Craig Taubman's memories of childhood Hanukkahs are as crisp as a December night. The tantalizing smell of his mother's latkes sizzling in the kitchen. Glowing candles on the menorah as he and his three siblings took turns lighting them. The pleasures (and pitfalls) of ransacking his parents' closet for a sneak peek at his gifts.
Such vivid recall comes in handy when the 39-year-old entertainer is writing songs for his nationally known children's pop group, Craig 'n Co. The Studio City resident sings hip, sometimes thoughtful tunes that speak from a kid's point of view. His music and music videos have been carried by Walt Disney Records and Nickelodeon and used in family television and films, including HBO's "Happily Ever After" and Paramount's "Andre."
But Taubman's memories also enhance his second career as a singer and songwriter of Jewish music for children and adults. He released his first Jewish recording at 19, when the director of his Jewish supplementary school decided to bankroll the effort to give his academically "pathetic" student a chance to explore his musical potential, Taubman said.
Taubman has written, performed and recorded 14 albums that blend Jewish teachings and traditions with kid-friendly lyrics and a mix of musical styles. He notes with pride that "One World," a cut from his latest, "My Newish Jewish Discovery," has ranked high on adult contemporary charts for seven weeks.
Craig 'n Co. is on the bill at today's "Hanukkah Pajamika" and afternoon of activities for Children at the Skirball Cultural Center.
"Hanukkah is a holiday of rededicating yourself," Taubman says. "It is a festival of light [and] enlightenment. . . . It's an opportunity to look back, but it's also a beginning."
Taubman says he and his wife, Louise, use the season to help teach their son and daughter the value of giving. They donate clothing to homeless shelters and host holiday gatherings for family and friends of many faiths.
He says he has found inspiration to be a good parent in the same place he has found inspiration for much of his music: Jewish liturgy.
"There's a song I wrote called 'Fixing Up the World' that talks about all the things you should do in life--respect your parents, greet your friends, never hold a grudge. According to Jewish tradition, if you follow these rules, there will be a very special place held for you. I hope my children learn these skills as well as they know their ABCs."
Craig 'n Co. performs at today's "Hanukkah Pajamika" at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. Pre-concert art activities and storytelling starts at 4 p.m. with Craig n' Co. performing at 5 p.m. Admission is $5-$7; children under 12, free. (213) 660-8587.