Set the Table With This Thanksgiving Playlist

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, so today’s playlist is all about gratitude, family, and … food. Heaps and heaps of steaming, delicious food.

Maybe you’re hosting your own feast and need some mood music while you prep. Maybe you’re traveling somewhere and need a seasonal soundtrack to help pass the time. Or maybe your Thanksgiving looks a little unconventional this year and you’re looking for songs to get you into the holiday spirit. Regardless, this playlist has you covered.

This mix contains old favorites (Little Eva; Big Star) and new classics (the country collaborators the Highwomen; the underground pop icon Rina Sawayama), a few rockers and a whole lot of soul, plus not one but two songs in tribute to that glorious Thanksgiving side, the mashed potato. (I am biased; it’s my favorite part of the meal.)

And since it’s that time of year to share what we’re grateful for, I’d like to say a heartfelt thanks to all of you for reading and subscribing to this newsletter. It means the world to me to see how the Amplifier community has grown over this past year. An extra helping of mashed potatoes for each and every one of you.

Also, if you need more music to last you through your Thanksgiving dinner or holiday drive, our reader-submitted Fall Playlist should do the trick. We’ll be taking the holiday off on Friday, but will be back on Tuesday with a fresh Amplifier.

Listen along on Spotify as you read.

“I want a house with a crowded table,” proclaim the Highwomen — the country supergroup featuring Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby — on this warm, rousing anthem from the band’s 2019 self-titled debut. Sounds like a lively Thanksgiving to me. (Listen on YouTube)

Skipping right ahead to dessert, this upbeat 1967 hit from the Pennsylvania soul-pop group Jay & the Techniques celebrates the sweeter things in life — and on one’s plate. (Listen on YouTube)

Released not long after Little Eva scored a smash with her 1962 debut single, “Locomotion,” this ode to an old ragtime dance craze was another irresistible Brill Building confection, co-written and produced by the couple Little Eva used to babysit for, Gerry Goffin and Carole King. (Listen on YouTube)

Alex Chilton doffs his cap to “all the ladies and gentlemen who made this all so probable” on this melodious highlight from Big Star’s third and final album — one of many should-have-been hits in the star-crossed 1970s band’s career. (Listen on YouTube)

In that rapturous moment when someone finally puts the fluffy bowl of them down on the table, my brain exclaims, in James Brown’s voice, “Mashed potatoes!” (Listen on YouTube)

I know, I know: Both of these mashed potato songs are technically about that famous dance step. But like Brown’s kinetic ditty, the Philadelphia soul singer Dee Dee Sharp’s 1962 hit is also Thanksgiving appropriate. (Listen on YouTube)

Bob Marley shows some appreciation for the most high on this gently buoyant, horn-kissed track from the 1983 album “Confrontation,” released two years after the reggae legend’s death. (Listen on YouTube)

Another gone-too-soon icon, Otis Redding, expresses his romantic devotion and gratitude on this soulful ballad. (Listen on YouTube)

“We don’t need to be related to relate,” the Japanese-British artist Rina Sawayama sings, ready to soundtrack your Friendsgiving. (Elton John — with whom she later recorded a duet version of this song — seems to be a member of her own chosen family.) (Listen on YouTube)

This funky salute to individuality and acceptance — which hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart in 1970 — inspired the title of Sly Stone’s recently released, miraculously existing memoir. (Listen on YouTube)

Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of belated Lilith Fair nostalgia — I highly recommend this 2019 Vanity Fair oral history — and yet Natalie Merchant still seems curiously underappreciated. When the Merchaissance finally comes, and it must, I will be ready. (Listen on YouTube)

For some mysterious reason, whether you like them or not, it’s just not Thanksgiving without the cranberries. (Listen on YouTube)

Let’s get it while it’s hot,


Listen on Spotify. We update this playlist with each new newsletter.

“Set the Table With This Thanksgiving Playlist” track list
Track 1: The Highwomen, “Crowded Table”
Track 2: Jay & the Techniques, “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie”
Track 3: Little Eva, “Let’s Turkey Trot”
Track 4: Big Star, “Thank You Friends”
Track 5: James Brown, “(Do the) Mashed Potatoes”
Track 6: Dee Dee Sharp, “Mashed Potato Time”
Track 7: Bob Marley & the Wailers, “Give Thanks & Praises”
Track 8: Otis Redding, “I Want to Thank You”
Track 9: Rina Sawayama, “Chosen Family”
Track 10: Sly & the Family Stone, “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”
Track 11: Natalie Merchant, “Kind & Generous”
Track 12: The Cranberries, “Dreams”

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