Thursday, November 27, 2008

We'll Have to Bring Our Own Tunes to the Thanksgiving Day Parade

I'm just about to sit down for dinner, but I wanted to share a Thaksgiving song you might not have heard before: "Thanksgiving Day Parade," by Dan Bern. It's a dreamlike, slacker thanksgiving, but it gives me a warm feeling whenever I hear it.

Some sample lyrics:

And Michelangelo finally came down
After four years on the ceiling
He said he'd lost his funding
And the paint had started peeling
And he told us that his patron
His Holiness, the Pope
Was demanding productivity
With which our friend just couldn't cope
And he rode off on his skateboard
With his brushes and his blade
Muttering something 'bout some food
And the Thanksgiving Day Parade

I like that. You've suffered some setbacks, but dammit, pick yourself up. It's Thanksgiving, for chrissakes.

Here's another verse:

And I love whoever's next to me
I love them so, so much
They let me lean against them
Like a beautiful crutch

Man, I've been there. There's nothing like the gratitude of the intoxicated.

And everyone should come up
On the stage and grab the mike
And tell us one by one
Who they are and what they like.

This is one of the bits that I absolutely love about this song; everyone, take a minute on stage. Tell us a little bit about yourself. We're glad you're here.

And the babies are the only ones
To have lately gotten laid
And I'm feeling young and eager
For the Thanksgiving Day Parade

And this just cracks me up -- it's a weird little play on words, and it carries over to two more lines that I read as a strange mix of childlike wonder and adult anticipation as the parade gets closer.

Now, I really like this version (performed by Bern with Moxy Fruvous), but there's one problem: My favorite verse was cut, and because of it, the friggin' parade never arrives. I have a feeling they were cut for time during the concert. On the album, the song builds and builds and builds until you get to a long string of names, everyone playing an instrument. It's an amazing climax. You can hear it in another performance here (or on the album New American Language), but here's how it goes, wordwise. I get the feeling Bern is just picking out all his friends, and giving them all something to do. And that kind of friendship, that vast community of people, is what I'm so thankful for. So here it is, the unsung verse:

And somewhere in the distance
An orchestra shows its face
With Natalie on the oboe
Ty on double bass
John plays the viola
Slik the tenor sax
James he blows harmonica
In vanilla skin-tight slacks
Hugo oozes alto sax
Ivory the trombone
Masuda squawks the trumpet
Andre xylophone
Ron he shreds the violin
In a green Italian suit
Mike talks on the telephone
On a tape with an endless loop
Geoff he blows the clarinet
With an old-time rockin' feel
Charlie dings the triangle
Dave the glockenspiel
Chris puffs on the tuba
H a big bass drum
Alfonso throbs the cello
Like he would a woman, with his thumb
And high up on the podium
In tails with his baton poised
Banksy leads the orchestra
In a glorious, awful noise
And on a float of dripping oil paint
The orchestra, it played
Kissing the whole universe
In the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


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