Yet Again, I Am Threatening To Write “Thanksgiving Music”

What Is in Canned Cranberry Sauce? | MyRecipes
Nice little sauce.

Around this time every year, I make idle threats to write, record, and release “Thanksgiving Music.”

I find myself making snarling faces in the mirror, fists clenched, silently mouthing “The World isn’t ready for ‘Thanksgiving Music.’”

“Thanksgiving Music” will be my magnum opus. When I finish the final track I will immediately perish (or so I have been told by my landlord, who is a magician).

I have been thinking about “Thanksgiving Music” for the past five years or so. It all started when I wrote the instant classic, Ramos (Or: I Accidentally Gave My Neighbor The Abstract Concept Of Thanksgiving Even Though He Only Asked For Sugar). 

Every year since, around the end of November, I grow obsessed with “Thanksgiving Music.” Then I forget about it for around 50 weeks, and the cycle continues.

What is “Thanksgiving Music?” Let me put it to you simply:

Thanksgiving is a bad holiday. It is historically weird, and the food is bland. Even if the food was good, the only dish I can eat as a vegan is the damn cranberry sauce.

Thanksgiving is a culturally blank holiday. We dress up as L.L. Bean models and make empty aspirational gestures toward values we will forget the following day. 

Thanksgiving is a non-holiday. It’s sort of patriotic? It’s like Halloween’s ugly cousin? It’s like Christmas without the Christmas? I don’t know what to make of Thanksgiving.

And so: Thanksgiving is an absurd holiday.

There is no music for Thanksgiving except for this:

This is the only music for Thanksgiving. It’s a real shame.

Thanksgiving needs a remodel. And I think music should lead the way. Music should set the tone for the next phase of Thanksgiving. After all, music, as they say, can heal all wounds. 

“Thanksgiving Music” is an unreleased album-in-progress that aims to set a new aesthetic backbone for the future of Thanksgiving. Rather than explain it away, I would like to show you what I have written of “Thanksgiving Music” so far. PLEASE NOTE that this is not finished, nor will it ever be. It will only be finished when I can get the exact orchestra that was used for Richard Harris’s monumental MacArthur Park. This album is supposed to sound like that, and the fact that I can’t make those sounds on my computer breaks my little heart.

What follows is my work thus far for the songs of “Thanksgiving Music,” in approximately album order. In my Mind Palace, “Thanksgiving Music” is the size of the future. Each song could be ten songs. Each chorus, yet unwritten, could be the catchiest, most compelling refrain ever written. As you read and listen on, please remember that “Thanksgiving Music” is as much a mindset as an album. “Thanksgiving Music” will teach us how to love.


  1. Is The Turkey Happy?
  2. Ramos (Or: I Accidentally Gave My Neighbor The Abstract Concept Of Thanksgiving Even Though He Only Asked For Sugar)
  3. Will Jeff Let Me Keep The Yams?
  4. The Thanksgiving Boyfriend
  5. Somebody Put My Butter In The Freezer
  6. Turkey In The Straw


“Is The Turkey Happy” is the opening track of “Thanksgiving Music,” and it sets the mythos and tone of the album. Like any good songwriter, I have trained myself to become adept at observing my surroundings, and “speaking truth to power.” Though some have interpreted the tale below as fiction, I assure you that this is the world as I see it:

The Turkey.

To some, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a festive time. To others, it is nothing more than corporate buffoonery. To me? Why, it is the Turkey’s Court.

Look at the Turkey who sits atop the door to Macy’s: all-powerful, all-knowing, head bobbing silently in the wind. Have you ever seen a figure of more power, more glory? All praise be upon the Turkey. All praise be upon the Turkey’s Court.

The parade does not end until each float shows itself to the Turkey. They are competing for the Turkey’s Approval. If they get it, they are allowed to progress to the “Next Level.” 

It is hard to tell whether the Turkey approves or disapproves, but there are trained experts who can interpret the exact angle of his neck, the exact ripples in the breeze. Amateurs believe that the Turkey’s Approval is merely subject to the movement of the air. True Turkey experts know it is the other way around.

