50 Thanksgiving Songs for the Perfect Holiday Playlist
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These songs set the perfect mood for spending a meaningful day with family and friends…and helping yourself to an extra slice of pumpkin pie.
When it comes to holiday music, Christmas tunes tend to get all of the glory, but don’t count out Thanksgiving. It’s true that there aren’t many tracks specifically written with Turkey Day in mind, but considering it’s a day to express gratitude, there are plenty of Thanksgiving songs to be had if you simply listen to the lyrics. Whether they’re all about family, friends, food, or being grateful for all of the things life has to offer, they set the perfect mood for the holiday with lines that double as beautiful Thanksgiving quotes. That makes them a great addition to your playlist for this year’s holiday, whether you’re spending it with family or hosting a Friendsgiving celebration.
So, how do you find Thanksgiving songs? Start by thinking about your favorite recording artists and which of their songs lean heavily on the themes of family, friendship, and togetherness. Next, consider oldies but goodies that always make you feel good when you hear them—timeless classics everyone loves. If you’re too busy planning your Thanksgiving dinner menu to give any thought to the music you’ll be playing in the background, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered. The songs on this list will provide a memorable soundtrack to your various Thanksgiving traditions, from working on crafts with the kids to eating your family’s favorite dishes to playing a round of Thanksgiving trivia with your guests once you’re all sufficiently stuffed.
“Thankful” by Kelly Clarkson
Personally, we’re thankful for the American Idol alum’s beautiful ode of gratitude for a loved one. It’s a lovely mid-tempo tune that’s perfect for listening to while you’re asking for a second helping or cooking up a storm in the kitchen.
“Kind and Generous” by Natalie Merchant
The 10,000 Maniacs frontwoman has one of those distinctive voices you can listen to for hours. Part of her solo projects, the tune “Kind and Generous” is the epitome of Thanksgiving. She literally says thank you what feels like a million times. It’s such a feel-good song and so very worthy of its place on your holiday-dinner soundtrack.
“Thank U” by Alanis Morissette
This isn’t your typical song about giving thanks, but what about Alanis Morissette is typical? On this track, appropriately titled “Thank U,” the Canadian singer/songwriter pays homage to all of the things that helped give her a sense of enlightenment in adulthood. Some of those things are pleasant, others not so much. Either way, she’s giving thanks. Here are a few things you can be grateful for, too.
“Give Thanks & Praises” by Bob Marley
You may be enjoying the holiday in your family home with snow falling outside, but this reggae track from Bob Marley & the Wailers will make you feel instantly transported to the islands. This is probably the best Thanksgiving song to listen to while you’re cranking out all of those side dishes to create the perfect calm before a feeding frenzy.
“Thank You for Loving Me” by Bon Jovi
So few rock bands do power ballads like Bon Jovi, and this one is a doozy. Let Jon Bon Jovi do the talking as he thanks loved ones for all of the support and kindness they’ve provided through the years. Your family and friends will be hugging it out before you can say, “Dinner is ready.”
“Thanking the Good Lord” by Merle Haggard
Put a little toe-tapping swagger into your playlist with this Merle Haggard track. This country song appeared on the musician’s 1987 album Chill Factor and offers up plenty of graciousness for this thankful holiday. These Thanksgiving blessings will also set the perfect tone for your holiday gathering.
“Thank You” by Keith Urban
Allow Keith Urban’s country crooning to have a place on your Thanksgiving playlist with this romantic track he wrote for his wife, Nicole Kidman. The lyrics are all about how appreciative he is for the way in which she stood by him through both good and bad times.
“Prayer of Thanksgiving” by Perry Como
Legendary singer and television personality Perry Como gets straight to the point with this song that could essentially be the theme song to Thanksgiving. The orchestral component is quite lovely and gives a nod to holidays past. Speaking of which, this is the real history of Thanksgiving.
“Every Day” by Rascal Flatts
This Rascal Flatts tune is such a stunning tribute to the people in our lives who make a difference each and every day, whether they realize it or not. It’s a touching ballad that will remind you to be thankful for those closest to you every day, not only on Thanksgiving.
