Thanksgiving is, in many ways, the quintessential American holiday. There is a purity in its simplicity. Perhaps this is due to the refreshing lack of supplemental commercialism (other than certain otherwise semi-obscure aspects of the food industry). No cards, gifts or decorations. Just good food and family. I never truly appreciated Thanksgiving until I spent several of them away from home, finding a warm and welcome home wherever I found myself. There is nothing that embodies the spirit of the holiday more than someone opening his or her home to the wayfaring or isolated. Thanksgiving is about the meal, but it is more about communion with the special people in our lives. In uncertain times such as these, it is all the more important we break bread together and take a moment to reflect on what we have. So here’s a little musical Thanksgiving menu, kicking off with Porter Wagoner’s exuberant 1957 single, Company’s Comin’ –
Digging right in with the main course, let’s talk turkey. Little Eva worked as a babysitter for the legendary songwriting (and husband and wife) team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King. They wrote her debut smash “The Loco-Motion” and later penned this poultry-themed novelty dance song. Gooble Gooble Diddle-ip.
Little Eva – Let’s Turkey Trot
You can’t have turkey without mashed potatoes. The early 1960’s were rich with food-themed dance records, and this may be the greatest of them all. Here’s a clip from Hollywood A Go-Go, complete with a visual dance lesson.
Dee Dee Sharp – Mashed Potato Time
Perhaps realizing the omission of a crucial accompaniment, Sharp followed up “Mashed Potato Time” three months later with that all-important gravy.
Dee Dee Sharp – Gravy (for My Mashed Potatoes)
Gotta have something to sop up that gravy. Andre Williams made a string of racy R&B and proto-rap records showcasing his gift for the single entendre. Pretty sure this one here is just about biscuits.
Andre Williams – Pass the Biscuits Please
Call it stuffing, call it dressing. Some make it without meat, some with sausage, or even oysters. Butthole Surfers make it with a healthy dose of hardcore punk psychedelia.
Butthole Surfers – Turkey & Dressing
The Earthworms – Mo’ Taters
What’s that, you need more gravy for those potatoes? Here, try The Ventures playful instrumental take.
The Ventures – Gravy (for My Mashed Potatoes)
Earth tone starches clearly rule any traditional Thanksgiving plate. But you gotta eat your veggies too, and green beans are the green veggie of choice for this meal. In many parts of the country green beans are served in a casserole, compliments of a Campbell’s Soup advertising campaign from 1955. My Italian family sautés them with olive oil and garlic.
Pretty Balanced – Green Beans
Apparently there aren’t many songs about yams or sweet potatoes. But that sweet potato gravy sounds funky and delicious. More please.
Maurice Simon & The Pie Men – Sweet Potato Gravy
My college art history professor used to say all paintings – and plates – need red. Cranberry sauce is the unsung hero of Thanksgiving dinner – the lone speck of bright color on a plate of brown. There aren’t many pop songs about cranberry sauce, either. But this poignant song by Irish rock band The Cranberries offers a somewhat appropriate take on family and reflection.
The Cranberries – Ode To My Family
There are a lot of dessert options to choose from but, this being Thanksgiving, why not finish the meal off with a little American Pie. Inspired by the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, Don McLean unfolds the story of rock ‘n’ roll in eight and a half minutes. What’s more American than that?
Don McLean – American Pie