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Pop songstress/tabloid fixture Amy Winehouse is contemplating recording a Chanukah album. Her producer, Mark Ronson, recently told Rolling Stone:
“We’re talking about making a holiday record, with Christmas songs on one side and Hanukkah songs on the other,” Ronson explained. “She’s got songs called, like, ‘Kosher Kisses’ and ‘Alone Under the Mistletoe.’ She was kind of f–king around, but I was like, ‘You have all these amazing records to play for Christmas, like Motown and Carla Thomas and the Charlie Brown Christmas, and unfortunately, us Jews have nothing that cool to listen to. So we should do something.”
Yet despite the buzz around the project and around Winehouse’s Jewish identity in-and-of-itself, according to Paul Lester, a contributor to London’s Jewish Chronicle, the singer refuses to grant the Chronicle an interview because she wishes to remain disassociated from the Jewish community.
There’s only one Jewish performer who has declined the offer of an interview with me for the JC over the past 12 months, and that was Amy Winehouse. Her reason? She didn’t want to be associated with the paper, the Jewish community it serves, or indeed any of it. This struck me as strange, particularly after watching her appearance on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, during which the Helen Shapiro of the crack’n’tats generation joked with presenter Simon Amstell about the prospect of the pair of them having a Jewish wedding; stranger still in the light of the news of a mooted Chanukah album with producer Ronson.
Or maybe Winehouse just didn’t want to get involved in a serious discussion about the nature of belief and the role of religion in modern Jewish society.
Whatever her reasons, one can nonetheless remain hopeful that Winehouse, a nominee for six Grammy awards, will do a great deal to raise the bar for Jewish holiday music, let alone to help younger listeners feel more comfortable identifying Jewishly (even if she is less-than role model material in other ways).
Winehouse may also end up an unintentional ambassador for peace. Mika, one of the UK’s other top recording artists, who so happens to be half-Lebanese and a native of Beirut, has expressed interest in collaborating with Winehouse on her Chanukah album. The Asian News Service quoted the singer as saying: “Think about this: me, a part-Lebanese artist working on a Jewish album. I think that’s a nice statement.”