“Gratitude” by Earth, Wind & Fire
Leave it to Earth, Wind & Fire to lend a little ’70s-style R&B to your list of Thanksgiving songs with “Gratitude.” It’s a mid-tempo track that will encourage a good-vibes-only approach to the holiday. And isn’t that the way all holidays should be? If you’re having a little trouble remembering the reason for the season, given all the craziness in the world, you’ll want to take a look at these Thanksgiving poems.
“Thank You” by Sly & the Family Stone
If you can’t be yourself around your family, where can you be yourself? While that isn’t exactly what the lyrics of this classic funk track are trying to say, you can interpret them however you like. And for Thanksgiving, we choose to believe it’s all about being thankful for the nutty group of relatives who accept you as you are (and vice versa).
“What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
When life seems totally out of control, sometimes you have to step back and appreciate the little things. What better day to do that than on Thanksgiving? This Louis Armstrong song puts everything into perspective, particularly on a day meant for rest and appreciation.
“Count on Me” by Bruno Mars
This sweet little ditty by Bruno Mars is such a great reminder of the important people in your life. Maybe some of them are with you on Thanksgiving, maybe others are far away. Either way, this track is perfect to play during dinner with its gentle melody and comforting sentiment.
“Thank You Friends” by Big Star
Crank this one up while you’re cooking the big feast or enjoying cocktails before sitting down for your meal. With a rock-pop feel, Big Star lists all of the reasons why they wouldn’t be anywhere without their friends. Share the song with your inner circle on Thanksgiving to let everyone know how much you love and appreciate them.
“Stowaway in Your Heart” by Lucinda Williams
You can’t go wrong adding this Lucinda Williams track to your Thanksgiving songs playlist. “Stowaway in Your Heart” has a beautiful message to the folks who have cared for you over the years. Time this one to play during dessert as a musical pick-me-up when your dinner guests are likely feeling a little sluggish after all of that turkey.
“In My Life” by The Beatles
There’s a reason why this song is often played at weddings, either for a father-daughter or mother-son dance. It’s sweet and sentimental, leaving the listener nostalgic for simpler times. We like it for a Thanksgiving playlist because just about everyone can agree on The Beatles and this tune will make everyone smile just a little more as you pass the potatoes and stuffing around the dinner table.
“How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” by James Taylor
How can you not feel great while listening to this iconic James Taylor song? We can almost guarantee your guests will start singing along to this tune that is all about having an appreciation for the love you receive from others. Its message is as sweet as the title suggests. On the other hand, these funny Thanksgiving quotes will get everyone laughing, which is also what you want at your gathering.” product_price=”1.29″ product_category=”Digital Music Purchase” product_retailer=”Amazon.com Services LLC” content_rating=”” /]
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“Where You Lead, I Will Follow” by Carole King
If your loved ones need a little reminder about how much you care, this Carole King song will certainly do the trick. Gilmore Girls fans will remember this tune as the show’s theme song, but its message reaches far more than television audiences. It pulls at the heartstrings, and isn’t that what we all expect on Thanksgiving?
“Ain’t That Love” by Ray Charles
You’ll find yourself swaying your hips around the kitchen as you prepare your Thanksgiving dinner with this Ray Charles song playing in the background. Originally released in 1957, this track really stands the test of time.
“Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole
You can never go wrong with Nat King Cole, and this song, in particular, is perfect to slow things down on Thanksgiving. It’s a beautiful song for any dinner-party playlist, and it adds a touch of class and sophistication, as do these gorgeous Thanksgiving table decor ideas.
“There You’ll Be” by Faith Hill
This sweeping ballad from country singer Faith Hill is a lovely way to remember the loved ones we’ve lost or those who live far away. These memories always seem extra special during the holidays, and having the opportunity to reflect on those who have touched our lives is such an important part of Thanksgiving.
“Stand by Me” by Ben E. King
This timeless tune is like receiving a hug in musical form. Those iconic first notes will instantly transport you back in time and the message is clear: We all need people to support us and stand by us. Hopefully, you will be surrounded by those very people this Thanksgiving, which is something to be thankful for, indeed.
“You Are the Sunshine of My Life” by Stevie Wonder
Show us a playlist that doesn’t benefit from Stevie Wonder. Go ahead, we’ll wait. This song offers up the warm fuzzies and will probably remind you of any wedding you’ve ever attended. But that’s OK because you were probably surrounded by family and friends at those receptions, just like you are at your Thanksgiving table. To help you make more memories together, play these Thanksgiving games on the big day, too.
