Why is Thanksgiving, with it’s strong central message, the holiday without a single trademark song, or poem or even a chant working its way into the public consciousness? (Even Halloween has “Trick or treat! Smell my feet!”) Unfortunately, while Halloween has spooks and candy, and Valentine’s Day has love and, uh, candy, and Christmas has pretty much everything, the only trademarks of Thanksgiving are eating turkey and, well, giving thanks. What’s more, Patrice O’Neil, of Friday infamy, recently did his best to make it seem like a lost cause. Still, a noteworthy few have found a way to work with it.

 

Rules:

– It must refer to something Thanksgiving-related (and not just something in the same ballpark).

 

– If it’s not written unmistakably about Thanksgiving, it must, in present day, be associated more with Thanksgiving than anything else.

 

Honorable Mention:

Jingle Bells (James Pierpont): Actually, would you know it, Jingle Bells was originally written to be sung on Thanksgiving. Alas, it doesn’t mention Thanksgiving anywhere in its verses, and it’s now in the public consciousness as a Christmas song, so it must be disqualified.

 

SNL’s Thanksgiving Song (Adam Sandler): Not exactly a “good” song, but it can be a fun time. If I found it as funny as some people seem to, it might have made the list.

 

Alice’s Restaurant Massacree (Arlo Davy Guthrie): This classic that’s really more of a musical monologue than a song technically breaks rule #2 because it’s really about – and is more associated with – the Vietnam War. It happens to take place on Thanksgiving, and there the connection pretty much ends.

 

 

5. Thanksgiving Prayer (Johnny Cash): Guest star Johnny Cash sings an earnest little ode to the holiday on an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. This song is sweet, if a bit generic, and Cash sells it. That’s more than you can say for most attempts. https/www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdQQJPboFyc

 

4. Shining Time Station – Thanksgiving (Kevin Roth): A little piece of my childhood that stuck with me, video and all, from a show that went out of its way not to phone it in, this one manages to root itself in Thanksgiving without sounding forced or contrived. What’s more, it manages to sound like an actual song, not just a preschool jingle, and a half-decent song at that. Granted, I’ve put it on at Thanksgiving and had my carol-hating relatives brush it off as sappy, but I’m sticking to my guns on this one. Half-decent. https/www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwvbdZf6u6w

 

3. Thanksgiving Song (Mary Chapin Carpenter): The most serious attempt on the list to put a Thanksgiving song into the world of contemporary music and probably the most acclaimed, this song was actually the lone Thanksgiving number on Carpenter’s Christmas album. I’m a bit mixed on it, as my first impression was that it walked the line between soulful and soppy, losing ground on the more upbeat competitors. However, the album’s warm reviews were hard to ignore, especially when they singled out this song in particular. After taking a closer look at the lyrics and message, I admit, it hit harder than before. It’s not the tune to play during the festivities with the family, but as a way to get into the spirit of Thanksgiving, it’s sort of powerful. https/www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NSQLMPUK-8

 

2. Over the River and Through the Woods (Lydia Maria Child): Yep, this one’s a Thanksgiving song too. It straight up says so in the segment nobody remembers. Granted, it may be remembered more as a Christmas/winter classic, but that’s more than I can say for most Thanksgiving songs. It’s a fun, bouncy little carol that’s more ecstatic than most to start celebrating the holidays. Too bad I could only find one version with the right lyrics. https/www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sac2CVHs5Do

 

1. We Gather Together (Adriaen Valerius): If you’re a Christian, it’s possible that you remember this song as the Thanksgiving mainstay I claimed doesn’t exist. This triumphant and ardent little folk song about coming together to celebrate is short, unmistakably religious, and as close to timeless as a Thanksgiving song ever got. It wasn’t written for the holiday, but it’s become associated with it more than any other event, and likewise, Thanksgiving is associated with it more than just about any other song. It’s really not memorable enough to match the Christmas tunes we know by heart, but if only it were a blood relationship and the song just once mentioned Thanksgiving by name, it might have truly given the holiday that signature verse it lacks. https/www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0JVqR8KnF4

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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