So here’s another Chanukah song: “Light One Candle,” by Peter Yarrow, sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary:
Video from the PBS Holiday Concert, posted by Loren Newsom
(The top comment on this particular YouTube is by the producer and director of the PBS show, how awesome is that?)
Peter, Paul, and Mary debuted “Light One Candle” during their 1982 Holiday Concert at Carnegie Hall. If you keep count, you will see that the lyrics “light one candle” repeat exactly eight times–and if you watch carefully, you can see that the children light one candle each time that phrase is repeated, making them a human menorah.
Being a Chanukah song is enough, of course, but we can do a little better. The songwriter, Peter Yarrow, is Jewish, the son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants. (Still getting the job done!) As part of the folk trio Peter, Paul, and Mary, Yarrow wrote or co-wrote some of the group’s best known songs (including “Puff, the Magic Dragon” and “Day is Done”); during the trio’s 48 years together they picked up five Grammys (plus another 10 Grammy nominations) and 2 Emmy nominations (for Peter, Paul and Mommy, Too and for Lifelines LIVE).
The group was known for its activism in addition to its music–they sang at the 1969 March on Washington and were involved in the anti-Vietnam protests–and they have continued that activism throughout their lives and careers. Yarrow himself was prominent in the campaign to free Soviet Jews in the 1980s, and performed with his son and daughter during the Occupy Wall Street protests. As evidenced by the lyrics of “Light One Candle,” Yarrow’s Jewish roots serve as a wellspring for his political beliefs.
So Happy Chanukah–go light a candle!