Louis Armstrong 1952 Library of Congress

Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks in Song

A wonderful world indeed. And Thanksgiving Day is a perfect time to be grateful for it.

Thanksgiving Day is upon us. There are those who would debate the historical accuracy of story about the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. Still, the giving thanks for who and what we have is worthy of respect. 

Now you could observe the holiday by singing “Over The River (And Through The Woods)” or Adam Sandler’s “Thanksgiving Song.” You could even watch the turkey drop episode of WKRP In Cincinnati on YouTube. And of course there will be plenty college and NFL football games on television to choose from. 

But if you need help getting into the Thanksgiving Day spirit these songs may just be for you.

“(There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays” – The Carpenters

This song has been a holiday hit since Perry Como recorded it for the first time in 1954.  (He recorded it again in 1959.) It generally is thought of as a Christmas tune but the sentiment of returning home to be with family for a special holiday is applicable to Thanksgiving as well.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, travel at Thanksgiving time is at least as heavy as for Christmas, if not more so. After all, “If you want to be happy in a million ways, for the holidays, you can’t beat home, sweet home.” Richard and Karen Carpenter released their version of the song in 1978.

“Thanksgiving Song” – Mary Chapin Carpenter

Carpenter released this song in 2008. It is a simple, humble, and respectful ode to the solemnity of the holiday.  It is also a short song coming in a just under 3 minutes. When you get down to it, it doesn’t take long to simply express gratitude “for what’s understood and all that is forgiven.”

“My Thanksgiving” – Don Henley

From the Inside Job album in the year 2000, Henley gives thanks for the many blessings in his life. For friends and loves long neglected if not lost. For the too many blessings we have and for which we show too little appreciation. For the family, satisfying work, and good health we enjoy. Our blessings may not be the same as Henley’s but we have them. We all have our moments of joy, our hours of fear. We have all followed winding roads, had those who helped us make a start life, and someone or something that broke our hearts. We can give thanks for those things because they all helped shape who we are.

“Take Me Home, Country Roads” – John Denver

Thanksgiving is about many things, not the least of which is traveling home. Whether home is West Virginia, Upstate New York, or Sebring, Florida, memories of the place you belong will gather round you. And once you get off the interstate, it is the country roads that just might take you home.

“I Thank You” – Sam & Dave

There are few songs that give a more joyous and energetic praise and thanks to a significant other than this song from Sam Moore and Dave Porter. Gospel music’s call-and-response formed the basis of their brand of soul music. It is hard not to be thankful to someone who makes you feel like you’ve never felt and makes you want to try new things, too. When all is said and done, there’s nothing to say but “I thank you!” Very soulfully, of course.

“The Thanksgiving Song” – Ben Rector

Thanksgiving traditions span years and generations. Family members may pass on and are remembered solemnly but joyfully. Kids who once sat at the children’s table now have kids of their own. With the passing of the years, the hometown may look different but somehow feels the same. Perhaps that is why we go home for Thanksgiving. We seek the familiar, the comfort of being with those we know and love best. So fill your plate and fill your drink. And fill your house with family and the kind of love a thousand miles can’t wash away

“Celebrate Me Home” – Kenny Loggins

There are those in life whose choices have led them to a life of wandering. By choice or by chance they are bound to roam. Yet they, too, long for family, for something to bring them back home again. They yearn for something they can hold on to, something to help them make believe they have never left. They want something to hold on to when they inevitably leave again because as much as they love home and family they are, after all, bound roam again.

“Thanksgiving Prayer” – Joanne Cash

Johnny Cash first sang this song on an episode of the 1990s television show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. His younger sister, Joanne, would later record it as well. This is another song of thanks for a loved one. This time it is a partner who has shared many years together, raised children together, and watched their family grow together. The singer knows the time to “be going” will come but when it does, “I’ll go on my way grateful for all of the years… that you gave me.” 

“Song For The Life” – Rodney Crowell

There are so many things that get better with age. Wine for instance. And life itself. You learn from the mistakes of youth. You learn how to listen and hear the music and the song in everything around you. It grounds you and makes you better. Written by Rodney Crowell, Alan Jackson also recorded this song.

“Days” – The Kinks

We all know love doesn’t always go on forever. It ends too soon at times but its effect on our lives endures. We remember the person with great affection. We remember the days we spent together with fondness. Yes, they were reckless, exhilarating days when you couldn’t see wrong from right but they are days you will remember, and be thankful for, for all your life. Ray Davies wrote and recorded Days decades ago while with his group the Kinks. Davies also wrote and recorded Thanksgiving Day around ten years ago. The latter song captures the essence of the American Thanksgiving family tradition.

Courtesy of Guy Davis site

“Thanksgiving Day” – Guy Davis

Bluesman Guy Davis has the lone instrumental on the playlist. The snappy, toe-tapping tune cries out with the joy of celebrating the holiday with home and family. Even grandpa and grandma will be doing a jig and clapping to this tune. Which means you have no excuse – if you can’t dance to the music, you should at least be doing a happy hop.

“What A Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong

This list would not be complete without this song by the one and only Satchmo. It is a song of appreciation for all the good things in life that make this a wonderful world – the trees of green, skies of blue, red roses, the colors of the rainbow and people going by. It is also a song of hope – the babies crying today grow and learn more than we’ll ever know. A wonderful world indeed. And Thanksgiving Day is a perfect time to be grateful for it.

Christmas music may rule the airwaves at this time of year, but as this playlist shows there are plenty of songs out there honoring both the day and the spirit of Thanksgiving.

For those who subscribe to Spotify, here is a link to a playlist of these songs:



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