Five Songs About ... Thanksgiving

Categories: Up On Sun

Compared with other holidays, Thanksgiving hasn't inspired bards overmuch. There are no traditional hymns, no instantly identifiable music associated with the day save possibly various football broadcast bumpers.

Nevertheless, here and there we find certain songs that -- in lyric or in spirit -- fit the theme of the day. For the first installment of a new, recurring blog feature, we hunted down five such songs for your Thanksgiving listening pleasure.

We plan to do a similarly-themed post once a month or so, with songs about different themes and events during the year. Use the comments to talk about the songs, or to suggest your own potential additions to the list.

5. Adam Sandler -- The Thanksgiving Song
Before Adam Sandler's magnum opus about Hannukah, there was his fractured effort about Turkey Day. Performed on "Saturday Night Live" with a brief assist from Kevin Nealon, Sandler's silly song may be the first holiday hymn to mention both Mike Tyson and venereal disease -- though hopefully not the last.

(Due to NBC's video fascism, you can't see the original version, but this live version has the same feel. Note to the Peacock: Information wants to be free, tough guy.)

4. William Burroughs -- A Thanksgiving Prayer
Feeling thankful? Got a warm sensation of fellowship with other human beings? Smiling after watching the Sandler video? William S. Burroughs can take care of that for you. Okay, it's a spoken-word piece and not a song. If Kurt Cobain had lived longer, I'm sure he'd have performed musical accompaniment to this the way he did Burroughs' "The Priest They Called Him." Sadly, Cobain killed himself, possibly after listening to this concentrated burst of depressing.

3. Spencer the Gardener -- The Gobble Song
From scathing social commentary to sweet and endearing testaments to food, this catchy tune from indie roots group Spencer the Gardener is a non-ironic celebration of Thankgiving's central component: the meal. The down-home feel of the song makes it possibly the only tune on this list indisputably suitable for mixed company. Warning: earworm potential.

2. The Dead Milkmen -- The Best Thanksgiving Ever (live)
Available on the band's 1992 "If I Had a Gun" EP, this live introduction to the band's classic "Bitchin' Camaro" is the story of young Timmy and, as the title suggests, his Best Thanksgiving Ever. But as you'd expect from the Milkmen, this tale is twisted, and Timmy is not actually the hero. The hero is invisible to the human eye. To say more would be unseemly, and unfortunately there are no video or audio representations of this song available on the Internets so far as I am aware. Seek it out. It's worth it. Until then, read the lyrics here.

1. Arlo Guthrie -- Alice's Restaurant
Guthrie's Vietnam-era chestnut is rambling, surreal narrative that is simultaneously folk art, political criticism, and communal performance project. It found its way onto the entire 'A' side of a record, into a film, and into our collective culture. And it all began two Thanksgivings ago (or was it 40?). Watch a live performance here. The lyrics are here.

-- Jeff Shaw



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