Posts Tagged ‘William DeVaughn’

Thanksgiving Tales

June 3, 2022

Originally posted November 25, 2009

Well, tomorrow morning, like millions of others here in the U.S., the Texas Gal and I – joined by my mother – will head off for Thanksgiving. In our case, we’ll be going to my sister’s home in the Twin Cities suburb of Maple Grove for turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Our contribution will be a plate of deviled eggs, a dish that’s become a holiday tradition for us since the Texas Gal first brought them along in 2000.

We missed Thanksgiving at my sister’s last year due to some health issues. And the plan to return there got me thinking about the various places I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving over the years.

For years – until I was out of  college, I think – we gathered at my grandparents’ home, first on their farm outside the small town of Lamberton, Minnesota, and then at their home in Lamberton itself. Sometime in the mid-1970s, after Grandma passed on, the Thanksgiving celebration shifted to my parents’ home here in St. Cloud. And after about twenty years there, the annual feast shifted venues again, and my sister and brother-in-law have hosted Thanksgiving since then.

Besides last year’s celebration, I can recall two other Thanksgivings that have found me in different places. In 1980, I think it was, the woman who was then my wife had the idea of hosting Thanksgiving in a restored 1860s cabin owned by friends of hers. We prepared the food in our own home and then moved the entire feast about two miles to the cabin. The food was fine, but the cabin was uncomfortably cold despite the presence of a fireplace. It was an interesting experiment, but I’d rather flip it: I’d be interested in using Nineteenth Century recipes and work from a modern kitchen.

The other Thanksgiving that found me in another place was during the time I spent in Denmark. The Danes don’t celebrate the holiday, of course, but my ladyfriend – another American – and I decided to cook a traditional American Thanksgiving meal for my Danish family and a few other students, both American and Danish.

There was no turkey for sale in Fredericia, so we made do with a couple of chickens. Potatoes were easy enough, as was flour for the gravy. Green beans amandine went well enough after a tussle with the Danish language. Not knowing where the nutcracker was, I looked up the word in my Danish/English dictionary and called my Danish mother at her office. Danish uses some sounds that are, well, foreign to English, so it took some time before she understood that I was trying to say nøddeknækker.

Beyond the linguistic difficulties, the main challenge of the day was the pumpkin pie. We could find neither canned pumpkin nor a fresh pumpkin in Fredericia. Luckily, my ladyfriend had made pumpkin pie from scratch with her mother, and she assured me that an orange winter squash would meet our needs. We cleaned it, cut it up and cooked it with the appropriate seasonings and then baked it in a homemade shell. As dinner came to a close that evening, our Danish guests were a bit puzzled by the pie, but our American guests marveled at how close we’d come to the Thanksgiving dessert they’d all had for years.

That may have been my most memorable Thanksgiving ever. Does that mean it was the best? Well, no. As the fourth Thursday of November comes along year after year, each Thanksgiving somehow seems better than the one before it . . . as long as I share that table with my loved ones, especially the Texas Gal.

A Six-Pack of Thanks
“Now Be Thankful” by Fairport Convention, Island WIP 6089 [1970]
“Thank You” by Led Zeppelin from Led Zeppelin II [1969]
“I Thank You” by Mongo Santamaria from All Strung Out [1969]
“Thank You For The Promises” by Gordon Lightfoot from Shadows [1982]
‘Thanks to You” by Jesse Winchester from Humour Me [1988]
“Be Thankful for What You Got (Pt. 1)” by William DeVaughn, Roxbury 0236 [1974]

Of these six, only the Fairport Convention tune really seems to fully address the sentiments of the holiday. The others generally work with only their titles; their content has at best only a glancing connection to the day. But that’s good enough for me.

The Texas Gal and I wish you a joyful Thanksgiving. May you all have many reasons to be thankful.

Thanksgiving 2011

November 24, 2011

As it has for the last decade or so, the coming of Thanksgiving finds me pondering how much the Texas Gal and I have and how fortunate we are.

