On Thursday (Nov. 23), thousands of gatherings will bring together families and friends to enjoy a day of fellowship and food. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 73% of U.S. adults say family time is one of the most important aspects of their life.
When it comes to the foods spread out on Thanksgiving Day tables across the country, according to the National Turkey Federation, 88 percent of Americans consume turkey for Thanksgiving each year. Meanwhile, Campbell’s second annual “State of the Sides” report ranks mashed potatoes, stuffing/dressing, mac and cheese as the country’s favorite side dishes, while the report also notes that nearly six out of 10 people plan to attend a “friendsgiving” gathering. Some families settle in to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, while others might opt for exercise by running a Turkey Trot. Still others might use the day to volunteer in the community.
Regardless, one essential at any Thanksgiving Day celebration is a top-tier soundtrack. Though country music has a long history of sad songs, murder songs, and cheating songs, it also has a sturdy history of songs embedded with themes of hope, joy, positivity and the importance of family. Songs recorded by artists including Johnny Cash, Martina McBride, Sawyer Brown and more country artists are perfect to keep the feelings of gratitude going.
Whether the songs explicitly mention Thanksgiving, or just offer up lyrics about gratefulness in general, here, we look at our top 10 picks for country songs about gratefulness that are a perfect addition to any Thanksgiving playlist.
Sawyer Brown, “Thank God for You”
Included on the group’s 1993 album Outskirts of Town, this song became a No. 1 hit for Sawyer Brown on the Hot Country Songs chart. Sawyer Brown’s Mark Miller wrote the song with Mac McAnally, with the lyrics centering on “giving credit where credit is due” to those who taught indelible lessons in life, through good times and rough times.
Lynn Anderson, “Top of the World”
“All I need will be mine if you are here,” Anderson sings on this track. The song was written by Richard Carpenter and John Bettis and included on sibling duo The Carpenters’ 1972 album A Song For You. Anderson recorded a version of the song for her album Top of the World, and released it to country radio where it became a top 5 country hit.
The Carpenters then released their version of the song, which became a Billboard Hot 100 chart No. 1 in 1973.
Darius Rucker, “This”
Rucker wrote this song with Kara DioGuardi and Frank Rogers. Released in 2010 and included on Rucker’s Charleston, SC 1966 album, the song reached No. 23 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart. Throughout the song, Rucker gives thanks for family ties, his favorite game on television and for life’s twists and turns that ultimately turned out for the best.
Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Thanksgiving Song”
“Father, mother, daughter, son/ Neighbor, friend and friendless/ All together everyone/ In the gift of loving kindness,” five-time Grammy winner Carpenter sings here. “Thanksgiving Song” is included on Carpenter’s album Come Darkness, Come Light: Twelve Songs of Christmas.
Johnny Cash, “Thanksgiving Prayer”
“This year when I count my blessings/ I’m thanking the Lord he made you,” the Country Music Hall of Fame member’s distinct voice rumbles on this song, which Cash performed for the television show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. The episode aired in 1994, and “Thanksgiving Prayer” was written by the show’s producer Josef Anderson.
Listen to “Thanksgiving Prayer” here.
Martina McBride, “Blessed”
This McBride-recorded hit, written by Brett James, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey, was released in October 2001 as part of McBride’s greatest hits collection. This sunny track offers up gratitude for the simple things in life — the sound of children laughing, time spent with family on front porch swings and more. The hit reached No. 1 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart.
Kelsea Ballerini, “What I Have”
From Ballerini’s 2022 Subject to Change album, she sings about seeing past the shallow competitiveness inherent with keeping up the Joneses and constantly comparing one’s life to others. “I’m doing alright right where I’m at/ With what I have,” Ballerini sings. Ballerini co-wrote this track with Cary Barlowe and Alysa Vanderheym.
Garth Brooks, “Unanswered Prayers”
This song about finding contentment and gratitude became a No. 1 Hot Country Songs hit in 1991. Written by Brooks with Pat Alger and Larry Bastian, “Unanswered Prayers” was included on Brooks’ No Fences album.
In the song, Brooks sings of a man and his wife having a chance encounter with a woman whom the man had a crush on in school many years earlier. He remembers his old romantic longings before realizing that the prayers he had thought were gone unanswered, had actually been answered even better than he’d hoped when he met his wife.
The Highwomen, “Crowded Table”
Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby and Lori McKenna wrote song about being proactive in building relationships, in hopes of creating a place with “a crowded table and a place by the fire for everyone.”
“If it’s love that we give/ Then it’s love that we reap,” they sing on this song included on their 2019 album The Highwomen. “Crowded Table” won a Grammy award for best country song.
Kacey Musgraves, “Family Is Family”
In this song written by Musgraves, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, Musgraves takes an honest look at the familial ties that bind. Though various family members may not appreciate the same things, may not share the same viewpoints and may annoy each other, as Musgraves sings, “friends come in handy, but family is family.” The song is included on Musgraves’ Pageant Material.