“I’ll Be There” by The Jackson 5
Take it way back with the smooth harmonies of The Jackson 5. The vocals and melodies are a lovely accompaniment to your Thanksgiving dinner, as is the message. Knowing that you’re not alone and that you’re surrounded by loved ones in person and in spirit is a great reminder throughout the holiday season—and particularly on this day.
“Autumn in New York” by Billie Holiday
We can’t all be in the Big Apple for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but Billie Holiday transports us there musically with “Autumn in New York.” Perfect for lulling you into your turkey coma, Ms. Holiday’s unforgettable voice won’t just take you back in time—it’ll take you to another place.
“Ode to My Family” by The Cranberries
Thanksgiving is all about family, so it’s only natural that you’d want to include a song on your playlist that pays homage to your brood so directly. Remembering the comforts of childhood and precious moments with parents, courtesy of lead singer Dolores O’Riordan’s lilting vocals, is the gift we need to give ourselves on Thanksgiving.
“I Could Not Ask for More” by Sara Evans
With lyrics like, “These are the moments I thank God that I’m alive,” you’ll be madly hugging everyone around your Thanksgiving table the whole holiday through. Country singer Sara Evans hits all the notes, lyrically and vocally, that you want to hear on a day focused on appreciating what we’re so fortunate to have.
“Home” by Phillip Phillips
Make everyone feel at home in your abode with this feel-good song from American Idol winner Phillip Phillips. Hey, there’s a reason this is the best-selling single in American Idol history—our ties to whatever we consider to be home are strong and universal. With Thanksgiving generally being a “the more, the merrier” kind of holiday, this tune will help all of your guests feel comfortable around the dinner table. Heading to someone else’s house this year? Bringing one of these thoughtful hostess gifts will mean so much.
“Blessed” by Martina McBride
If you’re counting your blessings on this special day, then you’ll really relate to Martina McBride’s mid-tempo country tune. The title really says it all: It’s about celebrating life’s most precious rewards like family and the happy moments we sometimes overlook in our everyday lives.
“I Want to Thank You” by Otis Redding
Otis Redding will bring all of the soul to your Thanksgiving celebration with “I Want to Thank You,” originally released in 1964. He sings everything we might not remember to say to our loved ones on a regular basis. It’s a lot of gratitude packed into one classic song.
“Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” by Jay & the Techniques
When you have “pumpkin pie” in the title of your song, it’s an automatic ticket to a Thanksgiving songs playlist. Jay & the Techniques delivered this upbeat tune back in 1966, but it’s still a crowd-pleaser. If you’re feeling a little sluggish in the kitchen while cooking away, this soulful track will definitely put a little skip into your step. And if just hearing the name of this song puts you in the mood for some of the good stuff, pick up Costco’s pumpkin pie a little early. (It’s just $5.99!)
“Sweet Potato Pie” by Ray Charles
If you have pie on your table, you have to have pie on your playlist, particularly when Ray Charles is the man behind the song. For this particular tune, the legend collaborates with James Taylor, and trust us when we say that it will bring total joy to your holiday. It’s a must-listen during the main meal or dessert, for sure.
“Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Theme” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio
Charlie Brown’s Christmas special gets the most love of all of the Peanuts holiday specials, but don’t count out A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. This theme from that special, composed by the incomparable Vince Guaraldi, could be played on repeat during your dinner and your guests would never get tired of it. Here are more Thanksgiving movies to watch at this time of the year.
“Thanksgiving Prayer” by Johnny Cash
The holiday is literally in the name, so why wouldn’t you include Johnny Cash’s homage to Thanksgiving on your playlist? Fun fact: The song was actually performed by Johnny Cash on an episode of the series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman back in 1994.
“Thankful” by Céline Dion
We’re thankful for Céline Dion’s breathtaking voice as she sings about being thankful in this sweeping ballad. And guess what? Your guests will be thankful you added this song to your playlist. So, really, everybody wins.
“Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher” by Jackie Wilson
Hopefully, there’s a lot of love circulating in your home on Thanksgiving day. This song is a toe-tapping classic from Jackie Wilson and has a celebratory feel. It will remind you exactly why you surround yourself with these amazing people in your life.
