Giving thanks, full of gratitude

A trusted friend once told me she starts each day by making a mental note of the things she’s grateful for, and it invariably sets the tone for a positive outlook. I’ve adopted this morning routine, and I highly recommend it.

On Thanksgiving Day, many families go around the dinner table giving everyone the opportunity to say what they’re thankful for, and when it’s my turn, boy, am I ready! Hack’s Back Pages comes to you a day early this holiday week because I’d like to point out how uncanny it is that music has played such an important role in the many blessings I have received.

There’s a Spotify playlist at the end that includes each of the songs I refer to in my list of gratitudes.


I’m thankful that my parents were such great role models who showed me the importance of close family ties.  They instilled in me a deep appreciation for great music — big band music, swing, Broadway musical tunes, classical pieces, traditional torch songs, seasonal carols.  They strongly encouraged participation in church choirs and handbell groups, piano/guitar lessons, and my musical collaborations with friends (even though they weren’t always wild about some of the artists I chose to listen to!). As it turned out, I ended up instilling the same love for music of all kinds in my two daughters, one of whom became a professional singer-songwriter.  To underscore this gratitude, I would cue up “The Things We’ve Handed Down,” a beautiful tune by Marc Cohn from his 1993 LP, “The Rainy Season.”

I’m thankful to have met and married the most wonderful, compassionate, talented, attractive woman in the world, who, for nearly 40 years now, has been my confidante, my best friend, my partner in parenting and, not coincidentally, my companion at countless rock concerts, and my number-one fan when I pull out the guitar!  I’m one lucky guy to have had her love and gentle guidance, and benefitted from her enthusiasm and sense of humor. There’s no better song to cue up here than “My Girl,” The Temptations’ marvelous slow-dance tune from 1965.

I’m thankful I was blessed with the chance to be a doting father to two amazing, smart, resourceful, beautiful daughters.  Nothing warms my heart more than having watched them grow from toddlers into strong young ladies who fill me with love and pride every single day.  They can both sing way better than I can, and I like to think I’m a big reason why music is a huge part of their lives.  They both follow artists that don’t do much for me, naturally, but they are also big fans of vintage musicians I introduced them to, so I’ll cue up Paul Simon’s appropriately titled “Father and Daughter” from his 2006 album, “Surprise.”

I’m thankful that, while I wouldn’t describe myself as a religious guy, I have come to increasingly appreciate the strength and hope I am getting from my recent spiritual explorations.  Opening the door to the possibility of a higher power has brought me a genuine inner serenity I lacked, and has reminded me of the rewards of putting the needs of others before my own. When I was less receptive to spiritual messages, they nevertheless found their way in through the rich strains of chorales and church organs heard in places of worship. I still get chills sometimes when I hear a favorite hymn performed, bringing a deeper meaning now. The rock music fan in me would cue up Eric Clapton’s “Presence of the Lord,” from the album he made as part of Blind Faith in 1969.

I’m thankful that, despite a stent, “A-Fib,” a hip replacement, neuropathy concerns and ever-increasing aches and pains that seem to come on a daily basis, I’m doing all right for a 66-year-old.  As the saying goes, “If we have our health, we have a great deal.”  For me, music has cathartic qualities that contribute mightily to my well being. Hearing a favorite piece of music has always had the ability to soothe the body, the mind, and the soul.  Here’s where I cue up “I Got You (I Feel Good),” James Brown’s 1965 classic.

I’m thankful for this incredibly beautiful country, and world, in which we live. Although the human race has despoiled far too much of it with our selfish and negligent ways, there are countless places we can go where the scenic beauty can literally take your breath away.  I’m hoping — begging, really — that we all work harder to be much more respectful of the environment so future generations have many more centuries left to enjoy it.  I suggest we cue up “Share the Land,” the 1970 Top 20 single by The Guess Who.

I’m thankful how lucky I am to have had such warm, funny, supportive friends in my life.  I have a friend I’ve known since we were four years old, and I have new friends I met less than two years ago, and they are all very dear to me. They bring me joy in so many ways, helping me celebrate and grieve as the situations warrant. Through the years, one of the things I’ve most enjoyed doing with friends is singing around backyard bonfires and patio fire pits, or volleying music/lyric trivia questions back and forth, and dancing the night away to the oldies. Time to cue up “Friends” by Elton John (1971).

I’m thankful to now be living in a safe, comfortable home within a short bicycle ride of the stunning Pacific Ocean.  While I will always cherish my 40 years in Cleveland, Ohio, and 17 years in Atlanta, Georgia, I am thrilled to be realizing one of my dreams — to live near the ocean, watch the sunsets, listen to the waves, contemplate the beauty.  Every day.  Let’s cue up “Home By the Sea,” a 1983 track by Genesis.

I’m thankful for the wisdom I learned not long ago from this important philosophical life lesson:  “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, and that’s why they call it the present.”  Essentially, it’s “don’t cry over spilled milk, don’t worry about things you can’t control, be in the now.”  With that in mind, I think the late great George Harrison would appreciate it if I cued up “Just for Today” from his 1988 album, “Cloud Nine.”

I’m thankful for the way I am revitalized, soothed, inspired, comforted, astounded and exhilarated by music of (almost) all kinds, in all settings, all day and night, whether listening or participating.  I love to cue up the 1976 track by Average White Band whose chorus joyously exclaims,  “Music, sweet music, you’re the Queen Of My Soul…”

I’m thankful that I seem to have what some refer to as an encyclopedic mind for music trivia, which has helped me recall everything from the lyrics of “Louie Louie” to the name of the original bass player in The Doobie Brothers.  I also love digging into music reference books and rock biographies to learn more back stories. It allows me to assemble some compelling, theme-based playlists, such as the dozen tracks below about thanks and gratitude to mark the Thanksgiving holiday. May the day land gracefully for you.