Kieran Moore – Aah, Thanksgiving. The wonderful holiday that celebrates the time something truly historic happened to some people in American history. It was a hugely special occasion, so momentous that I really needn’t go into the details of who said what or who did this. You all know the story by now. It’s a classic tale of mystery, intrigue, romance and comedy…
Ok, I’m gonna level with you – as a Brit I know virtually nothing about Thanksgiving, but having written several Christmas charts, as well as those for Hallowe’en and Easter over the years, now seemed the perfect time take the plunge. According to a Disney storybook my sister had I think Pocahontas was there and possibly Charlie Brown was involved too…? If American sitcoms have taught me nothing else, I know you have boring pageants parents have to sit through followed by family arguments at the dinner table. Then some giant balloons play football and then everyone goes shopping?
All joking aside, I know the holiday is something to do with settlers and Native Americans, but that genuinely is about it.
So I’m hoping the 10 songs I’ve chosen for today’s chart will teach me everything I need to know about the history and spirit of the US Thanksgiving season. It’ll be just like Scrooge getting visited by 3 ghosts, only these’ll be songs – and there are 10 of them. Also, I presume there’ll be less doorknobs involved.
10 – Alabamy Bound – The Muppet Show
Knowing how the Muppets like to mess with established facts, I’m going to go out on a limb and say this isn’t the history lesson I’m looking for. At least I don’t think this is factually accurate as I don’t think the settlers ended up in Alabama? I’m going out on a limb and saying a few liberties have been taken here. Either way, this is a fun number that accidentally (because it wasn’t planned this way) sets the scene for the next 9 songs by getting the Pilgrim Fathers to the “New World” so that the first Thanksgiving can actually happen in the first place. Anyway, as I’ve already mentioned, this clip is a lot of fun and textbook Muppet zaniness.
9 – We Are All Earthlings – Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
The Muppets (and their related shows) are pretty much a permanent fixture at the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – having not missed a year in over 20. From giant Kermit balloons to Fraggle floats and Sesame Street songs like this one, it’s impossible not to find a Muppet somewhere along the parade route. Of course I can’t feature every parade performance so I’ve had to be selective, but this one stood out because of its inclusion of characters from international versions of Sesame Street. Alam Simsim, Zhima Jie, Sesamstrasse, Shara’a Simsim, Plaza Sésamo, Ulitsa Sezam, Rechov Sumsum and Shalom Sesame are all represented; as are countries across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and beyond. It’s an incredibly powerful message to pair these diverse characters with the song We are All Earthlings and I’m seeing that in a Thanksgiving context this could tie in quite nicely with my initial understanding of the sentiment of the season.
8 – Hey It’s Macy’s! – Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
I really like this song. So much so that it was one of my top 5 songs of last year. It just came so far out of left field. The performance in itself was enough, but to use “Hey a Movie!” as its inspiration was the cherry on the icing on the cake. Of course, with everything that’s happened in Muppetdom since then, I can’t help, but watch it in a different light now. At the time I was so excited to see Scooter in a starring role it didn’t occur to me that it was odd that Kermit wasn’t with him. To be honest, as an old school Scooter fan it still doesn’t really. Having Piggy start the song is also perfectly natural and Gonzo and Fozzie’s lines fit thematically. It all makes sense and works, but I find it impossible to watch now and not think about the lack of Kermit. It’s a sign of the strength of the characters and the performers that this only really occurred to me in hindsight.
7 – So Much to Be Thankful For – Bear in the Big Blue House
You just can’t beat a good Bear song! This song’s theme of being thankful about just about everything gives me some clues about how Thanksgiving is celebrated away from its historical origins. I like the idea of a day of thanks. To just have a day where you can turn to your neighbor, friends, family, co-workers etc. and say thank you for what you do. It’s like a national count your blessings event. In today’s turbulent times I don’t think we spend enough time looking at the positive aspects of our daily lives. If social media is anything to go by, this is needed more now than ever before. Anyway, I’ll pack up my soapbox… If you need a moral lesson you can always count on Bear to set you straight. I’m grateful for the Bear and his Big Blue House.
6 – I Believe – Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
Nothing screams Thanksgiving like a Christmas song! In truth, the slightly dubious theming is the only reason this isn’t placed higher. I think it’s a wonderful entry into the Kermit Christmas song genre and well and truly deserves to up there with the best of them. This is a beautiful song that’s orchestrated brilliantly to rise and swell and feel super, super Christmassy. Steve Whitmire does a tremendous job here too – not just hitting all the right notes, but also all the right beats. He gives the lyrics meaning and soul and in that regard I honestly don’t know if I could tell him apart from Jim Henson here. This gives me old school “feels”. I love how Kermit’s expression as he’s about to start. It’s perfect. He’s ably backed up by Camp Broadway and the whole piece is a holiday treat – even if it isn’t the right holiday for today’s list!
