The 38 Best Thanksgiving Songs: Essential Tracks For Your Holiday Playlist
From deep funk cuts to snazzy jazz numbers, the best Thanksgiving songs focus on food and gratitude for the holidays.
There are countless Christmas songs, even Halloween songs, but what about Thanksgiving? For a holiday that essentially revolves around gathering friends and family and feasting on delicious food, why aren’t there scores of songs to match? For what is essentially an indulgent dinner party in the middle of the afternoon, you’re going to need a playlist for entertaining and selective hearing when your relatives try to bring up politics. From deep funk cuts to snazzy jazz numbers, the best Thanksgiving songs focus on food and gratitude.
Listen to the best Thanksgiving songs on Spotify, and scroll down for our best Thanksgiving songs of all time.
Songs About Giving Thanks
While there aren’t that many songs about turkeys, there are plenty of tunes that celebrate the spirit of the holiday by giving thanks for friends, family, and general abundance. These are the songs that will remind bickering family members what the holiday is all about.
Bob Marley & the Wailers: Give Thanks And Praises
A later Bob Marley classic, the reggae icon was a beacon of gratitude and positivity on this 1983 single, something all great Thanksgiving songs are made of. – Laura Stavropoulos
Otis Redding – I Want to Thank You
There are few sweeter singers than Otis Redding, and on this song he makes a very simple sentiment sound like a new and beautiful idea each and every time he sings it. – Sam Armstrong
Sister Sledge – We Are Family
You may not want to get up and sing with all your family members at Thanksgiving, but there’s no denying that the title of this song is basically the Thanksgiving message. – Sam Armstrong
Natalie Cole: Be Thankful
Those who think Natalie Cole can only be counted on for sophisticated standards haven’t heard her 1977 album Thankful, featuring the funky-gospel single “Be Thankful,” on which she schools everyone on being grateful, with a few impressive vocal runs in between. – Laura Stavropoulos
Bing Crosby: I’ve Got Plenty To Be Thankful For
For the Thanksgiving traditionalists, this Bing Crosby song comes from the 1942 Irving Berlin musical film, Holiday Inn. Who needs butter on the table, when nothing’s smoother than Crosby’s voice? – Laura Stavropoulos
Ariana Grande – thank u, next
Sometimes Thanksgiving is actually about embracing independence. Ariana Grande’s brilliant pop song genuinely thanks her exes for what they taught her, while also seeing her move confidently into the future. – Sam Armstrong
Sam & Dave – I Thank You
A simple sentiment, expertly rendered by the Stax duo. This song has been covered countless times, including by ZZ Top and Bonnie Raitt. – Sam Armstrong
Drake – Keep The Family Close
When everything around feels like it’s falling apart, this Drake song is a reminder that keeping your family close is one of the most important things you can do. – Sam Armstrong
Phillip Phillips – Home
There’s truly nothing like home, however you define it. Thanksgiving is all about finding comfort in whatever type of place you can call your own. This song by Phillip Phillips celebrates that sentiment to the fullest. – Sam Armstrong
Earth, Wind And Fire: Gratitude
As you might have noticed, the majority of our favorite Thanksgiving songs are funk and soul cuts – and with good reason. Nothing puts the family faster to sleep than pie and acoustic folk. Let’s give thanks to the divine talents of Maurice White and Philip Bailey’s vocal interplay, and Verdine White’s funky bassline, on this cut from Earth, Wind And Fire’s 1975 live album, Gratitude. – Laura Stavropoulos
Keith Urban – But for the Grace of God
This country tune is all about being thankful for what you’ve got, one of the core tenets of the Thanksgiving holiday. – Sam Armstrong
Mary J. Blige: Family Affair
This classic Mary J Blige track works on two fronts: it celebrates bringing the family together and also acts as a handy icebreaker, as everyone gets to go around the table and explain what they think a “dancerie” is. – Laura Stavropoulos
Songs About (Or Related To) Thanksgiving
Songs specifically about Thanksgiving may be few and far between, but we’ve rounded up the best of them here, from pilgrim adventures to an undying love for turkey.
