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New Thanksgiving Feast (Single)

by Jess Klein

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about

I started writing this song after playing a show on Cape Cod. Mike and I were driving back towards Boston, seeing signs for towns with Native names: Chicopee, Mashpee, Cotuit. I had just read about how the leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux would start each day of protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline with a prayer: they would pray both for the protesters and for the Army Corps of Engineers who were threatening their safety, their lives, their water. I thought, that’s the most powerful spiritual example and it comes from the people who were here in this land first. What if Americans, white Americans especially, could learn this practice that is some way Native to this land (a similar practice to MLK, Gandhi, Jesus)? How would it change us?

Since I was writing about Thanksgiving, I thought about football, a sport I grew up loving. We would have a touch football game for all the families on my street every Thanksgiving Day. I thought about Colin Kaepernick’s protest, I thought about racism against Black Americans and people of color.

I wanted the song to be structured like a mirror - the first half talks about what I was taught/not taught about the origins of America and the second half talks about what is really happening now as the result, I believe, of the un-resolved pain and tragedy that have been part of our true history.

It felt vulnerable to write and to sing this idea, that we could find healing if we look at our true history, really listen to each others’ different experiences. The truth is, in every abusive relationship, (except in the case of sociopaths), both the abused and the abuser feel pain. The wounds are there and everyone is walking around with them subconsciously. Hurting people hurt. Power without moral conscience creates a spiritual wound that can only be healed by coming completely clean.

Since Thanksgiving reminds me of family, I thought about my grandparents, Jewish Russian immigrants to the US - they left Russia to escape the Pogroms, massacres of Jewish people. It was so horrible they wouldn’t speak about what that part of their lives was like. Here we are with politicians who are attacking immigrants, again. That could be my family.

As we lead up to Thanksgiving, I hope this song helps you find a way to find gratitude for the reality of your own history, for our shared true history, and that it inspires you to move forward with that gratitude in your heart.

lyrics

New Thanksgiving Feast

We traced our hands and made paper cutouts
We pasted feathers on
And we would shout out
“I made a turkey”
“I made a headdress”
“I made a pilgrim’s hat”
Then it was recess
And the bell would ring
We’d run into the streets
Called Iroquois, Council Rock, Cayuga
Those street signs hid the truth though

Dad put the football on
It felt like family
We’d eat the most we could
Pass out in front of the TV
Grandma and grandpa
They were from Russia
They wouldn’t talk about
What it was like though
I think they would have died
If they had never tried
To come here
Another family knowin’ that fear

Now I think about the English-Irish Servants
Africans they drug across in chains
Chinese and Italian families riding on the waves
While along the pitch pine highway
Near Plymouth Beach
A Wampanoag fights to keep his right to fish the sea
A Wampanoag fights to keep his right to fish the sea
When we all meet our Creator
Which will it be?
Paper cutouts and hollow shells
Or a new Thanksgiving feast
Or a new Thanksgiving feast

Out on an icy plain
Wrapped in blankets and beads
Elders with weathered faces
Faces that read like history
Say a prayer for all of those who’ve come to stand
And a prayer for those firing water canons
It is a prayer for
The Creator

While on a football field
A man refuses to rise
To salute a country that would let his people die
And though the rage and fear
Swirl around him like a twister
He’s committed to his brothers and his sisters
He’s made a choice he knows
So peacefully he sits there

While along the chilly streets of Boston,
Charlotte, Seattle and DC
People pouring out in numbers never seen before
When we come to face our shadows
Shadows too angry to ignore
Are we gonna tell ourselves it’s down to either/or
Or will we finally realize we’re meant for something more?
When we all meet our Creator
Which will it be?
Towing the lines, pretending we’re blind
Or a new Thanksgiving feast
Or a new Thanksgiving feast

credits

released November 15, 2018
Vocal, guitar: Jess Klein
Produced by Mark Simonsen, Jess Klein, Thom Canova
Engineered by Thom Canova at studio m, Durham, NC

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Jess Klein Hillsborough, North Carolina

Rochester, NY native Jess Klein is known for staking out brave lyrical and musical territory with such albums as Wishes Well Disguised (1998), Draw Them Near (2000), Strawberry Lover (2005), City Garden (2006), Bound to Love (2009), Behind A Veil (2012) and Learning Faith (2014) which Folk Radio UK calls “unquestionably the finest album of [her] impressive career.” ... more

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