As we commemorate the first Thanksgiving, I'd like to share a "playlist" of my favorite songs that give thanks, in one respect or another. The choices reflect both my eclecticism, and offer varying takes on the theme of gratitude. Feel free to import this playlist into your favorite music streaming app (ie: Spotify or Grooveshark) and listen while you prepare your bird, or tailgate before settling in for an afternoon of pro football:
Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again Sly and the Family Stone -
What's not to appreciate here? That groovy horn section, Sylvester Stewart's wry, subversive lyrics, the funky wah-wah guitars (that would launch a thousand protegés), this is the song you put on when folks are just milling around, and you want to get them up on their feet. A fave on party playlists everywhere, and for good reason, it's been covered by many different artists: perhaps the most innovative version was performed by post-punk outfit Magazine on their third album, The Correct Use of Soap.
Friends The Beach Boys -
Actually, I am filled with gratitude anytime I experience the musical genius that is Brian Wilson, but only major Beach Boys fans might be familiar with the title track of their obscure '68 release. It's another grandly beautiful masterpiece, featuring marvelous harmonies, Wilson's emotionally honest lyricism ("(We) turned each other on/to the good things that life has to give/And days I was down, you would help me/Get out of my hole....") and a slightly country-ish vibe, accentuated by a sad harmonica solo.
Thank God I'm A Country Boy John Denver -
A favorite tune from the John Denver canon (and a perennial request in concert), this song captures Denver in a live setting, extolling the virtues of a simple, rural life like nobody else can. The arrangement is classic country with a decidedly Appalachian flavor, and it's hard even for the most urban-reared not to appreciate the joys of a down-home breakfast, the beauty of nature, and remembrance of a time in our not so distant past when things like honesty, integrity, and hard work not only had meaning, but were revered.
Thank You Led Zeppelin -
After checking out their auspicious debut, we knew these bad boys could rip through the blues, and deliver the sexual swagger of classic rock'n'roll, but it would take this track from their sophomore release to show that Plant, Page & Co. could deliver a heartfelt ballad. "If the sun refused to shine/I would still be loving you/When the mountains crumble to the sea/There would still be you and me.." Could this be the first apocalyptic love song? Perhaps. But Robert Plant's plaintive delivery and Jimmy Page's understated phrasing make this not only a timeless tune, but appears on the playlists of many a live performer. Even Duran Duran covered this Zep tune, on their appropriately titled album of covers, Thank You.
You Made Me So Very Happy Blood, Sweat and Tears -
All love songs are expressions of gratitude in some respect, however this 1969 tune from Blood, Sweat and Tears works because it remains true to the original songwriters' soulful origins, while lead singer David Clayton-Thomas doesn't just convey the joy in finding true love, he matter-of-factly chronicles the disillusionment he's experienced from past relationships: "I've lost at love before/Got mad and closed the door/But you search out, just once more....." Alternating between a wistful solo trumpet and a full-on horn section during the chorus, this tune is a tour-de-force performance, and "classic" in the truest sense of the word.