Vince Guaraldi Trio: Thanksgiving Theme
After dominating the Christmas music market with their soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Vince Guaraldi Trio made a move on Thanksgiving songs with the equally comforting “Thanksgiving Theme” from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. – Laura Stavropoulos
Little Eva: Let’s Turkey Trot
Were all dance crazes named after comfort food? Whatever the case, this Northern soul favorite was a smash hit for Little Eva in 1962, and it still slaps. – Laura Stavropoulos
Green Day – Macy’s Day Parade
This Green Day song isn’t about Thanksgiving per se, but the message in the chorus that purchasing things won’t bring you happiness feels pretty spot-on. – Sam Armstrong
Adam Sandler: The Thanksgiving Song
And now for something completely different… Adam Sandler, patron saint of 90s holiday novelty songs (also see “The Hanukkah Song”), graced the nation with his homage to Thanksgiving. With his childlike delivery, he waxed poetic about his love of turkey through nonsensical, rhyming lyrics on SNL’s Weekend Update, setting the bar for all Thanksgiving songs that followed. – Laura Stavropoulos
Johnny Cash – Thanksgiving Prayer
The provenance of this Johnny Cash spoken-word piece (that eventually segues into song) is a bit murky, but the message of Thanksgiving is loud and clear. – Sam Armstrong
The Shins – Young Pilgrims
This tune from The Shins’ classic Chutes Too Narrow doesn’t have a ton to do with Turkey Day specifically. There’s no sweet potatoes or cranberry sauce mentioned. Indeed, even the “Young Pilgrims” aren’t the pilgrims of Plymouth. That said, the main takeaway from the song – that the narrator is able to keep hope alive, even in the face of destructive urges – is one that anybody can relate to, especially on this particular holiday. – Sam Armstrong
Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant Massacree
Everyone knows that the city dump is closed for Thanksgiving… except the narrator of Arlo Guthrie’s most famous song. A madcap adventure ensues. – Sam Armstrong
Bob Dylan – Turkey Chase
Taken from Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, Bob Dylan’s “Turkey Chase” is a down-home instrumental. Dylan played the character of Alias in the film. – Sam Armstrong
Steely Dan: Black Friday
Steely Dan’s organ-powered R&B number may have been written long before the retail apocalypse known as Black Friday, but the lyrics sound surprisingly relevant, as Donald Fagen sings: “When Black Friday comes, I collect everything I’m owed/And before my friends find out, I’ll be on the road.” – Laura Stavropoulos
Mel Tormé: Comin’ Home Baby!
Skip the smooth jazz and go straight for this Swinging 60s number by Mel Tormé that also speaks to the prodigal sons and daughters that flock home every Thanksgiving. – Laura Stavropoulos
The Beach Boys: Do You Like Worms?
Another song originally planned for The Beach Boys’ Smile album, “Do You Like Worms?” has abrupt style shifts, animal noises, and the recurring refrain, “Rock, rock, roll, Plymouth rock roll over.” Brian Wilson later expanded it into a delightfully weird tale about the recolonization of the American continent on the 2004 album Brian Wilson Presents Smile. – Laura Stavropoulos
Songs About Food
Thanksgiving is a symbolic holiday, but really, it’s all about the food. From jive turkeys to wild honey pie, these tasteful tunes are sure to whet your appetite.