The floats must always avoid using the color of Blood, which will make the Turkey go buck wild.

Here we see the Turkey respectfully acknowledge a lesser bird in his Court. The golden bird in the foreground knows he is not going to the Next Level. Rejected floats are presented to Al Roker, who spits on them. The lesser bird knows this is his fate, and he is at peace with it. The Great Turkey decreed it, and so it is right with his spirit. Would that we were all this way!

The Elf knows he can curry favor with the Turkey by making loving eyes at him. But he tempts the Turkey with his Blood-colored tunic. Be careful, Elf. The Turkey may just go buck wild.

The Grinch is the enemy of Christmas, and the Turkey has never heard of Christmas. A match made in heaven? Just watch out for that Blood-colored sack, Grinch!

The Iceman Cometh, and the experts agree: The Turkey Approves! Olaf, the Iceman, has won the Turkey’s Approval in the Turkey’s Court. He will proceed to the Next Level. Good luck!

A terrible conflict indeed. The Turkey must pass judgment on… himself. Will he be fair? Or will he allow himself to be humiliated by Al Roker?

The experts will be the judge of that. But this event begs one simple question: is the Turkey… happy?


Is the Turkey Happy?

Is the Turkey Happy?
Is the Turkey Sad?
Is the Turkey Laughing?
Is the Turkey Mad?

Is the Turkey Joyful?
Is the Turkey Blue?
Is the Turkey Thinking
Of Me or You?


Atop The door of Macy’s,
The Turkey makes His perch.
To some it’s a parade,
But to me it’s Turkey Church.

The Turkey sits there, silent,
Head bobbing in the wind.
The Bird’s the one who knows
Who’s been good and who has sinned.

Hundreds of balloons
They amble through the sky.
What’s the Turkey thinking
As all the floats float by?

Is the Turkey Happy?
Is the Turkey Sad?
Is the Turkey Laughing?
Is the Turkey Mad?

Is the Turkey Joyful?
Is the Turkey Blue?
Is the Turkey Thinking
Of Me and You?

  1. RAMOS (Or: I Accidentally Gave My Neighbor The Abstract Concept Of Thanksgiving Even Though He Only Asked For Sugar)

Ramos is the lead single off the album. It was also the first song I ever wrote for “Thanksgiving Music.” I think it needs no other introduction. Here is my first ever recording of it, a humble demo at the piano. The audio quality is a bit rough. In the full version, it will feature a dramatic orchestra with John Tesh tickling the ivories.


No turkey under the tree
No gravy candies
For you or for me.
No stockings stuffed with meat.
No Turkey Coffee Light and sweet.
No children in their Turkey Costumes
Begging from door to door
It makes you wonder what waking up is for.

My neighbor asked for sugar,
To make his Turkey Bread.
I wish I gave him sugar.
I gave him Thanksgiving instead.

No gifts for Al-Shur-Fa-Quod,
He’s the thirty-taloned
Thanksgiving God.
No visitors in his nest.
No worshippers will be blessed.
No witches brewing Turkey Potions
Cackling at the moon.
No Turkey choirs
Howling a tuneless tune.

My neighbor (named Ramos) asked for sugar
To make his Turkey Bread (yummy tummy)
I wish I gave him sugar (yes I do)
I gave him Thanksgiving instead

Ramos smells like pound cake.
He lives in a chestnut tree.
If I don’t save Thanksgiving
My wife will do karate on me.

My neighbor (he’s a tankie) asked for sugar
To make his Turkey Bread (come on, baby)
I wish I gave him sugar (what’d you give him?)
I gave him Thanksgiving instead.
I gave him Thanksgiving,
I gave him Thanksgiving,
I gave him Thanksgiving instead.

  1. Will Jeff Let Me Keep The Yams?
Yams, queen.

Every great album has tons of skits. Everyone knows that. “Thanksgiving Music” will be no different. You don’t redefine a whole holiday without skits. The skit to song ratio will be at least 1:1, if not higher. 

