And we’ll be free…some day soon

When they sailed from Plymouth in search of their religious freedom the Pilgrims brought a tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving to their “New Plymouth” settlement. Fasting was certainly more common in those early years and while the “first” Thanksgiving was observed in 1621, the next one had to wait until 1623. However, by the second half of the 17th Century, annual days of Thanksgiving after the harvest had become customary throughout the colonies and this tradition continued until the colonies became states.

The first federally designated Thanksgiving was proclaimed by George Washington in 1789 and though some succeeding presidents followed suit, others did not.  It was therefore up to a state’s governor to make such a proclamation, which was commonly done in the Northeast but grew less frequent in the deep South where such an observance was viewed as a “relic of Puritanical bigotry.”

Although it wasn’t recognized by every state until after the Civil War, in 1863 Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that a National Day of Thanksgiving should be celebrated on the final Thursday of each November.  It has been observed annually in the United States ever since, traditionally with intrinsically American dishes (turkey, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, etc.) that were ostensibly served during that 1621 celebration.

By the end of 1941, with the Christmas season nipping at its heels and spurred on by the Roosevelt Administration’s belief that a slightly earlier observation might give the nation a needed economic boost, the holiday was changed from the last Thursday to the fourth Thursday in November.  Thanksgiving has since been celebrated as early as November 22nd on numerous occasions.

Such is the case this year, just as it was a half a century ago on November 22, 1962 while the United States was dismantaling its air and sea blockade and the Soviet Union (remember those guys?) was removing their final nuclear warheads from Cuba. A year later in 1963, when Thanksgiving was celebrated on the 28th , November 22nd had poignantly become a date freighted with raw and painful emotions.

And so we celebrate freedom using a few of its many frames of reference, with a song that was conceived at another emotionally freighted time for the nation.  Written by Dick Holler and Phil Gernhard, who were previously (and incongruently) known for penning the 1966 Royal Guardsmen novelty hit, “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” today’s selection was first, and most memorably, recorded by Dion Francis Dimucci, known for his late 1950s vocal group, Dion and the Belmonts (“A Teenager in Love”) and then for such early-’60s solo hits as “Runaround Sue” and the “Wanderer.”

By 1968 Dion had been long out of the limelight when he begged his record label for a new contract.  After some deliberation they agreed, on the condition that he record this timely single… which would go on to sell more than a million copies…

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Happy Thanksgiving

Abraham Martin and John

Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham?

Can you tell me where he’s gone?

He freed a lot of people,

But it seems the good they die young.

You know, I just looked around and he’s gone.

Anybody here seen my old friend John?

Can you tell me where he’s gone?

He freed a lot of people,

But it seems the good they die young.

I just looked around and he’s gone.

Anybody here seen my old friend Martin?

Can you tell me where he’s gone?

He freed a lot of people,

But it seems the good they die young.

I just looked ’round and he’s gone.

Didn’t you love the things that they stood for?

Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?

And we’ll be free

Some day soon, and it’s a-gonna be one day …

Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby?

Can you tell me where he’s gone?

I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill,

With Abraham, Martin and John.

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