High Holidays Unbound: Listen


We have put together a playlist of popular songs that are either explicitly based on the High Holidays liturgy or that call to mind its ideas and mood. For people who do not connect with religious services, these songs may be more accessible vehicles through which to connect with the major themes of the High Holidays; for others, they may function as a supplement. The playlist is roughly divided into three sections, corresponding to the traditional morning service, readings from the Torah and the prophets (which, at least on Rosh Hashanah, feature difficult relationships between parents and children), and the afternoon service (which, on Yom Kippur, includes the memorial service for departed loved ones and is generally more somber). Please let us know how the playlist worked for you. Also, our playlist is a work in progress, and we encourage you to make suggestions for songs we should add, ways we might modify the structure, etc.

To easily listen to the High Holidays Unbound playlist, click either of the links below:


  1. Unwritten (Natasha Bedingfield)

  2. Bird on a Wire (sung by Johnny Cash, written by Leonard Cohen)

  3. Seasons of Love (Cast of Rent)

  4. Man in the Mirror (Michael Jackson)

  5. If It Be Your Will (Leonard Cohen)

  6. Every Grain of Sand (Bob Dylan)

  7. If I Could Turn Back Time (Cher)

  8. Hard to Say I'm Sorry (Chicago)

  9. Baby Can I Hold You (Tracy Chapman)

  10. It Ain't Necessarily So (sung by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, written by George and Ira Gershwin) 

  11. Father and Son (Cat Stevens)

  12. Adam Raised a Cain (Bruce Springsteen)

  13. Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan)

  14. Story of Isaac (Leonard Cohen)

  15. Cat's in the Cradle (Harry Chapin)

  16. The River (Bruce Springsteen, from Live 1975-85)

  17. Down to the River to Pray (Alison Kraus)

  18. Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye (Leonard Cohen)

  19. Come Healing (Leonard Cohen)

  20. House of the Rising Sun (Sex Mob)

  21. (Just Like) Starting Over (John Lennon)

  22. Anthem (Leonard Cohen)

  23. Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie)

  24. You Want it Darker (Leonard Cohen)

  25. You Know I'm No Good (Amy Winehouse)

  26. Changes (David Bowie)

  27. You Got Me Singing (Leonard Cohen)

  28. Who By Fire (Leonard Cohen)

  29. Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story (Cast of Hamilton, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda)

  30. Hello (Adele)

  31. Empty (Ray LaMontagne)

  32. There's a Rugged Road (Shawn Colvin)

  33. Pilgrim (Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band)

  34. Tower of Song (Leonard Cohen)

  35. Not Ready to Make Nice (Dixie Chicks)

  36. Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word (Elton John)

  37. Hallelujah (sung by Jeff Buckley, written by Leonard Cohen)

  38. Blowin' in the Wind (Bob Dylan)

We've intentionally designed our playlist not to include any traditional prayers or Hebrew so that it can be maximally accessible to people who do not connect with traditional prayers and do not speak Hebrew. We have found some other playlists online that you may also find interesting and valuable. Please let us know if you find any that we've missed.

1. J.J Goldberg, columnist for The Jewish Daily Forward newspaper, put together a Rosh Hashanah playlist and a Yom Kippur playlist in 2015.

2. Music critic Jody Rosen created a Songs of Atonement playlist on Jewcy, now part of Tablet, in 2007.