The thing I love about Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) is that it’s a holiday devoid of the trappings of Christmas. You don’t have to buy gifts for people, no worries about “the pressure” felt this time of year, and no elaborate decorations around the house. Nope. It’s just a a time to get together with family and friends, eat a big meal, maybe watch or play some football, and generally hang out and enjoy the day. Also, probably because it’s a difficult holiday to market (’cause you know, there’s no Santa or religious significance), there’s been a paucity of songs about Thanksgiving. Sure, Christmas songs are dime a dozen, but, except for Adam Sandler, how many Thanksgiving songs do you hear on the radio this time of year? Chances are zero. Why? Because Christmas is a big business holiday and Thanksgiving is basically a mom and pop corner store holiday. Christmas is about consuming under the guise of “giving,” and Thanksgiving is a more reflective holiday; a time when many think about what they have and not what they want (or are going to get). And maybe because Thanksgiving has reflective vibe, the songs that are written about this day are often somber and even cynical. Add that all up and it’s a Thanksgiving Mix Six that’s kind of eclectic and weird.
” A Thanksgiving Prayer,” William S. Burroughs (download)
I first heard this recording in 1987 while listening to KUSF (a college radio station in San Francisco). At the time, I thought it was incredibly funny because of the way it just flayed the holiday in an unabashedly cynical way. Nowadays, when I hear Burroughs’ reading of his Thanksgiving prayer, it has such a sadness underneath all the fury. Still, it’s a favorite and when I found the CD in my collection the other day, it was one of those “YES” moments I have when I know I have the right song for a mix.
“(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays,” the Carpenters (download)
My love of David Lynchian contrasts compels me to spike in a Carpenters song. After Burroughs’ caustic take on Thanksgiving, there’s nothing better to cleanse the palate than a festive mug of Karen Carpenter singing this classic that, yes, is mostly associated with Christmas (Hell, just look at the album cover!). But c’mon, this can easily be a Thanksgiving song — especially with the pumpkin pie reference.
“Thanksgiving Theme,” Vince Guaraldi Trio (download)
In keeping with the “busting out the Thanksgiving classics” theme, I had to include one from Vince Guaraldi. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of growing up watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, but when I hear music from Guaraldi, it immediately evokes that warm, fuzzy feeling of the holidays. But then if you watch the show, you know that the ever-in-need-of-Prozac Charlie Brown gets to say lines like this:
CHARLIE: Holidays always depress me.
SALLY: I know what you mean. I went down to buy a turkey tree and all they have are things for Christmas.
CHARLIE: For Christmas? Already?
“Thanksgiving Day, “Ray Davies (download)
Why is this Brit writing songs about Thanksgiving? Because he hates America, of course! Actually, Davies has captured the isolation many feel around this time of year. It’s a communal/family holiday, but for many people in the good old US of A, the pull of individualism often has the unfortunate effect of severing our ties to our family and community. “Thanksgiving Day” captures those sad sack individuals in lyrical flashes that Davies does so well.
“Almost Thanksgiving Day,” Graham Parker (download)
Okay, why is this Brit writing songs about Thanksgiving? Because he hates America, too! Why else would this former new waver decided to write a song with a rootsy vibe, affect a mild Southern drawl and, like Davies, compose lyrics that highlight a kind of sadness that precedes the holiday season. Obviously, he just can’t stand the thought that some people are actually happy on Thanksgiving — okay, they’re really drunk, but most are happy drunks!
“We’ll Be Together,” Sting (download)
And finally, why is this Brit writing songs about Thanksgiving? Answer: He didn’t. But the title just screams Thanksgiving, doesn’t it? No? Well, it does to me! Plus, it seems I’m on a Sting kick these days since, well, I featured “Shadows in the Rain” a couple of weeks ago. But I wanted to end this mix on a more upbeat note and “We’ll Be Together” fit the bill.
Happy Thanksgiving, Popdosers!