A skit is a good time to sit and reflect on the deeper themes of the album. I think of this particular skit, “Will Jeff Let Me Keep The Yams?” as a Zen Koan. Before pressing play, please find yourself in a comfortable upright position. Now turn your attention to the breath… Just notice the breath. Don’t force it. In… Out… Notice your thoughts. Imagine your Soul as naturally radiant and pure, a warm Sun which is blocked from time to time by clouds. When you find a cloud in the way of the Sun, don’t force it to pass, allow it to pass. Good…

Now, with breath flowing down to the belly, mouth the following mantra: Will Jeff Let Me Keep The Yams? Will Jeff Let Me Keep The Yams? 

Hum it on a single pitch: Will Jeff Let Me Keep The Yams? Will Jeff Let Me Keep The Yams? Will Jeff Let Me Keep The Yams?

  1. The Thanksgiving Boyfriend
King… you dropped this. 🙂

I only have an instrumental track for this song. I don’t have lyrics or anything. But I have a story for it. Please listen to the instrumental and read on:

This song will be about a guy that you bring home to meet your parents on Thanksgiving. He wears khakis and a Patagonia. He is so happy to finally meet them. He brings a fancy beer that he explains to your dad. He baked bread and gives it to your mom, and she says, “what lovely bread.” He has a stupid tote bag.

He is the Thanksgiving Boyfriend. Your parents love him. They laugh at all his jokes. You laugh along, too, but out of habit. There’s nothing really that sets this guy apart from any other person on Earth. His face is generic. His eyes are blank. His hair is unmemorable. He talks about his stereo a lot. You think you might have a future with him, not because he’s perfect, just because he’s there.

He is empty. Your relationship is empty. You have been carefully trained to live with this emptiness. The emptiness is a dull pain that you have learned to ignore, like the creaking in your joints when it’s about to rain. Thanksgiving is an empty holiday, and it trains us that our culture doesn’t prize anything particular. Thanksgiving teaches us that it is acceptable – nay, required – to live a life that can be painted with the same colors as the Thanksgiving plate. 

You feel the emptiness, but you can’t describe it. You can’t put your finger on it. Something is robbing you of your sleep, something makes you nauseous when he smiles. But what is it? The Thanksgiving Boyfriend listens to you. He says exactly what you want him to say back to you,. Your parents find him completely inoffensive. Your friends love the Thanksgiving Boyfriend. And he doesn’t even check them out, not even the hot one. 

The night wears on. Dessert is served. He puts some pie away in his mouth. He talks about his stereo a lot. Everyone is polite to him. He talks about his stereo a lot. He talks about his stereo a lot. The room is spinning. You just wish he would fucking yell at you. You wish he would wipe that vague grin off his face. You want to see him in pain, you think, later that night, as he makes love to you on your childhood mattress. The unspoken avarice between you runs like silver through your veins. There’s a pressure in your chest. You aren’t breathing. Everything is red. He’s on top of you. You spit some words out at him. You can’t tell what you said.

He pulls away like a confused puppy. He says, “But sweetheart!” He looks you in the eyes. “I – I – you’re joking.” He isn’t really hurt. He can’t really feel pain. There’s a translucent sociopathic curtain that separates him from any meaningful emotion. He is, after all, the Thanksgiving Boyfriend. He puts his arm under your neck and spoons you. You wish he would just strangle you already. He’s the Thanksgiving Boyfriend.

5. Somebody Put My Butter In The Freezer

Quick Tip: How to Freeze and Thaw Butter
Keep your hands off of my butter.

I know I’m striking a comical tone in this article, but I want to tell you with absolute sincerity that I have no memory of making this track. I wish I were kidding. I found it on accident while looking for other stuff for this project. It actually really freaks me out that I can’t remember making this. Genuinely. Like in real life. Here it is.

6. Turkey In The Straw

The following is a description of a ten minute piece for orchestra, Balkan choir, guitarist, white rapper, and large mythical beast, elaborating on the melody of “Turkey In The Straw.” It is impossible to write and impossible to play.

Low brass whole notes in stacked fifths. They sustain. Emerging from the misty distance. Rumbling. Foreboding. Woodwind choirs gliding down a pentatonic cascade, then deftly climbing back up. Delicate. The brass is still pushing air. They’re setting the stage for something… but for what?

