Top 25 Songs for Thanksgiving

"When it comes to life," Chesterton wrote, "the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude." Thanksgiving is a time to focus on doing the first thing a little less, and the second thing a little more. And what better way to focus on this than with music?

Here are 20 songs that will have you singing, "thank you!" this Thursday - not just for cranberry sauce, turkey, and bourbon, but for friends, for family, and for the mysterious gift of life itself.

25. Josh Garrels - Children of the Earth

People complain about the bad things that happen to them that they don't deserve but they seldom mention the good. About what they done to deserve them things.
- Cormac McCarthy

24. J. Rawls & Middle Child - Thankful 

Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.
- Maya Angelou

23. TheBreax feat. Shad - Appreciate You

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

22. Art Garfunkel - Grateful

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others. 
- Cicero

21. Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Restaurant

If you cannot be grateful for what you have received, then be thankful for what you have been spared.
- Yiddish Proverb

20. Jill Scott - Blessed

Whatever I am offered in devotion with a pure heart - a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water - I accept with joy.
- The Bhagavad Gita

19. G. Love & Special Sauce - Thanks and Praise

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

18. Nas & Damian Marley - Count Your Blessings 

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. 
- Thornton Wilder

17. Sam Cooke - I Thank God 

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
- Marcel Proust

16. 2Pac - Dear Mama

Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.
- Jacques Maritain

15. Led Zeppelin - Thank You

I felt a gratitude that was so enormous that I knew it would correspond to nothing in this world.
- Dorothy Day

14. Lucinda Williams - Blessed

To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder.
- Thomas Merton

13. Willie Nelson - I'm Alive

Pride slays thanksgiving, but a humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow.
-Henry Ward Beecher

12. Vince Guaraldi - Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Theme

Nothing is ours by nature. Our very existence is sheer gift.
-Peter Kreeft

11. George Harrison - What Is Life

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. 
- John Milton

10. Mahalia Jackson - Amazing Grace

Joy is the simplest form of gratitude. 
- Karl Barth

9. Fatboy Slim - Praise You

Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he put in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth?
-GK Chesterton

8. Nina Simone - Ain't Go No (I Got Life)

God is always coming to you in the sacrament of the present moment. Meet and receive Him there with gratitude in that sacrament.
- Evelyn Underhill

7. Edwin Hawkins Singers - Oh Happy Day

We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is "good," because is it good, if "bad" because it works in us patience, humility.
- C. S. Lewis

6. Daniel Martin Moore - It Is Well With My Soul

No one can obtain felicity by pursuit. This explains why one of the elements of being happy is the feeling that a debt of gratitude is owed, a debt impossible to pay.
- Josef Pieper

5. The Beach Boys - God Only Knows

In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. 
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

4. Bob Marley - Thank You Lord

To give thanks in solitude is enough. Thanksgiving has wings and goes where it must go. Your prayer knows much more about it than you do.
- Victor Hugo

3. Bing Crosby - Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep

You should not look a gift universe in the mouth.
- GK Chesterton

2. Louis Armstrong - What a Wonderful World

The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.
- William Blake

1. William DeVaughn - Be Thankful For What You Got


  1. Very nice list!

    Some additional suggestions:

    God's Wonderful Love - The Staple Singers

    Apple Peaches Pumpkin Pies - Jay and the Techniques (Because, hey, pie!)

    I Thank You - Sam and Dave

    Thank You For Being a Friend - Andrew Gold

    Amazing Grace - Aaron Neville

    Thanksgiving Eve - Sally Rogers

    Happy Thanksgiving - Debbie Friedman

    My Thanksgiving - Don Henly

    Thanksgiving Day - Ray Davies

    Thank You Friends - Big Star

    Blood Done Signed My Name - Leadbelly

    Why Me Lord? - Johnny Cash

    I'm Alive - Electric Light Orchestra

    I Got Life (from "Hair") - Adam Pascal

    Everybody Eats When They Come to My House - Cab Calloway

    House Party Time - Dan Zanes

    1. Mike - Thanks for these! I haven't heard some of them and will definitely have to check them all out. (Sam & Dave's "I Thank You" *narrowly* missed the cut.)

      Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

  2. Very welcome. Let us know what you think of them. I enjoy your blog.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

  3. Lots of gems here! I see some familiar favorites and ones I've never heard of. Thank you for assembling this.

    1. Thanks Stephen! Glad you enjoyed it. I'd like to think I played a role in you quoting 2Pac on your blog this morning!

  4. It occurs to me that "Jingle Bells" is actually a Thanksgiving song, although it is more associated with Christmas and has little to do with the giving of thanks...

    Would you consider maybe posting a playlist with your pick of "non-traditional" Christmas songs - that is, the songs that don't show up on the radio to be covered ad infinitum by every pop singer as he or she puts out a "Christmas album"? Some you've mentioned in the past have made it onto my Christmas playlist.

    1. Mike - That's a great idea. I might have to do that.

      It's particularly important at Christmas - as you said, some of the stuff on the radio is just grating and unbearable. But there's so much great stuff out there.

      (Our post later today might interest you - a review of Sufjan Stevens' "Silver & Gold" with a link to free (and legal) downloads!)