Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl and producer, multi-instrumentalist and member of indie pop duo The Bird and The Bee Greg Kurstin celebrated Hanukkah by releasing covers of songs from Jewish artists every night of the holiday. The pair called the celebration the “Hanukkah Session Series,” and kicked off with the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.”
In each of the covers, Grohl plays the drums and sings while Kurstin plays synthesizers and an acoustic upright.
“As the only Rock and Roll Hall Of Famers with a lyric about kugel, we thought it would be a shanda to not kick off this party with New York’s (and Abraham’s) finest…known by some as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abedenego, known by others as Ad-Rock, Mike D, and MCA…known by their Imas and Abbas as Adam Horovitz, Mike Diamond and Adam Yauch… Beastie Boys!” Grohl commented in the description of the cover video.
The cover stayed true to the original track, with Grohl singing impressively higher than he usually does and managing to get his vocals to sound strikingly like Ad-Rock’s. Kurstin plays the guitar parts on a pair of synthesizers, changing the texture of the sound.
On night two, the pair covered Drake’s “Hotline Bling.”
“You might be surprised to learn that this superstar is… Canadian. He’s never hidden the fact that he was M.O.T. … so a generation of Jewish parents could tell their kids ‘if Drake took the time to study for HIS Bar Mitzvah, you can too.’ Ladies and gentlemen…challah at your boy….DRAKE!” Grohl commented in the video’s description.
Drake’s mother is Jewish and he’s previously identified himself as a “proud young Jewish boy,” according to Pitchfork. The cover featured a video of Grohl dancing with a menorah. It was a pretty faithful cover, though the original’s drum track beats were replaced with Grohl’s drum set.
For night three, the pair chose Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen.”
“Talk about making a mountain out of a mohel … named Leslie Weinstein at his bris, the singer of our next band built a wailing wall of guitar as Leslie West. Check out our take on a track from Leslie’s monolithic band, MOUNTAIN,” Grohl said in the video description. West’s classic guitar riffs are replaced by Kurstin’s synth, giving it a different feel, but the pair managed to meet the song’s fiery energy.
On night four, the pair covered Peaches’ “Fuck the Pain Away,” which featured a special guest appearance by Peaches herself.
“Drake’s not the only musical Jew from Canada…tonight we feature a Canadian rock G-Dess…who coincidentally grew up around the corner from a Canadian Jewish rock G-D (G-ddy Lee). Straight out the mikvah, here’s Peaches!” Grohl said in the video description.
Halfway through the cover, Peaches comes in to help Grohl sing from a separate studio. In the video, Peaches is in a sound booth singing along with Grohl while watching him on a television screen.
The duo covered Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & #25” for night five.
“So now everybody must get stoned (not in the Law of Moses sense) as we put some blood on this track: Rainy Day Women 12&35 by the immortal Bob Dylan!” Grohl said in the video description.
This cover saw Kurstin trade the synths for an acoustic upright. He also played the harmonica for this track.
For night six, they covered Elastica’s “Connection.”
“From Brit Milot to Britpop…here’s one of the coolest tracks from the 90’s….sung by the very cool…and Jewish…Justine Frischmann…ELASTICA!” Grohl said in the video description.
This video features two Grohl’s at once as he harmonizes over himself while drumming, with Kurstin again transforming the electric guitar parts with his synthesizer.
Night seven saw a cover of The Knack’s “Frustrated.”
“Tonight we’re featuring 4 nice Jewish boys whose biggest hit was a song about a nice Jewish girl… ‘My Shalom-a’ or something like that… We’re huge fans of New Wave (as well as the “old wave” that came after Moses parted the Red Sea)…so we were psyched to get to cover one of our favorites…The Knack!” Grohl said in the video description.
Kurstin’s synthesizer managed to closely mimic the guitar riffs, while Grohl again harmonized over himself.
The pair wrapped up the holiday with a cover of The Velvet Underground’s classic “Rock and Roll.”
Grohl reminisced about his first Hanukkah experience and the year as a whole in the video description.
“As 2020 comes to a close and another Hanukkah ends (my first!) I am reminded of the two things that have gotten me through this year: music and hope,” he wrote. “This project, which initially began as a silly idea, grew to represent something much more important to me. It showed me that the simple gesture of spreading joy and happiness goes a long way, and as we look forward, we should all make an effort to do so, no matter how many candles are left to light on the menorah.”
He went on to thank Kurstin and say that Markus Rutledge helped create all of the videos for the series.
“The poor soul that had only 24 hours (8 days in a row) to churn out each of these videos for us! You deserve a medal for sleep deprivation!” Grohl said.
The pair announced Dec. 10 that they’d be releasing the covers every night of Hanukkah. In the announcement video, Kurstin introduces himself and says that he is Jewish. Grohl takes over, saying “I’m not Jewish, but this year, instead of doing a Christmas song, Greg and I decided to celebrate Hanukkah by recording eight songs by eight famous Jewish artists and releasing one song each night of Hanukkah.”
In February, Grohl announced that Foo Fighters’ latest album is finished and includes a guitar riff that has been 25 years in the making. Kurstin helped produce Medicine at Midnight, the band’s upcoming album, which is due out Feb. 5. The group premiered their first single, “Shame Shame,” on Saturday Night Live last month. They had to cancel their 25th anniversary tour this year because of COVID-19, but have been playing some live streamed shows, including the Save Our Stages Fest, a Tom Petty tribute concert and a headline show Live From the Roxy.
Earlier this week, Ringo Starr debuted a new single called “Here’s to the Nights,” which features backup vocals from Grohl as well as numerous other notable artists, including Paul McCartney, Diane Warren, Corinne Bailey Rae, Lenny Kravitz and more.
In October, Stevie Nicks released her first new track in six years called “Show Them The Way,” which features Grohl on drums. Kurstin helped to write the song and mixed and produced it, as well as played bass, piano and electric and acoustic guitar. The same month, Kurstin’s The Bird and The Bee announced a holiday album called Put Up The Lights, which was released Oct. 23 and has two tracks featuring Grohl.
Featured image: Boston Lynn Schulz