Thursday, November 26, 2009

"I’ve Got Plenty to be Thankful For”

Leave it to the uber immigrant turned voice-of-the-century composer Irving Berlin to have written a song for Thanksgiving. It’s in Holiday Inn. It never made it into the mainstream, not like the defacto T-Day “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go,” nor the one hymn deemed for the day, “We gather together” a 16th century hymn from the Netherlands to celebrate the Dutch victory over Spain at the Battle of Turnhout.

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

If, like C.J. Cregg in The West Wing episode, "Shibboleth" you have never heard the Thanksgiving Song, you can listen to the Celtic Women’s version here.

Irving Berlin’s song "I've Got Plenty to Be Thankful for" is simple and powerful, like much of his work (embed disabled, but you can click right over for the great scene with Crobsy). In Holiday Inn, the Bing Crosby character Jim Hardy has recorded it on an LP and in an early “media moment” he is listening to his own recording.

“You haven’t eaten anything Mr. Jim”
“I’m poutin’ Mamie”

Jim Hardy goes from poutin’ to a renewed plan for getting his life back on track. That’s why I’m thankful for the films of 1940s Hollywood.

I've got plenty to be thankful for
I haven't got a great big yacht
To sail from shore to shore
Still I've got plenty to be thankful for

I've got plenty to be thankful for
No private car, no caviar
No carpet on my floor
Still I've got plenty to be thankful for

I've got eyes to see with
Ears to hear with
Arms to hug with
Lips to kiss with
Someone to adore

How could anybody ask for more?
My needs are small, I buy them all
At the five and ten cent store
Oh, I've got plenty to be thankful for

Another on my fun list of thanks (after the important stuff life health and family) is The New Yorker, both for its covers and its articles. There is an amazing Constantin Alajalov cover from 1949 that depicts a Thanksgiving feast that has been changed by the new marvel that is TV! Showing us that the black box had invaded the home, changing the cultural landscape forever, and, thankfully, giving me a career.