10 Thanksgiving Songs Actually About Being Thankful
Compiling this Super Specific Weekly Playlist of Thanksgiving songs, we could have easily gone the cynical route and stuffed the thing full of hot, juicy, delicious snark. For some reason, though, we started thinking about the real meaning of the holiday — not all the family bickering and binge eating and drinking that tend to leave us queasy — and came up with 10 tunes for those of us truly grateful for the good things in our lives. Sure, we all want more, but it’s like Bono says, “What you don’t have, you don’t need it now.” Never mind that he tips his yacht detailer more than you make in a decade. Next Thursday, take stock and give thanks. Let these songs be your guide.
‘Be Thankful for What You Got’
This highlight from Massive Attack’s ‘Blue Lines’ album is a great windows-down, system-up cruising song, but the U.K. trip-hop crew wrote it for those of us forced to settle for earbuds and the bus: “You may not have a car at all/ But just remember, brothers and sisters / You can still stand tall.”
New York’s premier practitioners of vintage Jamaican music — ska, reggae, dub, etc. — embrace American soul on this hopeful yet realistic 2010 love song. “I wanna thank you for the good times and the bad,” frontman Vig Ruggiero sings. This guy’s love affairs are never cakewalks — check out ‘Married Girl’ or ‘Sarah’ — and sensing even the faint possibility of happiness, he vows to be a better man. We’ll see how he fared on the next Slackers album.
‘A Token of Gratitude’
Lest anyone question singer Johan Duncanson’s sincerity, the insistent guitar line, reassuring synth tones and heartbeat rhythm help make his point on this dreamy declaration of appreciation. And this from Sweden, a country that doesn’t even have Thanksgiving.
No one could accuse Sublime of being culture vultures. Sure, these OC stoners laced their punk with reggae and hip-hop — traditionally black styles of music — but on this, the closing song of their 1992 debut, ’40oz. to Freedom,’ they start by shouting out the songwriters behind ‘Rivers of Babylon,’ the Rasta anthem they cover a track earlier. They go on to big-up the various artists who influenced them — everyone from Frank Zappa to Bob Marley — as well as the musicians who played on the record and friends family members who made it all possible. Love is what they had — remember that.
The lyrics don’t have much to do with being thankful, but chillwave maestro Chazwick Bundick’s woozy funk jam suggests contentment and peace of mind, and that may be the reason for the title. “Doesn’t matter does it?” he sings toward the end, offering words of wisdom to those (a) sweating life’s small stuff and/or (b) considering a second piece of pumpkin pie.
Addressing pessimistic haters who feel the world owes them something, Ad-Rock declares, “When you’ve got so much to say, it’s called gratitude.” In other words, if you have the time and opportunity to complain about life, you’ve got at least two things worth being thankful for. Now get out and grab some happiness, before the Beasties go upside yo’ head.
‘Thank You Too’
Jim James doesn’t need layers of vocal reverb — a favorite effect on previous albums — to sell the joy and relief of this song. “I want to thank you for thinking of me,” the MMJ leader tells his lady, who he credits with giving him a kind of emotional makeover. She “really brought out the naked part,” but he doesn’t mean that in a dirty way, so it’s probably OK to mention at the dinner table.
‘Thank You Very Much’
Being a rock ‘n’ roller means having to say “thank you” multiple times a night, and here, the Chiefs consider what those words actually mean. After a long show, they’re glad their fans enjoyed themselves, but they find persistent calls for an encore something of a drag: “This should be a thrill / but it feels like a drill.” It’s gratitude mixed with unguarded honesty — their way of saying, “Thanks, everyone, but go the f— home.”
‘The Thanksgiving Filter’
“It’s Thanksgiving, and Jesus I’m thankful / for abundance and bounty and a big tall stiff drink-full,” sings Patterson Hood on this, the finest Turkey Day tune ever written. Yeah, he mentions booze and family disfunction, but amazingly, this isn’t a cynical song. He loves the weirdoes who share his DNA — he’s just glad they live far away.
‘Thank You Friends’
If this song doesn’t make you well up, you need another glass of box wine. Toasting his successes — which, given Big Star’s history, are probably more personal than financial — underground hero Alex Chilton thanks his beloved buds for making it all “probable.” Most people would have said “possible,” but he knows the truth: When you’ve got goodhearted people in your corner, you’re more than halfway there.