Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I know I’ve got lots to give thanks for: family, friends, (relatively) good health, among other things.
I’m also thankful, though, for the music in my life, mostly the rock and roll but also the other genres I’ve enjoyed — the bluegrass, jazz, old-time and serious music detours I’ve taken. Music has consoled me at times, inspired me at others, given me hours and hours of enjoyment and taught me new things; sharing it with friends is enjoyable as well.
Being thankful for music takes on additional meaning these days, in light of what happened in Paris a couple weeks ago. The terrorists who murdered dozens in the Bataclan club in the French capital Nov. 13 went there not just because there were plenty of targets available.
ISIS stated in its claim of responsibility for the atrocities that the concert taking place was a “profligate prostitution party.” (This from an organization that kidnaps women and turns them into sex slaves!) Left unsaid, but probably an inducement, and certainly not a disincentive, was the fact that the band performing was American.
It was a reminder that, in some places where this religious ideology holds sway, music is banned. So, we should be thankful for the freedoms we have, including the ability to listen to the music of our choice.
So, what music to listen to for Thanksgiving? Unlike Christmas, the holiday doesn’t seem to lend itself to rock and pop themes, so you’ll probably have to cue up some other genre.
The only tune that featured Thanksgiving, as far as I can recall, was “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie. Arlo and his friends, you will recall, went back to Alice’s and “had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat” after cleaning out their hosts’ garbage from the area below their living quarters — you’ll have to listen to the song, if you haven’t already, to understand — and dumping it illegally, because the garbage dump was closed for the holiday.
Then they had another unbeatable Thanksgiving meal, after getting busted for illegal garbage dumping and bailed out of jail by Alice. But the song ends up being about the Vietnam-era draft, and being “moral enough to join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein’ a litterbug.”
However, Guthrie’s song provided me with a line that has served me well in situations where s—t happens unexpectedly: “ … there was a third possibility that we hadn't even counted upon …”
(I saw Guthrie live once, in 1972, on a beastly hot night during Milwaukee’s Summerfest. I don’t recall him performing “Alice’s Restaurant” — don’t remember what songs he did, other than “Coming into Los Angeles,” which made his show worthwhile by itself.
(But Arlo appeared that night after a tough act to follow: George Carlin. The late comedian opened the show, and left the stage in handcuffs after being busted for doing “The Seven Words You Can’t Say on TV” — or on stage, as it turn out.)
Otherwise, the closest to a Thanksgiving song I could find in the Billboard Top 100 between 1960 and ’76 was William Devaughn’s “Be Thankful For What You Got.” I don’t remember the song at all, or what it’s about, but the title fits the holiday, anyway.
There were a few other Top 100 hits during that time period about giving thanks: Sam and Dave’s “I Thank You,” “Thank You (Fallettin Me Be Mice Elf Again)” by Sly and the Family Stone, Neil Diamond’s “Thank the Lord For the Night Time” and “Thank You” by Led Zeppelin.
There are plenty of musical turkeys I could suggest, though.