12 songs you can be grateful for at Thanksgiving
Sure, there are spooky Halloween songs. There are more Christmas songs than you can shake a candy cane at. What? You didn’t know there were Thanksgiving songs? Why yes, indeed. Or yes, sorta, depending on your point of view.
Thanksgiving reminds us that it’s time to be thankful for what we have. For most of us in America, Thanksgiving is a day of feasts, family and football. The only thing missing is music — but it doesn’t have to go missing. With those qualifications, Thanksgiving is hands-down my favorite holiday of the year.
What better way to celebrate the run-up to Thanksgiving than with music? Here is a list of our top Thanksgiving songs. And thanks for reading!
If you’re not familiar with this beautiful ballad that perfectly captures the essence of the holiday — run, don’t walk — to your closest device that can download (legally) this song by criminally under-appreciated American songsmith Loudon Wainright III.
Thanksgiving Song (1992)
Thanksgiving is not restricted to solemnity. Not entirely. Funnyman Adam Sandler produced this classic (NSFW) comedic ode to Thanksgiving that entertains in silly and profane ways. Perfect for your friends; not so much for young kids and great-grandmas.
The Flying Turkey Trot (1976)
A little bit of turkey music for y’all. You know this one, dontcha? Not a big hit for REO Speedwagon, but a staple of their live show for many tours. This boogie-rockin’ instrumental is said to be an ode to their tour plane, the Flying Turkey, and a particularly rough flight. It might not conjure up mashed potatoes, turkey and stuffing for you, but if you have to fly for the holiday, perhaps you’ll appreciate a safely executed flying turkey trot.
Thank You (1969)
If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you. What can you say about one of the most poignant, soul-stirring acoustic ballads to come out of the late 60s that hasn’t already been said? Even more remarkably, it is the product of legendary heavy rockers Led Zeppelin. It is one of their creations that features often-overlooked multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones, who does double duty on bass and organ. The organ arrangements make this song — a classic ode to being thankful for love.
Thank You (1998)
Dido’s most famous song — you probably know it even if you don’t recognize the title. I want to thank you for giving me the best day of my life. Easy, smooth and spiced up with Dido’s smoky vocal delivery over a mellow percussive beat.
I Will Wait (2012)
Mumford and Sons
You may have heard enough from the ubiquitous Mumford and Sons, but this well-worn roots-pop sensation is destined to be a staple for years to come. Its celebration of enduring love and the determination to wait for love fit perfectly with Thanksgiving. Be thankful if you have love motivating you to such grandiose proclamations.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
Vince Guaraldi Trio
The Vince Guaraldi Trio made their bones with classic original compositions and adaptations of Christmas hymns that set the tone for the famous Peanuts animated holiday cartoons. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving delivers the same melancholy experience.
Jive Turkey (1974)
The Ohio Players
I used to think that you were really cool. The Ohio Players cemented their status as soulful funksters with this 70s funk classic. Be careful who you call a “JT,” however (rated R; NSFW). Soon after this song hit the R&B charts, the Ohio Players broke really big with major hits “Fire” and “Love Rollercoaster.”
Pass the Peas (1972)
Speaking of soul, The JBs (James Brown) are responsible for the only known ode to the universal side dish of peas. You gotta eat your peas, and you gotta include “Pass the Peas” in any Thanksgiving playlist.
Mashed Potato Time (1962)
Dee Dee Sharp
You kinda saw this one coming, right? What Turkey Day playlist could be complete without this 60s girl group classic? Not mine, that’s for sure.
Thanks a Lot (1997)
Thanks. Thanks a lot. I got a broken heart. It’s all I got. My favorite singer early on at her country twangiest. You must get to know Ms. Case if you do not already. If country twang isn’t your thing, you’ll appreciate her more recent solo confections or her delicious alternative pop/rock collaborations with the New Pornographers. You can thank me later.
Alice’s Restaurant (1967)
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant. This veritable classic of the 1960s counterculture is one of those songs you just can’t get away from. For my taste, it peters out long before it ends, but is still beloved by many and directly mentions Thanksgiving. Mr. Guthrie doubled down on the tale and crafted a movie directed and co-written by Arthur Penn and starred Guthrie as himself.