man playing double guitar Thanksgiving Songs

Thank You for The Music: 12 Great Thanksgiving Songs

Happy Thanksgiving American chums. 2020 has sucked big time, there is no doubt about that, yet there is still a lot to be thankful for. I am not sure I would have survived the apocalypse without being able to escape into music, so I wanted to give a little appreciation for these twelve fabulous Thanksgiving songs.

“Days” Kirsty McColl

Originally by The Kinks, Ray Davies wrote this touching tribute to a loved one. It’s not until the second verse we learn the person being sung to is gone; whether that’s because the relationship has ended or if they have passed away and that is what I love about it. Regardless of the circumstance, the tone is one of eternal gratitude.

I chose the Kirsty McColl version as I loved her so much. Her version reminds me of being enchanted by the video and her voice as a child. It is bittersweet to hear it now that Kirsty McColl is no longer with us. I feel very grateful we still have her music which won’t ever be forgotten.

“Thank you for the days
Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me
I’m thinking of the days
I won’t forget a single day, believe me.”

“Do You Realize??” The Flaming Lips

“Do you realize, that everyone you know someday will die?” Yeah, it doesn’t seem something to be thankful for a first listen, I mean who imagined such a sentiment could be so joyous? Wayne Coyne’s daydreamy lyrics remind us that we are alive right now, and that is a blessing. The uncertainty of death is flipped to become a celebration of life and sets a reminder to appreciate every moment we have with the people we love. This is such a gorgeous song that you wouldn’t be surprised to see Jesus riding by on a sunbeam singing it. It’s like all the enjoyable Christmasses (or Thanksgiving’s) you’ve had rolled into one.

“Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face?
Do you realize, that happiness makes you cry?”

“Thank You” Led Zeppelin

John Paul Jones takes this ballad to church on the Hammond organ while Jimmy Page stuns with a 12-string guitar riff and Robert Plant comes through with strikingly tender lyrics. It was his first solo attempt at songwriting for the band. By simply declaring his feelings for his wife Maureen, he crafted a lyrical treasure that positions itself with the most powerful statements of love ever written and thereby sealed his role in the mighty Zeppelin. He could bring more than just raw frontman sex appeal…at that instant, he became a wordsmith, a man of substance.

“If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you,
When mountains crumble to the sea, there will be you and me.
Thanks to you, it will be done / For you to me are the only one.”

“At Last” Etta James

There’s a reason “At Last” is the song you think of when you mention Etta James. From that opening flutter of strings to the way they emphasize her voice when she sings, “My lonely days are over and life is like a song,” the production is flawless — lush but never sentimental. “At Last” is one of soul’s most joyful moments.

“My love has come along
My lonely days are over
And life is like a song”

“What a Wonderful World” Joey Ramone

Nobody could top Louis Armstrong when it comes to this song, but by total surprise, the closest to recapturing the joy and gratitude Armstrong brought to the original is Joey Ramone. His approach to the song uses the chugging guitars of the early Ramones (after pilfering the opening riff from a Sex Pistols tune). Joey knew he was dying when he recorded this track, and I can’t help but hear that melancholy gratitude seeping into his delivery as he signs off with a song about how wonderful this world can be.

“I see friends shaking hands saying
How do you do?
They’re really saying I love you”

“Gratitude” Beastie Boys

Here’s a more assertive call for thanks. A killer bass line fed through one of the fuzziest pedals ever invented. A heavy dose of wah-wah on a two-note guitar solo. A powerful organ blast. The Beastie Boys bark about gratitude as its own reward; it flies in the face of any negative stereotype we have of rap-rock or hip-hop. This is spiritual rather than sexual, Buddhist rather than braggart. I have so much gratitude for The Beastie Boys existence in my lifetime.

“What you think, that the world owes you?
What’s gonna set you free?
Look inside and you’ll see
When you’ve got so much to say it’s called gratitude
And that’s right.”