BOOM: a sudden cymbal crash and some timpani hits. Twenty-five unison french horns play a sweet melody. Is it… are they playing “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” No, that’s not quite it. It’s majestic. It’s very American. It’s like Copland or something. OH. It’s Turkey in the Straw. What is that song about again?

As the audience pieces together what song it is, almost by telepathy, the french horns break into harmony. It is glorious. A resplendent sunrise. The room feels 5 degrees warmer.

The woodwind choirs are circling around the french horns now, and the low brass has a syncopated figure where it ascends step by step. The music builds momentum. It spins faster and faster, faster and faster, until it seems the players can’t keep up with it anymore. The instruments sound uncomfortably loud, and there is some squeaking as they suddenly stop. Silence.

Then, footsteps. A single mournful voice with the most beautiful and resonant timbre. Is that… is that the Mystery of Bulgarian Voices? It is! A drum starts playing a figure in 7/8 time. It takes a second, but the groove becomes infectious. That old familiar American folk is now tumbling over Balkan dance rhythms. It’s beautiful. The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices has done it again. What must be going on in their minds as they sing this? The Turkey in the Straw… Do they know what it means to us? What does this song means to us?

Just then, a lone voice starts talking in Bulgarian while the rest of the women sing. It sounds like a mistake. She is talking to her neighbor. What is she saying? It seems that her neighbor tries not to listen, but eventually a hub-bub emerges from the dance rhythm. The singing stops. What was that? The singers are angry. At what? They are talking to the people in the studio, the Americans recording them singing Turkey in the Straw. They don’t seem happy to be singing this song. The woman who first stopped singing murmurs something to one of the singers who speaks English. She shows her her phone. The English speaking singer says, “Oh… oh… Oh my God.” She turns to the studio people: “Have you ever read the Wikipedia page for Turkey in the Straw?”

The orchestra rings out again, but with less enthusiasm. It seems that their hearts aren’t in it anymore. The french horns are pitchy, and there’s fewer of them. People straight up stop playing and leave the stage. Everyone has left now except for this one trombonist who is weirdly into it. This trombonist is really just doubling down on Turkey in the Straw. Obviously you can’t tell this from a recording, but somehow everyone who listens to this track can intuit that the trombonist is white.

What follows is the most disturbing piece of audio ever recorded. First is the giggling of a giddy Ted Nugent. He plugs in his guitar and just shreds on the melody of Turkey in the Straw. It’s technically impressive, but why is he making all those grunting sounds? As he iterates and embellishes on this very simple melody, his grunting and giggling crescendo into a boiling laughter. He accidentally modulates down a half step and doesn’t seem to notice. But those licks, man. Killer.

He starts muttering to himself that he’s the “number one mother fucking guitar legend in the world,” as he strums eighth notes on a simple power chord. This chord summons Kid Rock, who has written a verse on how Turkey in the Straw is American heritage, and those who want to take it away can lick his balls. As he starts rapping, he fumbles over consonant sounds, and his vowels seem to run away from him.

Something is happening inside of Kid Rock’s throat. His verse sounds like no other human language ever. It is confounding that he can even make these sounds. It is infuriating to listen to. It has driven some listeners completely insane. Mr. Rock is afraid of what is happening to his throat. He can’t stop rapping. Is it rapping? He can’t stop doing whatever it is that he’s doing. His neck snaps in various random directions, his unruly hair whips around his face. 

“Uncle Ted” is still playing that one power chord and encouraging the libs to take away his guns and see what happens. He looks over at Kid Rock and shoots out a pass of the Turkey in the Straw melody. This seems to help Kid Rock, who is released from his curse and gasps for air. Ted Nugent settles on a repeating rhythmic figure. Kid Rock just starts screaming the words “Turkey in the Straw” over and over again, completely disconnected from the music. Ted Nugent is grunting. Kid Rock’s wild chant ascends in pitch. “The Nuge” attempts at a linear gesture, sliding up the neck of the guitar. His licks are extremely “rad.” But as he nears the final note, his high E string snaps. Simultaneously, Kid Rock’s vocal chords snap, and his throat emits a sound like a dying balloon. It echoes for five whole seconds.