Beck: Nicotine And Gravy
Turkey and stuffing, pie and ice cream, nicotine and gravy… Thanksgiving is full of winning combinations. This jazz-infused psychedelic pop cut is for later in the evening, after the tryptophan kicks in and Beck’s woozy vocals start to sound just right. – Laura Stavropoulos
Ohio Players: Jive Turkey
With the caveat that “jive turkey” is pejorative slang, you can still flip the meaning on one day of the year, thanks to Ohio Players’ slinky, horn-fueled groove that will have everyone dancing long after the gravy has gone cold. – Laura Stavropoulos
The Beatles – Wild Honey Pie
Want a unique song to herald the arrival of dessert? This short song, inspired by Paul McCartney’s time in India, is a goofy pick that’s easy to sing along to. – Sam Armstrong
Kacey Musgraves – Biscuits
Kacey Musgraves’ “Biscuits” is a great reminder that sometimes the most important thing you can do is mind your own biscuits at an extended family dinner. – Sam Armstrong
Dee Dee Sharp: Mashed Potato Time
With all that carb-loading, you’re going to need to move around a bit. Grab a partner and do the mashed potato to the tune of Dee Dee Sharp. While The Contours first kicked off the dance craze on their Motown hit “Do You Love Me,” it picked up steam with Dee Dee. – Laura Stavropoulos
Jay & The Techniques: Apple, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie
Keeping in line with the food theme (an easy win for Thanksgiving songs), this zippy number only features one Technique member, Jay Proctor, but has some star-powered back-up courtesy of songwriting duo Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson. – Laura Stavropoulos
Louis Armstrong: All That Meat And No Potatoes
Innuendos aside, this duet with Pops and Velma Middleton is essential for any Thanksgiving songs playlist. Delivered with a side of sass and then some, when Armstrong sings, “I look into the pot/I’m fit to fight,” it’s clear he also understands the importance of a solid side dish. – Laura Stavropoulos
Ray Charles – Sweet Potato Pie
This Thanksgiving Day standard isn’t technically about the dessert. It’s about Ray Charles’ girl. But the sentiment behind it is perfect for a Thanksgiving playlist: Giving thanks for a beautiful person that makes you feel like you’re walking on cloud nine when you’re around them is what the holiday is all about. – Sam Armstrong
The JB’s: Pass The Peas
One the great, underrated Thanksgiving side dishes. “Pass the Peas” comes from the essential funk instrumental album Food For Thought, from James Brown’s backing band, the JB’s. It’s also been sampled by Eric B & Rakim and De La Soul, appealing to generations around the table. – Laura Stavropoulos
Edwin Starr: Easin’ In
As you survey the Thanksgiving feast that lays before you, take Edwin Starr’s advice: ease in slowly and let the funk roll over you on this slick 1974 cut from the Blaxploitation film Hell Up in Harlem. – Laura Stavropoulos
The Beach Boys: Vega-Tables
Leave it to The Beach Boys to make getting your greens in sound like a harmonious celebration. Initially intended for the 1967 Smile project, it was released a year later on Smiley Smile, with Paul McCartney famously chomping on celery in the background. – Laura Stavropoulos
James Brown: (Do The) Mashed Potatoes
Speaking of food prep, James Brown’s take on the dance trend is, naturally, funkier. Having incorporated the mashed potato into his stage shows, he wanted to capitalize on the craze with an instrumental track that was, for contractual reasons, originally credited to an outfit led by his drummer, Nat Kendricks And The Swans. Soul Brother No.1 got so whipped up about potatoes, he would record another spuds-focused single, “Mashed Potatoes USA,” under his own name. – Laura Stavropoulos
Songs About Fall
An often musically overlooked season, fall serves as the inspiration for these songs about crisp autumn breezes, homecomings, and the official beginning of the holiday season.
Neil Young – Harvest Moon
Composed for his wife, Pegi, Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” is a gorgeous tune that feels perfect for a slow dance after the Thanksgiving meal is over. – Sam Armstrong
Billie Holiday – Autumn in New York
Billie Holiday perfectly captures the feeling of the Thanksgiving season with this song that allows her iconic voice to shine brightly. – Sam Armstrong
Graham Parker – Almost Thanksgiving Day
Graham Parker celebrates the feeling of fall, and everything leading up to Thanksgiving Day. Chopping the wood. The forecast promising snow. It’s a wonderful song that’ll put you in the mood for the holiday.
Looking for more? Discover the best Christmas songs ever.
November 20, 2019 at 10:43 pm
Ray Davies has a great cut Thanksgiving Day that I never hear Check it out it’s really good story that deserves more play he is a genius
November 25, 2020 at 6:33 pm
from that great solo album . . . I thought it would be in the top 10 for sure
November 23, 2019 at 11:08 am
Stuff Your Face by Ben & the Peanut Butter Problem is another fun Thanksgiving song! Happy Thanksgiving! https://open.spotify.com/album/0XgGj5dmmrPPC0y33vQquc
November 26, 2021 at 6:37 am
How about “May the Light of Love Be With You Every Day” by Anne Hills?