We gave it a B
Ah, your basic Thanksgiving record: a ballad about Robin Hood, a Jewish song from Spain, a French ditty poking fun at an English general. Where’s ”We Gather Together”? What could veteran folksinger Oscar Brand have been thinking when he made this recording in 1978?
Historical context, that’s what. Perspective. The big picture. Because the forces that led to the first Thanksgiving were set in motion well before the Pilgrims hit the beach in Massachusetts. In narration between songs, Brand chronicles the Pilgrims and their wanderings — from their homes in Scrooby, England (where Robin Hood, something of a local boy, was popular in songs at the time), to their dozen years of self-exile in the Netherlands (home, also, to Spanish Jews and refugees from France), to their ocean voyage and first year in America.
In song, story, and sound effects (mostly seagulls), Brand offers a highly palatable history lesson. Fleeing religious persecution in England, the Pilgrims found grudging acceptance in Holland but feared their children were becoming Dutch. Aiming for Virginia, 102 Pilgrims set sail only to arrive you-know-where.
In Oscar Brand Celebrates the First Thanksgiving in Story and Song, Brand presents facts with grace, not to mention 20 musical numbers, including a couple of Indian songs, one of war, one of peace. Fess up now: How many of you knew that only 50 Pilgrims survived the first winter or that Myles Standish was called ”The Little Shrimp”? It’s all here. And what about ”We Gather Together”? Here it’s called ”Thanks to the Lord.” Different words, same tune. Dutch, you know. B