlerization of Judaism in America. Yes, we are, as a people, funny (at least when compared to other people, such as Croatians) but our neuroses, well-earned though they may be, have caused us to lacerate our own traditions, which are in fact (to borrow from Barack Obama) awesome. The story of Hanukkah is a good case in point—maybe the perfect one.
Actually the song is amazing and it is well worth a view.  Watch the video at Legal Insurrection.

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