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
Sometimes it can be hard to put into words exactly the way we feel about our loved ones, but this Diana Ross tune expresses it perfectly. While you may not get to see some family and friends other than the holidays, there’s nothing that would stop them, or you, from being there to get you through a tough time. And that’s truly something for which to be thankful. We’re guessing you’ll also be able to relate to these hilarious Thanksgiving memes, albeit in a completely different way.
“They Can’t Take That Away From Me” by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
Many stars have taken a crack at this iconic George Gershwin tune, but Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong really stole our hearts with their rendition. It’s a sweet reminder that while life ebbs and flows, no one can take away the simplicities of your love for the people who are important to you.
“Thank God for Hometowns” by Carrie Underwood
Whether you fled your hometown after high school or remain there to this day, there’s something special about the place you grew up and the community that has known you since you were a child. As many of us return to those places we once called home over Thanksgiving, Carrie Underwood’s tribute to the good old hometown is a poignant choice for your playlist.
“With a Little Help From My Friends” by The Beatles
Friends are the family you choose, so this ode to your buddies is best played when you’re all together. We can all relate to getting by with a little help from our friends at plenty of times in our lives. Don’t forget to give them thanks on this special holiday. If you can’t be with them, send them a few of these friendship quotes.
“Song for a Friend” by Jason Mraz
Play this one at your next Friendsgiving gathering. Jason Mraz’s vocals are so soothing on this gentle track about having supportive friends and, just as important, supporting yourself. It has a great message about being thankful for your own exceptional qualities, as well as the ones you appreciate in others.
“I’ll Take Care of You” by The Chicks
This is another one of those songs that makes you want to hug everyone you know. While “I’ll Take Care of You” was released by The Chicks back in the ’90s, its message is oh-so-relevant in today’s world. Outsiders might not understand a relationship or friendship, but the two people involved get it, and that’s really all that matters.
“Who Says You Can’t Go Home” by Bon Jovi
This is the perfect song to add to your Thanksgiving songs playlist for the drive to or from the gathering you’re attending. As many of us descend upon our hometowns for the holiday, Bon Jovi, joined by country singer Jennifer Nettles, will give you all the feels with this upbeat tune. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures on the big day, and when you do, share them with these picture-perfect Thanksgiving captions.
“Home” by Michael Bublé
The idea of home is such an important theme on Thanksgiving. Not surprisingly, Michael Bublé sums up our feelings about it perfectly in this stunning track about longing to be in the place he feels most comfortable. Whatever home is to you, this song will definitely strike a chord during the holidays.
“My Hometown” by Bruce Springsteen
Show some pride for where you’re from with this unforgettable Bruce Springsteen song that, again, brings that hometown theme to Thanksgiving. Just like your family, the place you grew up is worth thanking this holiday. After all, it’s what helped build the person you turned out to be.
“Home Is Where the Heart Is” by Lady A
Country music fans will particularly appreciate this sweet song. No matter how long you’ve been gone from your hometown, there’s still a piece of your heart back there. Celebrate it this year, just like Lady A. Fill your own home with the holiday spirit by decking your halls with these gorgeous (and affordable!) Thanksgiving decorations.
“On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson
If ever there was a holiday road-tripping song, it’s this one. Pop it on your Thanksgiving songs playlist, even if you’re only driving five minutes down the road. Not only is it a fun song, but it’s all about having a good time with your favorite people.
“Collard Greens and Cornbread” by Fantasia
The American Idol alum brings us comfort food in musical form with “Collard Greens and Cornbread.” Whether these are two side dishes you always have on your Thanksgiving table or not, Fantasia’s stunning vocals will have you dancing around your home (or wherever you find yourself spending the holiday).
“We Are Family” by Sister Sledge
We don’t think it’s possible not to dance and sing along with this Sister Sledge classic. Whoever you’re with on this special day is your fam, even if just for the duration of dinner, so give those folks a knowing nod and pass the potatoes. After all, we’re all family in some way, shape, or form.
“Thankful n’ Thoughtful” by Sly and the Family Stone
Thankful and thoughtful is how we should all be feeling on this fine day in November. Let Sly and the Family Stone take you to that state of mind with this soulful song that you can easily play while you’re cooking, eating, or cleaning up after dinner. Once you’re all set with your Thanksgiving songs, turn your attention to creating the perfect playlist for Christmas.