This song is the twelfth and final track of Dan Bern/Bernstein's 2001 album, New American Language. The album version is ten minutes long, and worth every second. Live performances are of course even more precious, but the N.A.L. version can still give me chills. It's a beautiful, haunting melody, and the lyrics (those shown below are from the N.A.L. version) are as pointed and poignant as anything Bern/stein has ever put out. There's cameo appearances by famous figures from history: Michaelangelo and his patron the Pope, as well as references to contemporary problems, e.g. the hole in the ozone layer. But my favorite part of the song is the tenth verse, about the orchestra, in which the instrumentation becomes more complicated and exuberantly raucous with each instrument and performer mentioned. Plus the lines: "Alfonso throbs the cello/Like he would a woman, with his thumb" are perhaps the most casually sexy I've heard tossed off in a long time.

I know it's cheesy, but today, I am thankful for many things, from big ones like food, friends, health, and books, to less universal (yet somehow more taken for granted) stuff like all the privileges that come with living in a First World country, and far more numerous littler everyday happenings that make me smile. One of the latter is this song.

Lyrics (reproduced here by permission)

Everybody was ecstatic
'Bout the light show on the farm
And everyone got crazy
And nobody got harmed
And the five televisions
Huge upon the stage
Had come to pay their union dues
And make a living wage
And the bathroom was the clubhouse
Where the colors all got made
And plans were cast in feathers
For the Thanksgiving Day Parade

And the DJ spins his records
From here out to the sun
And he flings them through a big hole
In the ozone one by one
And somewhere beyond Mercury
The wax begins to melt
And we touched a perfect stranger
And we loved the way it felt
And we all hung together
In our crew cuts and our braids
Floating down Broadway
Above the Thanksgiving Day Parade

And you and I were discussing Natalie
While you poised to thrust above her
And I told you how I admire her
And will always need to love her
And I told you how I lost
My best friend Mr. Neill
And we slowly started dancing
And began slowly to heal

And then we all held hands
And no one was afraid
On our way to sell our sculptures
At the Thanksgiving Day Parade

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

And we who were born in one millennium
And will die in the next
Are slightly underappreciated
And slightly oversexed
And as the seconds and the minutes
Start to vanish one by one
I'm watching more cartoons
As I get my toenails done
And we went downtown to deliver
Turkeys to people with AIDS
And then we headed uptown
To the Thanksgiving Day Parade

And the music keeps on grinding
And the electrophonic crunch
And my father's hair is thinning
And my mom ate some for lunch
And you, you were my babysitter
And you let me break my tooth
And we sit here tied together
In a bar in the back booth
And the band is in an uproar
Only the drum machine's been paid
And we'll have to bring our own tunes
To the Thanksgiving Day Parade

Australians are the coolest
People in the world
Let's all go down under
With strings of colored pearls
And lay them at the feet
Of the heirs of English crime
And listen to old Men At Work
And have a real good time
And we dug until we hit the rocks
Then we threw away the spade
And built a platform to get a better view
Of the Thanksgiving Day Parade

And I love whoever's next to me
I love them so, so much
They let me lean against them
Like a beautiful crutch
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
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 you explained to me that without your fans
You'd be back out on the street
With nothing but chitlins on your plate
And splinters in your feet
And if you die, you're gone you said
And your friends are left behind
And you'll be a statistic
And we'll be deaf and blind
And darkness is a virtue
And molasses is not afraid
To slow down the countdown
To the Thanksgiving Day Parade

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

And life is like a fairy tale
Every step feels like a dream
That keeps on getting nearer
And more and more extreme
And we just got switched with Venus
And we're closer to the sun
And I got no problem with it
Nor should anyone
And the cops just blew on in here
And we're in some kind of raid
I just hope they will release us
For the Thanksgiving Day Parade

---Dan Bern/Bernstein

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