And, as is perhaps inevitable during these times, those thoughts of how much we have in our lives get caught up in thoughts of the 99 percent and the 1 percent and get caught up as well in how I see the reactions of many of those who govern us to the plights of the governed. (The reactions of the vast majority of those who govern, it seems to me, range from, at best, a wooden insensitivity to, at worst, a dismissive contempt.)

I am thankful for what the Texas Gal and I have. Both in creature comforts and in the intangibles, our lives here in St. Cloud are amazingly bountiful compared to the lives of many. But it should be noted that a large portion of those creature comforts are greatly dependent on a regular paycheck. In that, I assume, we’re not all that different from most folks in this country: If that paycheck should diminish or disappear, the comfort of our lives will constrict to a degree that I would rather not think about.

So I won’t think much about that today, nor will I spend a lot of time today pondering the thoughts that pop up when I consider the 99 percent and the 1 percent, like the fact that resources are finite, along with the related fact that merely slapping a higher price tag on something – either physically or metaphorically – does not truly increase its value. Those are topics on which I might muse at length another day.

Today, I’ll be with my family: The Texas Gal; my sister, her husband and her two children; and our mother, who a week from today will celebrate her ninetieth birthday. All of them are good for my life, as I hope I am good for theirs. And we’ll catch up on news. We men likely will watch a little bit of football. We’ll share a mostly traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

And I will be thankful for all of that. As I should be. And I hope that all of you have at least that much to be thankful for, too.

Here – as has been the case at least once before on this day – is William DeVaughn and his 1974 hit, “Be Thankful For What You Got (Pt. 1).”

Some Thoughts On Thanksgiving 2008

October 7, 2011

Originally posted November 27, 2008

Well, it’s Thanksgiving, at least here in the United States.

Other places, I imagine it’s an ordinary Thursday, but here, it’s a day when we feast – those of us who can, that is. As we feast, however, we should also consider the lives of others, both near and distant.

From news reports over the past few days, it’s evident that even here in one of the most blessed nations on Earth, there are people who need the help of others to afford even the most basic of Thanksgiving dinners. The Galilean told his disciples, “The poor we have always with us.” He’s still correct two thousand years later, and I often wonder why we in this nation, in this community of nations, aren’t doing more to be proving him wrong.

And I don’t know the answer. I think the answer – if there is one – gets lost in a morass of politics, economics, theology and ethics. And all the wrangling through those topics doesn’t get us one step closer to putting onto the plate of a poor child a meal of beans and sausage, never mind turkey with the trimmings.

I think, however, that more and more frequently in years to come, those of us fortunate to live in basic comfort – a comfort that must seem like unimaginable affluence to many in the world – will learn what it is like to live on the edge of want and need. It might do us some good, as it might instill in us as people a caring awareness of how fragile life and wellness have been for many who have lived on that edge for years, for decades, for centuries.

Many of us already have that caring awareness, that empathy necessary for us to understand the lives of others, an empathy that one would hope would lead to a driving desire to improve the lives of those others. Perhaps, in what appears to be a coming time of constraint and restraint, those who have not yet shown that trait can learn it. And when better times come again – as we all hope they will – perhaps more of us will be able to feast without the aid of others, and those of us so blessed will be able to lead still more of the world to the table to join us.

In the meantime, on this Thanksgiving Day, may your blessings be – as are the Texas Gal’s and mine – too numerous to count.

A Six-Pack of Thanks
“Be Thankful For What You Got” by William DeVaughn from Be Thankful For What You Got, 1974

“I Want To Thank You” by Billy Preston from That’s The Way God Planned It, 1969

“Thank You Lord” by Rick Nelson from Rudy the Fifth, 1971

“Thank You” by Led Zeppelin from Led Zeppelin II, 1969

“I Want To Thank You” by the Staple Singers from Let’s Do It Again, 1975

“Now Be Thankful” by Fairport Convention, Island WIP 6089, 1970

A Baker’s Dozen Of Thanks

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 23, 2007

It’s quiet here this morning.