5 – What I Am – Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
This is another bright and brilliant Macy’s parade performance from the Sesame Street cast. Yet again, they are singing a great song with an important message. I guess it seems slightly at odds with what I’m starting feel is one of the main messages of Thanksgiving – appreciating those around you – as this is all about self-affirmation rather than lifting up others. I guess you can’t truly appreciate what you have until you can appreciate yourself. That might be clutching at straws, but seems true to me and has the feel of something the Trash Heap would say so it must be right. This song is a modern Sesame Street classic (if that can be a thing) and it boasts a daytime Emmy win amongst its achievements. This newer Sesame Street float is a vast improvement on the old one as far as I’m concerned. I love the bright colours and cartoony visuals. It lights up the screen whenever it’s on.
4 – Squanto Song – Bear in the Big Blue House
Disclaimer: This video is not great quality, but I really wanted to include this song.
I suspect this is the closest I’m actually going to get to the real story of the first Thanksgiving within today’s chart. This song fits in with the glimpses of the origin story I see on the aforementioned sitcoms, but I suspect has been cleaned up somewhat from what actually happened. I kind of made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t wiki Thanksgiving until I’d finished this chart, but I sort of cheated and just looked up Squanto (so to speak). Wow, he had an interesting life! I’m always fascinated to hear about the early relationships between Native Americans and Europeans and was surprised to see that Squanto had lived in London for a while. I’m assuming he didn’t do some big song and dance number like Pocahontas does in that cheapquel Disney made when he arrived. Listening to this song, I can’t help but be overawed at how something as simple as a shared meal became such a huge event many hundreds of years on. It’s mind-blowing. One final thing to mention – I love the British accents of the settlers in this clip. It’s good to be authentic!
3 – Thanksgiving Song – Sesame Studios Video
I’m a little bit fascinated by this video. I’m trying to decide if there’s any digital puppetry here or if it’s stop motion animation with embellishments. It’s a real feat of several effect types – I’m just not sure what they are. One thing’s for sure, I love the art design of this clip. You can practically feel the fluffy/scratchy feel of the characters and the set glows with gold, amber and ochre. It feels slightly odd to have a couple of predators there at dinner, but I guess that’s another part of the spirit of Thanksgiving – everyone appreciates everyone else. Still, I’ll swap with whoever isn’t next to the spider! It also seems weird to see a little turkey on the table. That opens up questions about the size of these animals and pretty much life as you know it, so let’s just go with it. This is quite possibly the poppiest pop song I’ve ever heard, but I mean that as a compliment!
2 – The Thanksgiving Song – Sesame Street
This song is number two here and was also just pipped to the top spot on the list of how quickly a song has made it on to one of my charts. The winner is Kodachrome which was less than a week old when it topped my 2015 chart – this song debuted online a few weeks ago and had its first TV airing just last week. One of the things I like best about this clip is how it starts with the simple pairing of Leon Bridges and Elmo and then adds singers as it goes. It might have been nice to make this an even bigger production with Grover, Bert, Ernie, The Count etc. included, but it’s bright and colorful and what more can you ask for really. Leon has a smooth soul voice and is giving it 110% here. He looks like he’s having a ball. I suppose this song ultimately follows on from the friendship theme of previous songs. Friendship, brotherhood and community certainly seem to be some of the biggest parts of Thanksgiving (along with dinner!)
1 – Thanksgiving with My Friends – Bear in the Big Blue House
It was a real toss up between all the songs from Bear in the Big Blue House as to which was going to come out on top, but this swung it because I think it really does pass on the message of what the modern day spirit of Thanksgiving seems to be about. Spending time with the ones you love. You guys in the US are so lucky that you essentially get an extra holiday where you can just kick back and enjoy and appreciate the relationships you have with each other. I guess the answer for me is to combine Thanksgiving with the message of “Keep Christmas with You” and make sure I spend time every day really valuing the people, places and things I have around me. Let’s all take time to smell the green bean casserole and slow down a bit. It sounds like heaven, but is totally doable. Bear and Ojo put a ton of heart in this song and I love them for it.
Along with being thankful, food seems to be a big part of the Thanksgiving ritual. As someone who enjoys a good meal, I’m certainly happy to endorse bringing Thanksgiving to the UK. However, it’s not just the food that makes it a holiday worth celebrating (you can keep the weird sweet potato/marshmallow dish). What really makes Thanksgiving special is how it gives you space to take a breath, pause for a moment, offer thanks for what you have and then head out at midnight to get more of it on Black Friday. Today, I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to explore Thanksgiving in greater detail and I’m thankful the Muppets helped me do it. So I’m especially thankful to all those who appeared here in my chart. You’ve taught me a valuable lesson and to top it all off Tiny Tim is going to live! Thank You and God bless us, everyone!