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Greg Kurstin and Dave Grohl release another series in 'The Hanukkah Sessions'


Our next story begins last year, right around this time. It was the holiday season. The pandemic was raging. And these two prominent musicians decided to give the world a gift, eight of them actually - one for each night of Hanukkah


DAVE GROHL: (Singing) Jenny said when she was just 5 years old there was nothing happening at all.

MARTÍNEZ: That's rocker Dave Grohl singing and playing drums. Playing keyboards is Greg Kurstin. He's a producer known for his work with artists such as Adele and the Foo Fighters. Kurstin says they were quarantining together when they came up with the idea to make eight videos of themselves performing songs by eight Jewish artists, and to release one per day during the holiday.

GREG KURSTIN: During Hanukkah, a lot of families will do that. They'll, you know, give a present every night. And so you know - and the kids get very excited about that. And that was the spirit of where this came out of.


GROHL: (Singing) Hey, oy, let's goy. Hey, oy, let's goy.

MARTÍNEZ: Well, the kids got excited about this, too. And so now, Kurstin and Grohl are back with Season 2 of "The Hanukkah Sessions." I spoke with Kurstin yesterday.


GROHL: (Singing) They're forming in a straight line. They're going through a tight wind.

MARTÍNEZ: I'm dying to know how you came up with the set list. I mean, how do you pick the Jews who rock?

KURSTIN: Yeah. Well, there is that book, "Jews Who Rock." So we had to research a lot.

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter).

KURSTIN: It's also kind of about what Dave could sing, you know, and what we feel like we can pull off. Dave came up with some great ideas.

MARTÍNEZ: Is there one in particular this year that you're especially pleased with?

KURSTIN: Well, I do love "Copacabana." That was, like, a surprising one for me because that's - Barry Manilow's arrangement of that song, just as a music geek, I really love it.


GROHL: (Singing) Her name was Lola. She was a showgirl with yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there. She would merengue...

KURSTIN: Getting into those chords and everything in that arrangement is just so amazing. But that one was just really fun because that was the unexpected idea that Dave came up with. And then also, the other one, which I was not sure of how we would pull off and then ended up to be one of my favorite ones is the Lisa Loeb, "Stay," the very first night.

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter).


GROHL: (Singing) You say I only hear what I want to.

MARTÍNEZ: And Dave wearing the dress, too. (Laughter) The dress from - that, I think, is a nice finishing touch to this.

KURSTIN: Yeah. We - you know, we went to the video and checked it out. And then we got some ideas. We're like, oh, Dave, you have to wear the glasses. And you have to wear the dress.


MARTÍNEZ: How would you answer this, Greg - if someone were to ask you, well, how does this fit into the spirit of Hanukkah?

KURSTIN: Well, I think it's, you know - maybe we've created, like, a new tradition, you know? I mean...

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter).

KURSTIN: It's just fun. I think we're going to have to continue doing this every year. I don't know how we're going to stop now - unless we run out of ideas.


GROHL: (Singing) I get up. Nothing gets me down.

MARTÍNEZ: You know, beyond Hanukkah, Greg, is there another point that you're trying to make about Jewish musicians? I mean, these are some pretty awesome rock songs.

KURSTIN: Yeah. I mean, there's just a lot of great Jewish rockers that maybe a lot of people don't realize, you know, and a lot of them that I didn't even realize, you know? I mean, even going last year, when you think of, like, Mountain and Lou Reed and David Lee Roth. I mean, there's, like, some great rock stars, you know, who are Jewish. And there's a ton of them, too, you know? And you think of the Ramones, and a lot of people might not - you know, that might not be the first thing you think of.

MARTÍNEZ: Well, Greg Kurstin, happy Hanukkah. And thanks for being on.

KURSTIN: Thank you. Thanks for having me.


GROHL: (Singing) Might as well jump. Jump.

MARTÍNEZ: That was producer Greg Kurstin talking about his YouTube series with Dave Grohl, "The Hanukkah Sessions."


GROHL: (Singing) Go ahead and jump. Go ahead and jump. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.