Kelly Clarkson, The Carpenters and Every Other Artist You Need on Your Thanksgiving Playlist

·7 min read


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Thanksgiving is all about amazing food, reflecting on what you have to be grateful for and spending time with your nearest and dearest.

If you're the one doing the hosting this year, you will need a couple of activities to keep everyone entertained while the turkey is cooking — whether that means playing a Thanksgiving game or watching the Macy's parade. No matter what you're doing, you'll want to have some appropriate songs playing in the background. Not sure what music to play on Thanksgiving? That's where our Turkey Day playlist curated with all the best Thanksgiving songs comes in.

When scrolling through our list, we encourage you add the tunes that inspire you to your playlist. That could mean singing along to a song that's all about giving thanks to your loved ones, or you may want something a bit more upbeat that will have your guests moving and grooving. Either way, you'll find what you need right here.

Now that you have your tunes picked out, all that's left to do is plan your Thanksgiving menu, including side dishes, drinks and, of course, the desserts!

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. The trumpet in the background makes this song ideal for after dinner drinks.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5. "Turkey Chase" —Bob Dylan

This instrumental was meant to be played in the background while you stuff your mouth with turkey.

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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?

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7. "Autumn Leaves" —Nat King Cole

Your body can't help but sway to this smooth jazz rhythm and Nat's incredible voice.

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8. "Thank You For The Music" —ABBA

This beautiful pop song by Swedish group ABBA serves as a little reminder of our best thanksgiving quotes for what brings us joy.

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9. "Thankful" —Kelly Clarkson

You can add this pop/R&B number to your playlist while prepping your Thanksgiving dinner recipes, but we think you'll have way more fun singing it karaoke-style.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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 virtual Turkey Trot.

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14. "I Thank You" —Sam & Dave

This fun track is the result of mixing a little rock, R&B, and soul together.

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15. "Thanksgiving Song" —Mary Chapin Carpenter

With hints of country and folk, this acoustic-sounding song's lyrics are most important. They perfectly describe Thanksgiving ideas — your family and being grateful.

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16. "Thank You Friends" —Big Star

Blast this meaningful rock song while out for drinks with your crew. If you're looking for friendship quotes for everything they do for you, this tune will do.

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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.

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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.

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19. "Thanksgiving" —Loudon Wainwright III

This half-rock, half-folk song is pretty relatable because the lyrics are about a family's Thanksgiving day.

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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 staple for Thanksgiving jokes.

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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.

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22. "Thank U, Next" —Ariana Grande

Don't forget to be thankful for your ex!

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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.

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24. "Do the Mashed Potatoes" —James Brown

Add a little soul to your celebration with some James Brown.

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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 reflect on simple things to be grateful for along with him. (Fun fact: This was first performed on an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.)

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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.

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27. "Thank You for Being a Friend" —Andrew Gold/Cynthia Fee

These Golden Girls gifts keep giving, and we could all use a dash more of the gals in our festivities.

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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.

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29. "Macy's Day Parade" —Green Day

The best song to throw on after you watch the actual parade.

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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."

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31. "Young Pilgrims" —The Shins

After all, we won't have thanks giving without the pilgrims. The acoustic guitar strumming in this song makes it the perfect autumn folk jam.

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32. "Thankful" —Celine Dion

There's nothing like Celine's stunning range and soulful music to remind you that you too have so much to be thankful for.

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33. "Celebration" —Kool & The Gang

Spend the holiday surrounded by your closest friends and family celebrating the good times.

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34. "Coat of Many Colors" —Dolly Parton

In this tune, living country legend recalls a touching story about a patchwork coat her mother made for her as a child. While you're in the kitchen, play this song for your momma as a thank you for all she's done for you.

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35. "Home for the Holidays" —The Carpenters

Sure, technically this is a Christmas song — but any holiday you're spending with the family is reason to celebrate. Plus, it's never too early to play some Christmas tunes.

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36. "We are Family" —Sister Sledge

Every good get together needs at least one at-the-top of your lungs sing-along—and this song is it!

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37. "Harvest Moon" —Neil Young

Sweet, sentimental and easy to listen to, this autumn love song is a great after dinner treat.

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38. "Wild Honey Pie” —The Beatles

Consider this the lyrical equivalent of dessert! Which shouldn't replace actual Thanksgiving desserts, by the way.

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39. "Sweet Potato" —Sia

Not quite the grandiose, pop hits we come to expect Sia now — this early song from the singer is a sweet little ballad (named after everyone's favorite Thanksgiving side).

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40. “Seasons of Love” —Rent Cast


This memorable tune from the Rent soundtrack inspires us to live life to the fullest on Thanksgiving.

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41. “I'm Alive” —Willie Nelson


Willie helps us remember that one of the greatest blessings in life is to just be "alive and well.

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42. “Thank You” —Keyshia Cole featuring Dr. Yvonne Cole

If your family is religious, Keyshia and Dr. Yvonne Cole's powerful song is all about giving thanks and praise.

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