When it comes to music, Thanksgiving gets gypped.
Actually, when compared with the illustrious soundtracks of Christmas, it gets nothing.
Sure, Adam Sandler’s “Thanksgiving Song” earns points for strangeness, but it’s not exactly family listening. “Family Tradition” by Hank Williams Jr. is way more festive, but many wouldn’t care for some of the content.
I suppose we could adopt Arianna Grande’s “Thank U, Next” as a holiday anthem, but do we really want to be reminded of our exes (and what they taught us) while getting a second slice of pumpkin pie? James Brown’s “Do the Mashed Potatoes” also could work, if we wanted to go the literal route.
But none of those offerings captures the true meaning of the holiday. So perhaps there’s another way to look at Thanksgiving songs.
One of my favorite family traditions is going around the table to share what we’re thankful for. May I suggest we apply that to music?
I asked some of my family members to weigh in on the topic and here’s what they said, round-table style.
Dad: “There Goes My Everything” by Kenny Chesney. He said the song hit him after he and my mom helped me move into my first solo apartment. “I was thankful for that song because it helped me letting you go and trusting you’d be safe,” he said.
Mom: “You Are My Sunshine." Her preference is the version she sang to me and my brother to get us to go to sleep when we were young. Sometimes she made up the words. If you’re looking for a version to sing along to, look no further than a cover by Morgane Stapleton. It features vocals by her award-winning husband, Chris.
Brother: “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin. He likes it because it symbolizes “hardship and rebirth.” So poignant of him, eh? And, he added, because the blues/rock combo sounds cool.
One of many cousins: “January Wedding” by the Avett Brothers. She and her husband had a January wedding, which made it the perfect choice.
Me: No surprise here, but I can’t choose just one. To limit my list, I included only songs I’ve been listening to in 2019 and only ones by women.
“Daylight” by Taylor Swift
As I’ve talked about before in this space, I’m a hard-core Swiftie. After spending a few months with Swift’s new album, I have an announcement: “Daylight” is probably my favorite song off “Lover.” The title track is a close second. The song — with lyrics such as “I’ve been sleepin’ so long in a twenty-year dark night” — is about facing something hard and then one day getting through it. Thank goodness for that.
“Overnight” by Maggie Rogers
As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Rogers’ newest (and only in-your-face love song), “Love You For a Long Time,” and I’m tempted to add it to this list. But I’ll stick with the song of hers I’ve known and loved longer. I’m thankful for Rogers reminding me that people do indeed change, sometimes overnight.
“Ride out in the Country” by Yola
I listened to the song for the first time while running on a country road this summer in my hometown of Lexington, Ky. When she sang the words, “When I think I’m goin’ crazy/I take a ride out in the country/it’s all I can do,” it felt like the song perfectly matched the moment. Sometimes, listening to Yola is all you can do.
“Truth Hurts” by Lizzo
Instant happiness. That’s how I’d describe “Truth Hurts.” When it starts to play, you’re forced to sing along and you’re forced to feel better about yourself. This is the song we all needed in 2019 to feel thankful for the truth and how sometimes it hurts. But only when you’re the one telling it.
“Rainbow” by Kacey Musgraves
If “Truth Hurts” is instant bliss, this song is instant calmness. When Musgraves sings, “It’ll all be alright,” it’s an invitation to take a giant deep breath. Thank you, Kacey, for telling me to keep breathing.
I know traditions take time to stick, but I gotta say I like how this one is starting. As it turns out, songs that have nothing to do with the holiday can still have something to do with Thanksgiving.
Now it’s your turn. What songs are you thankful for? Also, can you pass the mashed potatoes?