“Thank You” Descendents

These California pop-punks have written loads of great love songs, but few hit as hard as this one. The subject isn’t a woman, as in so many other Descendents songs, but a band: “Thank you for playing the way you play,” sings Milo Aukerman, voicing a sentiment penned by bassist Karl Alvarez. In a stroke of humble genius, Alvarez never reveals the identity of his musical obsession, letting us fill in the blanks.

“I just want to say
Thank you for playing the way you play”

“Thank You for Sending Me an Angel” Talking Heads

It’s no secret that Talking Heads frontman David Byrne is one of pops most endearing eccentrics. On the off chance you need a reminder, the NYC new-wave group’s 1978 track “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel” should do the trick. “The song is Byrne’s ode to none other than…himself. A hyper marching tempo and Byrne’s piercing yelps contribute to the song’s jovial but egocentric bent. But hey, we all need to practice some self-lovin’ sometimes, and Thanksgiving just might be the perfect occasion to appreciate how awesome you are. Yes, you.

“Oh, Oh, baby you can walk, you can talk just like me.
You can walk, you can talk just like me.
You can look, tell me what you see.
You can look, you won’t see nothing like me
If you look around the world.”

“Thank you God for Sinners” Ty Segall

Which sinners do we have to thank for inspiring the psych stylings of contemporary garage rock king Ty Segall? He gives us some pointers with two dedications in the liner notes to his 2012 album, Twins: Neil Young and San Francisco. Sounds about right. So keep those names in mind while celebrating sin with this fuzzed-out, sun-drenched tune this Thanksgiving, and don’t worry—you have another month to get off the naughty list anyway.

“Thank God for the sinners
Thank God for your love
‘Cause in the morning
I’ll rise above”

“Minerva” Deftones

Minerva was the virgin goddess of music, poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, and magic. She is often depicted with her sacred creature, an owl usually named as the “owl of Minerva”, which symbolizes her connection to wisdom.

Deftones are probably my favourite band of all time. There isn’t an album of theirs I don’t love, and “Minerva” is one of their most beautiful songs. Bleak and shoegazey to begin, then soaring into a gloriously uplifting chorus. Chino’s voice is on fire here and made even sexier by the theme of appreciation for women or a woman.

In my head, it’s about women in general. Maybe it’s your mother, sister, daughter or lover, it doesn’t matter. It’s about admiring the strength, wisdom, talent, creativity and beauty in every woman, and how important she is to you.

“And God bless you all
For the song you saved us…”

“Danke” IDLES

“Danke” is a prolonged, slow-building sonic maelstrom, its massive hurricane of noise is up there with IDLES most cathartic tunes. Its lyrics, however, are centred around an idea taken from Daniel Johnston’s most poignant track. The song may be an ode to Johnston who sadly passed away in 2019, but it is also likely to be an ode to all fans to keep f**king going—in 2020 we do need that encouragement. This track ends Ultra Mono, their latest album, with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. “Danke” is the essence of Ultra Mono and what IDLES do best; they give so much of themselves to their fans, and they get a lot of love back.

I couldn’t be more thankful for IDLES; they don’t know it, but they changed my life this year, bringing me more joy than I ever knew was possible and in a year like this one that’s no mean feat. Cheers lads.

“True love will find you in the end
You will find out just who was your friend”

“Thank You For Hearing Me” Sinead O’ Connor

Ending with another bittersweet symphony, this song means a lot to me personally, for I would sing it to my baby boy to soothe him to sleep. Like a hymn or lullaby, O’Connor gives thanks for the love given by someone, but also for the hurt. While it’s not totally true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, the heartbreak and scary moments in life do shape you into the person you are.

I would rock my baby to sleep in the hospital after his heart surgery while humming this tune, feeling eternally grateful to the doctors and nurses for saving his life, for he truly is the greatest gift of all.

“Thank you for breaking my heart
Thank you for tearing me apart
Now I’ve strong strong heart
Thank you for breaking my heart”

On that gorgeous note, I would like to end this by saying thank you to all the people across the world who are working tirelessly to care for those affected by the Coronavirus, everyone who is fighting for a cure, and all those looking after their fellow humans by believing in science.

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