There’s no noise from the parking lot outside, where most morning, the college kids and younger adults who make up a good portion of the folks in our apartment complex start the public portions of their days with laughter, the sounds of auto engines rumbling and the more frequent sounds of the heavy low bass of rap or hip-hop. In fact, more than half of the parking spaces are empty, evidence of Thanksgivings spent elsewhere.

The Texas Gal is taking advantage of the opportunity a rare vacation day presents: She’s sleeping in past her normal rising time of 6:30. It’s 7:47, and I’ve shut the bedroom door so that our two rampaging catboys – Clarence and Oscar – leave her alone. They’ll no doubt come through here, demanding attention, while I write.

We had a pleasant day yesterday: dinner with my family at my sister’s home in a Twin Cities suburb, and then we spent the evening with friends Sean and Stephanie at their new apartment on the west end of St. Cloud.

I had planned to rip an album this morning, Dobie Gray’s Drift Away from 1973, but I think I will leave that for Monday and move Monday’s planned share – Color Him In, a 1967 album by Bobby Jameson – for a week from today. Instead, though, I thought I’d offer a Baker’s Dozen in the spirit of yesterday’s holiday.

And no, I’m not going to go all rhapsodic about Thanksgiving and the things I am grateful for. Just let it suffice to say that I have a great deal for which to be grateful, starting, of course, with the Texas Gal and her love for me and extending throughout the various aspects of my life – my friends, my critters and all the rest – to those folks who stop by Echoes In The Wind to listen to the music that moves me.

A Baker’s Dozen of Thanks
“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” by Sly & the Family Stone, Epic single 10555, 1970

“Thanks for the Pepperoni” by George Harrison and friends from Apple Jam, All Things Must Pass, 1970

“Thank You Lord” by Rick Nelson from Rudy the Fifth, 1971

“Now Be Thankful” by Fairport Convention, Island WIP single 6809, 1970

“I Wanna Thank You Baby” by Delbert McClinton from Plain From The Heart, 1981

“Thanks To You” by Emmylou Harris from Cowgirl’s Prayer, 1993

“Be Thankful For What You Got” by William DeVaughn, Roxbury single 0236, 1974

“Thank You” by King Floyd from Think About It, 1973

“Thank You Mr. Poobah” by the Butterfield Blues Band from Paul Butterfield Blues Band, 1965

“I Want To Thank You” by Billy Preston from That’s The Way God Planned It, 1969

“Thanks For Saving My Life” by Billy Paul, Philadelphia International 3538, 1974

“Thank You Girl” by the Beatles, Vee-Jay single 587, 1964

“Thank You For The Promises” by Gordon Lightfoot from Shadows, 1982

A few notes on some of the songs:

“Thanks For The Pepperoni” was one of the five tracks on the third LP of All Things Must Pass, George Harrison’s first solo album. That LP, titled Apple Jam, was made up of five long jam sessions recorded by Harrison and his friends during the recording of the album. Listened to as a whole, the jams could become tedious. Taken one at a time, they’re fun to listen to, for the most part. There are no specific credits for tracks, so one has to listen and guess. Guitarists on the album sessions were Harrison, Clapton and Dave Mason; bass players were Klaus Voorman and Carl Radle; on drums were Ringo Starr, Jim Gordon and Alan White; and playing keyboards were Gary Wright, Bobby Whitlock, Billy Preston and Gary Brooker. Which of those actually played on “Thanks For The Pepperoni” is left to speculation, informed supposition and wild guesses.

Rudy the Fifth was a pretty good country rock album from Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band. Made up for the most part of originals – “Thank You Lord” is one of them – the album also featured covers of Bob Dylan’s “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” and “Just Like A Woman” and of the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women.” Although fairly obscure today, it’s an album worth seeking out. (It’s available from various on-line retailers at a two-few with the album Rick Sings Nelson.)

