Songs for Thanksgiving fall into three different categories. First, there are songs recorded explicitly for the holiday. However, there are a lot fewer of these for Thanksgiving then there are for Christmas or Valentine’s Day, so you have to get more creative unless you want to listen to a small subset of songs on repeat. The second Thanksgiving-appropriate category is songs that generally address giving thanks — even if they aren’t specifically geared towards the holiday. The third and most eclectic category is songs about Thanksgiving foods: potatoes, turkeys, and pies. Check out our list of Thanksgiving songs below.
“Thanksgiving Day” – Ray Davies
Ray Davies is best known for the distinctly English rock he concocted with his brother Dave in the Kinks. On the title track of his 2005 Thanksgiving Day EP, Ray channeled classic ’60s soul.
“Be Thankful For What You Got” – William DeVaughn
The act of giving thanks has inspired some impressive funk, including William DeVaughn’s relentlessly groovy “Be Thankful For What You Got.”
“Mashed Potatoes” – James Brown
This early James Brown track is dedicated to a classic part of the Thanksgiving meal.
“All That Meat And No Potatoes” – Fats Waller
This easy-going track preaches the value of a balanced meal, though Waller is also making a lewd joke.
“My Sweet Potato” – Booker T. & The MG’s
The Stax House Band are always reliable when it comes to food-related songs — one of their first hits was titled “Green Onions.” “My Sweet Potato” pulses insistently around Booker T’s keyboard work.
“Turkey Chase” – Bob Dylan
Dylan recorded this song as part of the soundtrack to the 1973 film Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid.
“The Thanksgiving Filter” – Drive-By Truckers
The Drive-By Truckers are a raucous bunch, but they love holiday songs. In addition to this Thanksgiving number, they also recorded a dirty Christmas song titled “Mrs. Claus’ Kimono.”
“Thanksgiving Theme” – Vince Guaraldi Trio
After the success of the Guaraldi trio’s soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas in the ’60s, they recorded more music for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which first aired in 1973.
“Jive Turkey” – Ohio Players
Like William DeVaughn, the Ohio Players believe that giving thanks can be extremely funky.
“Apple Pie A La Mode” – Destiny’s Child
Destiny’s Child really like apple pie.
“Almost Thanksgiving Day” – Graham Parker
Graham Parker came up as a hard-nosed rocker in the late ’70s, but he’d mellowed out by 2004, when he released this track.
“Be Thankful” – Natalie Cole
This was the title track to Nat King Cole’s daughter’s 1977 album, which topped the R&B charts.
“Thankful” – Kelly Clarkson
Clarkson mixes gentle Brazilian-inflected guitar with smooth soul on this grateful song from her first album.
“Stuffy Turkey” – Thelonius Monk
Thelonius Monk’s Thanksgiving track is cheery and swinging.
“Pass The Peas” – The JBs
James Brown and his band sounded a lot different on this track than they did more than a decade before when they recorded “Mashed Potatoes,” but both tracks are Thanksgiving-appropriate.
“Turkey In The Straw” – Bill Monroe and Doc Watson
This is a spirited number from Bill Monroe and Doc Watson, both bluegrass legends.
“Thanksgiving Song” – Mary Chapin Carpenter
Carpenter sneaked this on onto her Christmas album.
“Thankful N’ Thoughtful” – Sly & the Family Stone
You might think that “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” would be the Sly Stone holiday track, but few songs are more thankful than this one.
“Sweet Potato Pie” – Ray Charles and James Taylor
James Taylor originally recorded this song on his 1988 album Never Die Young. He re-recorded a warm version later with Ray Charles.
“Biscuits and Gravy” – Kelis
Kelis’s entire last album was organized around cuisine — and titled Food. This one is best for Thanksgiving.
“Let’s Turkey Trot” – Little Eva
Little Eva got her start as a pop singer through her work as a babysitter for Carole King and Gerry Goffin. She recorded this fine Thanksgiving dance track in 1963.
“Thank You Girl” – The Beatles
“Thank You Girl” first came out as a B-side. The A-side, “From Me To You,” is more appropriate for Christmas.
“Thanksgiving (Feat. Big Pooh)” – Kendrick Lamar
Way before Lamar was a household name, the Compton rapper recorded a song titled “Thanksgiving.”
“I’m a Potato” – Devo
This song answers the question Devo asked on their first album: Are We Not Men?
“Nicotine and Gravy” – Beck
Inspired by the holiday tracks from DeVaughn and the Ohio Players, Beck turns in his own strange, funky song about gravy.
“Turkey Mambo Momma” – Pulp
This one comes with a warning: Thanksgiving may not be the ideal time to try any sort of mambo.
“Thanksgiving” – Loudon Wainwright
Wainwright offers a sincere picture of a family getting together for the holiday.
“Meat and Potatoes” – Belle & Sebastian
Belle & Sebastian’s slick, Beatles-esque track follows in the footsteps of Fats Waller, moving quickly from food to sex.
“Thanksgiving Prayer” – Johnny Cash
Cash sang this number on an episode of the show Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.
“The Thanksgiving Song” – Adam Sandler