There’s Johnny Cash’s heartfelt “A Thanksgiving Prayer” at one end of the spectrum and Adam Sandler’s wacky “The Thanksgiving Song” at the other, but the truth of the matter is that there really aren’t many songs specifically written about Turkey Day. That said, here are the stories behind five of the best-known songs of gratitude … and one bonus Beatles factoid about an essential Thanksgiving condiment.
Popularized by Bing Crosby, this was composed by iconic songwriter Irving Berlin for the 1942 musical Holiday Inn — a film that also included “White Christmas,” the best-selling single of all time. Check it out here.
Originally recorded in 1967 by legendary trumpeter Louis Armstrong, this song found new life when it was used in the 1988 film Good Morning, Vietnam and re-released as a single, making the then 87-year old Armstrong one of the oldest artists ever to top the charts. Check it out here.
This quintessential Sly and the Family Stone 1970 hit features an instantaneously recognizable slap-bass riff from the inimitable Larry Graham. The title is an intentional mondegreen — a fancy word for a phonetic spelling. (Say the song’s title out loud if its meaning isn’t obvious.) Check it out here.
Written by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers (their first for any act other than their own band Chic) and performed by Sister Sledge, this feel-good celebration of friends and family came to epitomize the disco-influenced sound of the ’70s. Check it out here.
A modest hit for singer/songwriter Andrew Gold in 1978 (he once called it “just this little throwaway thing that took about an hour to write”), this was made famous seven years later when it was re-recorded by jingle singer Cynthia Fee as the theme song for the TV sitcom The Golden Girls. Check it out here.
The urban myth is that John Lennon mumbles the chilling words “I buried Paul” during the fadeout of the group’s single “Strawberry Fields Forever,” but what he is actually saying is “cranberry sauce.” It was late November 1966 when the vocal was being laid down, and between takes the Fab Four were chatting about American Thanksgiving traditions — something that was clearly on John’s mind as he improvised on an open mic. Check it out here. (Lennon’s ode to Turkey Day occurs at precisely 3:58.)