Ten years ago, Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for The Atlantic, was in the office of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) to conduct an interview about Hatch's candidacy for president — but all Hatch wanted to do was talk about writing music.
So, according to Goldberg, Hatch started playing Christmas songs.
"And after about the fifth or sixth song, I said, 'This is great, but what about Hanukkah?' " Goldberg tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "To his credit, he said, 'That's a great idea, I should do that.' But he got sidetracked running for president."
A decade later, Hatch — in collaboration with Goldberg — has written and recorded the song "Eight Days Of Hanukkah" in time for the Jewish holiday, which starts Friday night. Hatch, says Goldberg, is "not, by the way, a Jew." He's Mormon.
Goldberg says what finally got the song in motion was reminiscing on his blog last year about how Hatch almost wrote a Hanukkah song.
"The next day, I get an e-mail from someone purporting to be Sen. Hatch: 'Jeff, sorry this is nine years late, but how does this sound to you?' And attached were five stanzas of a Hanukkah song. From that moment on, it was a straight shot to the studio," Goldberg says.
Goldberg, who is also a contributor to the online magazine Tablet, billed as a "new read on Jewish life," is writing a book about Judah Maccabee, the hero of the Hanukkah story.
Goldberg says as far as Hanukkah songs go, it's a "sparse canon."
" 'Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel' — these are not songs that capture the muscular spirit of a pretty important and interesting historical holiday," he says.
But Hatch's song, Goldberg says, is "extremely catchy."
"I find the whole thing delightful," he says. "And ... Hanukkah music is fairly lame as it goes. My theory is that most Jewish songwriters are busy writing Christmas songs. So I'm pleased as punch that he did this and I'm hoping for other members of the Senate to write Hanukkah songs in the future."