Thanksgiving is hands down one of the most important holidays — with family, food, and grateful vibes in the air, you’re bound to have an amazing time. But while the turkey’s cooking and the whole family’s waiting around, some folks might wonder what to do with the downtime. Obvious solutions are to watch TV (football, anyone?), play games, and listen to music. But what kind of Thanksgiving songs are there to choose from?
Unlike Christmas, Turkey Day doesn’t have any whole list of designated tunes. There are few Thanksgiving carols we return to year after year. (It’s the same with movies, too: Christmas movies abound, but Thanksgiving movies are few and far between). But while we feel sorry that Thanksgiving doesn’t get its due from songwriters, we won’t make you sit through a silent holiday. In fact, there are plenty of about family, food, and being thankful — and, yes, even a few about Thanksgiving specifically — that will make for a perfect soundtrack to your holiday. And, in the end, that’s definitely something to be grateful for.
Don’t forget to checkout GoodHousekeeping.com’s Thanksgiving 2019 guide.
1. “Thanks a Million” —Louis Armstrong and His Orchestra
If you can’t find the words to express how thankful you are, this classic song’s for you. And the trumpet in the background makes this song ideal for after dinner drinks.
2. “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” —Jay & The Techniques
This song is little bit of soul, a hint of R&B, and a smidge of pop. It’s also the best way to hint that you’re ready for dessert.
3. “Home” —Phillip Phillips
If you haven’t seen your friends or family for a little while, Phillip Phillips’s folk rock hit will be the perfect welcome home.
4. “Almost Thanksgiving Day” —Graham Parker
Don’t let this country song’s hint of melancholia deter you from playing it — it’s perfect for a cold November night.
5. “Turkey Chase” —Bob Dylan
This instrumental was meant to be played in the background while you stuff your mouth with turkey.
6. “I’ve Got Plenty to be Thankful For” —Bing Crosby
Is it really a holiday if Bing Crosby isn’t playing in the background? Most people will remember this jazzy number from the 1942 musical Holiday Inn.
7. “Autumn Leaves” —Nat King Cole
Your body can’t help but sway to this smooth jazz rhythm and Nat’s incredible voice.
8. “Thank You For The Music” —ABBA
This beautiful pop song by Swedish group ABBA serves as a little reminder to be thankful for what brings us joy.
9. “Thankful” —Kelly Clarkson
You can add this pop/R&B number to your playlist while food’s cooking, but we think you’ll have way more fun singing it karaoke style.
10. “Everybody Eats When They Come to My House” —Cab Calloway & His Orchestra
If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner at your place this year, then what better song to play than this this jazzy yet humorous one?
11. “Sweet Potato Pie” —Ray Charles
A soulful, R&B song like this deserves one of the most coveted spots on your Thanksgiving playlist: the dessert soundtrack.
12. “Thanksgiving Theme” —Vince Guaraldi Trio
It may only be two minutes long, but this instrumental (from Charlie Brown!) is perfect for background music while you’re cooking food or washing dishes.
13. “Let’s Turkey Trot” —Little Eva
A few seconds in to this upbeat pop song and you’ll want to let loose and dance — or maybe participate in an actual Turkey Trot race.
14. “I Thank You” —Sam & Dave
This fun track is the result of mixing a little rock, R&B, and soul together.
15. “Thanksgiving Song” —Mary Chapin Carpenter
With hints of country and folk, this acoustic-sounding song’s lyrics are most important. They perfectly describe what Thanksgiving is about — your family and being grateful.
16. “Thank You Friends” —Big Star
Blast this meaningful rock song while out for drinks with your crew. If you’re looking for the words to thank your friends for everything they do for you, this tune will do.
17. “Thanksgiving Day” —Ray Davies
Thanksgiving has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to holiday songs, but this soft-rock hit perfectly nails it with those comforting vocals.
18. “Cooking Up Something Good” —Mac DeMarco
The slow melody of this indie track will remind you why we spend hours cooking our food for Thanksgiving.
19. “Thanksgiving” —Loudon Wainwright III
This half-rock, half-folk song is pretty relatable because the lyrics are about a family’s Thanksgiving day.
20. “The Thanksgiving Song” —Adam Sandler
Adam Sandler originally performed this childish and comedic tune on an episode of Saturday Night Live, but it immediately became a favorite Thanksgiving joke.
21. “Alice’s Restaurant” —Arlo Guthrie
Some radio stations make a point to play Guthrie’s 18-minute-long “talking blues” Vietnam War protest song every Thanksgiving; the song recounts a based-in-fact-story of how Guthrie was rejected from the Draft Board for having a criminal record, which he got by illegal dumping trash on Thanksgiving.
22. “Thank U, Next” —Ariana Grande
Don’t forget to be grateful for your ex.
23. “I Want to Thank You” —Otis Redding
After you listen to Ariana, you can admit that, yeah, Otis Redding did the whole thank-your-ex-thing first, and it sounds even sweeter.
24. “Do the Mashed Potatoes” —James Brown
Add a little soul to your celebration with some James Brown.
25. “Thanksgiving Prayer” —Johnny Cash
As Cash runs down the list of things he’s thankful for, like the laughter of children or the moonrise over the prairies, it’s hard not to feel gratitude along with him. (Fun fact: This was first performed on an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.)
26. “Thank You” —Dido
Hopefully your Thanksgiving bash will give somebody in your family the best day of their life, worthy of a Dido-style appreciation.
27. “Thank You for Being a Friend” —Andrew Gold/Cynthia Fee
28. “Thank You Girl” —The Beatles
What sums up Thanksgiving better than, “Thank you for loving me the way that you do?” It pretty much gets to the heart of everything right there.
29. “Macy’s Day Parade” —Green Day
The best song to throw on after you watch the actual parade.
30. “Biscuits” —Kacey Musgraves
Pretty much any Kacey Musgraves song will do. If you don’t like “Biscuits,” an ode to telling the nosy busybodies to mind their own (a good reminder when dealing with pushy aunts), there’s also “Family Is Family.”