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Thanksgiving Edition: Songs About Your Family

Modern Family
ABC-TV

How would you describe your family in a song? Would it be AC/DC's ominous "Highway to Hell," or The Beatles' warm, sentimental "All You Need Is Love"?

Last week we asked you to tell us about the songs that remind you of your family. We got a lot of wonderful stories (and a few unsettling ones), along with a bunch of great song suggestions that reflect the same wide range of family experiences.

On this special Thanksgiving week edition of All Songs Considered, we share some of our favorite stories and songs — from still in love to "still crazy."

Songs Featured On This Episode

Cover for Highway to Hell

AC/DC

  • Album: Highway to Hell
  • Song: Highway to Hell

When your family gathers for Thanksgiving, do you prepare for disaster?

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  • "Highway to Hell"
  • Album: Highway to Hell
  • Artist: AC/DC
  • Label: Atlantic
  • Released: 1979
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Cover for Magical Mystery Tour

The Beatles

  • Album: Magical Mystery Tour
  • Song: All You Need Is Love

Or are you stuffed to the gills with joy and happiness?

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  • "All You Need Is Love"
  • Album: Magical Mystery Tour
  • Artist: The Beatles
  • Label: Capitol
  • Released: 1967
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Cover for Farewell Sorrow

Alasdair Roberts

  • Album: Farewell Sorrow
  • Song: Whole House Is Singing

"In the early eighties, my mother was working as a disc jockey for a rock station out of Albany, N.Y. She doesn't work on the radio anymore, but she still spins records late into the night. When the whole family's together, we all catch the bug, and then it's a late night of music and usually plenty of wine. Nothing better captures the feel of those nights than [this] song by Scottish musician Alasdair Roberts." -Jedediah B., Massachusetts

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  • "Whole House Is Singing"
  • Album: Farewell Sorrow
  • Artist: Alasdair Roberts
  • Label: Rough Trade
  • Released: 2003
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Cover for The Beatles 1

The Beatles

  • Album: The Beatles 1
  • Song: I Want to Hold Your Hand

"When my husband and I were on our first date, we were walking to the restaurant and I was feeling very nervous and awkward. Then he said something to the effect of, 'Do you need something to do with that hand?' and took my hand in his. My hand fit perfectly, and I haven't let go in the almost 10 years since that moment." -Kate M.

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  • "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
  • Album: The Beatles 1
  • Artist: The Beatles
  • Label: Apple/Capitol
  • Released: 2000
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Cover for OK Computer

Radiohead

  • Album: OK Computer
  • Song: No Surprises

"At this point in my life, the song that best suits my family is Radiohead's 'No Surprises.' 'No alarms and no surprises, please,' is sort of the family motto." –Erin C.

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  • "No Surprises"
  • Album: OK Computer
  • Artist: Radiohead
  • Label: Capitol
  • Released: 1997
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Cover for We Are Family

Sister Sledge

  • Album: We Are Family
  • Song: We Are Family

"At Thanksgiving, [my family and I are] all so happy to see each other and be together, and [this song] fits perfectly." –Tina M., Rhode Island

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  • "We Are Family"
  • Album: We Are Family
  • Artist: Sister Sledge
  • Label: Cotillion
  • Released: 1979
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Cover for Soul of the Kung Fu Fighter

Carl Douglas

  • Album: Soul of the Kung Fu Fighter
  • Song: Kung Fu Fighting

"...But as the day goes on, tempers flare, arguments begin, and 'Kung Fu Fighting' is the better theme song, only with words instead of fists flying. But then it's back to 'We Are Family' just in time for Christmas." -Tina M., Rhode Island

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  • "Kung Fu Fighting"
  • Album: Soul of the Kung Fu Fighter
  • Artist: Carl Douglas
  • Label: Castle Music Ltd.
  • Released: 1999
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Cover for Country Sleep

Night Beds

  • Album: Country Sleep
  • Song: Even If We Try

"Kansans are stoic people, which means we do a tremendous amount of bottling. No matter how bad things get, we put on our best face. To me, that often leads to a lot of quiet reflection." -Robin Hilton, NPR

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  • "Even If We Try"
  • Album: Country Sleep
  • Artist: Night Beds
  • Label: Dead Oceans
  • Released: 2013
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Cover for Still Crazy After All These Years

Paul Simon

  • Album: Still Crazy After All These Years
  • Song: Still Crazy After All These Years

"My mom likes to go around the house and sing all the time. She listens to what used to be called the 'Music of Your Life' stations, which was music of the '30s and '40s ... It's all the great standards. Once in a while, they play modern songs. One day, Paul Simon came on. They played '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.' And my mom was walking around the house singing, 'Fifty ways to leave your mother.' [That] perfectly illustrates the zaniness that goes on when family gets together." -Bob Boilen, NPR

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  • "Still Crazy After All These Years"
  • Album: Still Crazy After All These Years
  • Artist: Paul Simon
  • Label: WEA
  • Released: 1975
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Cover for 20 Great Story Songs

Jimmy Dean

  • Album: 20 Great Story Songs
  • Song: Please Pass the Biscuits

"'Please Pass the Biscuits' portrays the [entire family] gathered around what one can only imagine to be a rather lengthy table for a family meal. As a young boy, I always identified with the voice of someone quite similar to me being completely overlooked ... I always loved hearing that song and it still makes me smile and flash a hungry grin as I fondly recall those fabulous family feasts of yore." –John W.

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  • "Please Pass the Biscuits"
  • Album: 20 Great Story Songs
  • Artist: Jimmy Dean
  • Label: Curb
  • Released: 1999
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Cover for Best of Leadbelly

Leadbelly

  • Album: Best of Leadbelly
  • Song: Goodnight Irene

"Going back to our roots in the rural farming town of St. Paul, Mo., our family partied with singing and music-making. Whenever my great-grandmother, Irene, would retire for the evening, the family song one last song: [Leadbelly's] 'Goodnight, Irene.' And even though she passed away years before I was born, we still end our parties with that tune." -Aaron D., Missouri

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  • "Goodnight Irene"
  • Album: Best of Leadbelly
  • Artist: Leadbelly
  • Label: Purple Pyramid
  • Released: 2000
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Cover for Blue

Joni Mitchell

  • Album: Blue
  • Song: A Case of You

"I am so fortunate to have a family that may not be perfect, but they are perfect for me and I love them and never get tired of them. They are my best friends." –Jan

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  • "A Case of You"
  • Album: Blue
  • Artist: Joni Mitchell
  • Label: Rhino
  • Released: 1971
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Cover for It's Blitz!

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

  • Album: It's Blitz!
  • Song: Heads Will Roll

"While the lyrics of ['Heads Will Roll'] seem a bit savage, there's just an undeniable catchiness to the melody. My family is the same way. They tend to get a little crazy, but there's just something about them that I can't get out of my head." -Allaire, Arizona

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  • "Heads Will Roll"
  • Album: It's Blitz!
  • Artist: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Label: Interscope/DGC/Dress Up
  • Released: 2009
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