An orchestra tunes. A conductor approaches the stand. An audience applauds. Silence. What will they play?

More silence.

More silence.

The conductor rifles through music on the podium. Sheets fall down. An audience member coughs. What will they play?

A loud footstep. Very loud. Then another. Something is approaching. It must weigh at least three tons. More footsteps. The audience gasps. Some get up and head for the exits. Absolute pandemonium.

The conductor says, calmly, “No no. It’s ok.” He has prepared for this.

More footsteps. The ruffling of ten foot feathers.

Musicians move their chairs. Audience members cower in fear. Somewhere, maybe miles away, maybe in the next room, Kid Rock is rushed to a hospital.

The footsteps approach the mics on the stage. There is some very loud shuffling and commotion, but it subsides. It all dies down. Silence again.

Then, the gobbling of a colossal turkey. It sounds like velvet. The gobble is slower than that of a regular-sized turkey, and significantly lower in pitch. It touches the souls of everyone present. The turkey waits, then makes the sound again. The audience lets out a collective sigh when the turkey makes the sound. Creaky backs are healed. Migraines vanish.

The turkey waits, then makes the sound again. Muscles soften. Bodies release into the seats. The turkey makes the sound again. 

What have we done, the turkey seems to ask us? The turkey doesn’t offer an answer. Wasn’t the song about the turkey to begin with? It was. Out of all the perverted offspring that rose from this song like goiters, did a single one of them surpass the goodness of the simple gobble of the humble turkey?

The turkey makes the sound again. It is beautiful. This concert hall is the only tranquil place left on Earth, and everyone knows it. Someone takes out a handkerchief to dry their eyes. It is the color of Blood. The enormous turkey goes buck wild, destroys all the microphones, and everyone dies. But the turkey lives.


I know I will never finish “Thanksgiving Music.” It has been five years since I started threatening to write it and I have barely even begun.

With every lyric I write, with every verse I record, I cut off all the other possibilities of what it could have been. I slaughter unknowable numbers of unwritten melodies before they can see the light of day. And with each decision I make, “Thanksgiving Music” grows smaller and smaller. This is why my landlord, the magician, says I will perish when I finish “Thanksgiving Music.” When it is finished, it will only capture the tiniest fraction of the majesty it once represented. When I see this beautiful idea that has meant the world to me reduced to a tiny morsel for consumption by strangers, my landlord predicts, my heart will split in two and I will breathe my last. 

But maybe this is all “hog wash.” Maybe there’s a better way of looking at this. Sure, writing “Thanksgiving Music” feels like putting a baby through a funnel, or putting a cloud through a cheese grater. But where did the baby come from? There is a part of writing that comes before all that. It consists of diving down into the mind, into the soul, into the place where ideas are formed. And in this place there are untold legions of turkeys, untold yams and boyfriends and neighbors to be discovered.

Could it be that “Thanksgiving Music,” already rich with potential in my mind, is not nearly as big as it will be twenty years down the line? Maybe it never needs to get smaller. Maybe it only needs to grow. Maybe it never needs to be refined. Maybe, with each Thanksgiving, “Thanksgiving Music” will only grow bigger, more absurd, and less comprehensible. Maybe the point of “Thanksgiving Music” is that it can never be released, because it was never meant to be released. It was always meant to be a place more than a product. A place where I can daydream, play, and make some truly depraved audio concoctions.

This Thanksgiving I will continue to think up what happens when the floats are judged by the Turkey. I will imagine a “butter popsicle” in the freezer. I will think of more skits. I will find some other mundane element of this strange holiday and let it toss and turn in my mind until I have come up with something terrifying and wonderful. After all, isn’t that the true meaning of Thanksgiving?

Please don’t follow me @johncoyne_. One of my goals here is to be able to write things like this and get them out to people without social media. If you’d like to get things like this in your inbox, drop me a line and say hello 🙂