Not that there ever needs to be an excuse to count your blessings, but we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving by picking our favorite songs about giving thanks. Some are quite literal and others are more esoteric, but they all give us good reasons to feel grateful today and every day.
1)”I Thank You,” Sam and Dave (1968)
Picked by: Rick
Ask the average music-lover to name a Sam and Dave song and they’ll probably come up with “Soul Man.” Ask for another and they’ll probably offer up “Hold On, I’m Comin’.” And while “Soul Man” was their biggest hit, topping out at #2, it was actually “I Thank You” that was their second biggest, peaking at #9 (“Hold On” only reached #21). This Isaac Hayes/David Porter-penned tune isn’t as much about thanking someone for the spiritual blessings they’ve bestowed as some of the other selections here; this song thanks the singer’s woman for squeezing, holding, shaking, kissing — all kinds of physical love. But it’s a song of gratitude, right?
2) “What a Wonderful World,” Louis Armstrong (1967)
Picked by: Erika
Forever associated with the inimitable Louis Armstrong, Bob Theile and George David Weiss composed “What a Wonderful World” as a response to the rising political and social tension of the 1960s. As one of the few African-American musicians whose talents transcended the barriers of race and class, Armstrong was a perfect choice to deliver the message, telling his audiences, “All I’m saying is see what a wonderful world it would be if only we’d give it a chance.” In a time when Thanksgiving is associated more with overeating and Black Friday than giving thanks, this song is a nice reminder of the power of gratitude.
3) “Thank You For Being a Friend,” Andrew Gold (1978)
Picked by: Allison
Best associated with the sitcom The Golden Girls, Andrew Gold’s “Thank You For Being a Friend” is so ubiquitous that it’s practically a pop culture icon itself. Sadly, the man behind the song was all but divorced from his creation until his death in 2011 when the world echoed with, “I thought it was just a theme song!” In reality, “Thank You For Being a Friend” was a Top 40 hit in its day, and was Gold’s second biggest hit (behind “Lonely Boy” — the irony abounds). An ode to those tried-and-true relationships of best friends, it’s perfect for the holiday season, a time for spending time with loved ones and feeling truly thankful for those who make life truly great.
4) “Days,” The Kinks (1968)
Picked by: Emma
The gratitude felt within an amicable, yet tragic loss can’t be expressed better. I’m probably alone in thinking that “Days” was the Kinks’ earlier equivalent to Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” but regardless, “Waterloo Sunset” has nothing on the emotion of this song, which is sad, bittersweet, and uplifting all in one. Ray Davies has said in interviews that “Days” was written as a sort of eulogy for the Kinks, as they transitioned out of their original lineup.
5) “Chelsea Morning,” Joni Mitchell (1969)
Picked by: Carey
A classic early Joni song that sparkles with gratitude for simple pleasures: the sun shining through stained glass windows, delicious breakfasts, and people-watching, all shared with a special someone. There’s more than a suggestion that the special someone might be only temporary — “Won’t you stay, we’ll put on the day, and we’ll talk in present tenses” is one of those perfect Joni lines that manages to be hopeful and just a little heartbreaking — but overall, the song’s about celebrating all the good things of any given moment, from the bowl of oranges on the table, to the birds flying by the window, to the people who bless our lives with their presence, even just for a little while.