Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday of mine. Not only is it presented in a way that is unoffensive to even the most politically correct person,but also some of my favorite foods are served on that holiday. Its also the time of year when one of my favorite events of the holiday occurs: the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC. One of the best parts of this event today is that,for a late riser such as myself,it is aired twice on Thanksgiving day-once in the morning,again mid afternoon. Many people of my generation might ask me why I’d want to spend Thanksgiving morning watching a program that embraces quote on quote “crass cooperate commercialism”? The answer is simple: because the very much alive joyous side of me enjoys seeing the flying helium balloons and floats they present. Over the years I’ve become aware of the creative effort that goes into creating all of these things. While I’m aware less than half of the actual parade is televised,the one element of the parade I’ve never come into it for is the one many others might: the featured musical guests.
In all honesty the musical guests on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade have tended to appeal mainly to preteen children. Either that or a one hit wonder type pop act who have an enormous popular song (usually featured in a hit movie out around the time of the parade) are featured. And there is nothing at all wrong with this. This is a family show so youth oriented entertainment is not only to be expected,but encouraged. This year I actually ended up out of bed early enough to see at least one hour into the first broadcast of the parade. Generally speaking the musical guests tended to be contemporary country stars and the usual teen oriented acts with a strong middle American flair. The Roots,featuring the highly important contemporary drummer/musicologist Questlove did appear. But did so behind their headliner act Jimmy Fallon and a rather uninspired modern day cast of the iconic PBS series Sesame Street. Towards the end of the parade I was extremely surprised to see Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings appear on one float singing “Ain’t No Chimney’s In The Projects”.
Also taking into note how the often completely neglected American Indians,largely responsible for the first Thanksgiving feast,were honored in floats the appearance and song choice of Sharon & The Dap-Kings was very happily surprising to me. Not only did it make a total about face from the usual middle class American Caucasian teenage character celebrated on this occasion,but also presented a truism for the subject matter of the song in a manner that wasn’t dour and stereotypical. I cannot honestly say I’ve ever seen funk music represented in such a strong,assertive and even joyful way on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Extremists might counter that this was presented once,and only at the end of the program. Yet we all know how so many vitally important historical events in music don’t get to have auspicious starts. And the fact that Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings,who are not particularly enormous in the American pop culture lexicon at the moment,even made an appearance on here indicated it was far from a token gesture. And a sign that in a musical sense,Thanksgiving parades could have a musically futurist aestetic after all.