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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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Song
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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Song
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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Song
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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Song
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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Song
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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Song
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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Song
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

Purchase Featured Music

Song
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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Song
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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Song
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

Purchase Featured Music

Song
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

Purchase Featured Music

Song
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

Purchase Featured Music

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

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