William DeVaughn was a one-hit wonder who, according to All-Music Guide, “was working for the government when he paid $900 for a recording session at Philadelphia’s Omega Sound Inc. (basically a ‘vanity record’ operation).” The session, which was backed by MFSB’s main rhythm section, so impressed Omega’s vice-president Frank Fioravanti, that he shopped “Be Thankful For What You Got” to various labels, finally getting it released on Roxbury. The song went to No. 1 on the R&B charts and to No. 4 on the Billboard Top 40. (DeVaughn had R&B hits with “Blood Is Thicker Than Water” and “Figures Can’t Calculate” but never hit the Top 40 pop chart again.)

I’ve listed “Thank You For The Promises” by Gordon Lightfoot here before but it’s too lovely a song to leave out of this selection.

‘Be Thankful For What You Got’

November 25, 2010

Probably not much need be said today; we are in the last bits of preparation to head to my sister’s home in the Twin Cities suburbs for Thanksgiving dinner. Very soon, we’ll transfer deviled eggs, relishes and a pumpkin pie to the car, then go pick up my mother and be off for Maple Grove.

The weather system that wreaked havoc in the western states this week generally missed us. We got maybe three inches of snow here, not enough to alter our plans. I think the snow was heavier in the Twin Cities, but unless I’m way off the mark, we should have an easy enough drive and then an easy drive home to St. Cloud when the day’s festivities are ended.

I think we tend sometimes in this culture to rush toward and then through holidays, often losing sight of the meaning of the day. That’s especially true, I think, of Thanksgiving, which has been diminished over the past twenty or so years into not much more than the beginning of the commercial Christmas season. And that’s too bad.

I have my own differences with Christmas and its artifices, with the fact that the December holiday has been turned into an excuse to make money, but that’s next month’s carping. It’s enough for me today to consider Thanksgiving, which still seems to hold to its meaning even though in many precincts it is increasingly treated as a little more than a signpost pointing the way to the next holiday.

So what is that meaning, then? We – the Texas Gal and I – have much for which to be grateful, and although I think we’re aware of the richness of our lives every day, it’s not a bad idea for us to take a few minutes now and then to underline that awareness. That’s especially true in today’s United States, a place where basic economic stability – never mind prosperity – eludes too many and has done so for too long.

Last evening, CBS News revisited its ground-breaking documentary of 1960, Harvest of Shame, the special report that examined the lives of migrant farm workers in the United States. While conditions have improved over the past half-century for the folk who follow the harvest and who help in many ways to put today’s feasts on our tables, it would be a gross exaggeration to say that those workers are prosperous. One migrant worker, asked how he and his family would celebrate today’s holiday, told CBS News’ Byron Pitts, “We’ll buy a turkey, if we can afford one.”

The Texas Gal and I live modestly, I think. We don’t lack for things we want, but neither, I think, are we extravagant. Others may see us differently; I don’t know. But when I heard that worker tell Pitts that his family would buy a turkey “if we can afford one,” I flipped rapidly through a series of emotions: chief among them were guilt, for having in our modest lives so much more than does his family; sorrow, as I know that he and his family was just one of millions of such families in the U.S. living in such straits, never mind the rest of the world; and anger, as it seems to me that we should be far beyond a system that leaves so many so far behind.

“The poor we have always with us,” said the Nazarene preacher two millennia ago. Sadly, that’s true. And while I don’t want to spoil anyone’s pecan pie today, it seems right to me if I go through the day not only being thankful for the richness of my life but also being aware that there are those who have many fewer reasons to be thankful. That should change, and maybe on another day we’ll talk about how those changes might come to be. That’s a conversation that may be difficult, and I don’t think it can be deferred in this culture too much longer.

But for now, let’s hold to the purpose of today, which is to be thankful for the things we have that endure. Material possessions come and go, as does youth and – sometimes – health. Family, friendships and love endure. And though William DeVaughn catalogued possessions far removed from my life – and from many of yours, too, I assume – when he sang in 1974, the title of his No. 4 record remains the crucial line: “Be Thankful For What You Got”

May you all have much for which to be thankful.