Friday Song: “Thanksgiving”

George Winston revitalized solo piano recordings with his prodigious talents

Friday Song: “Thanksgiving”

George Winston, who died earlier this month at the age of 74, was best known for playing what he called “rural folk piano,” popularizing a lively and distinctive style inspired by his childhood hero, Vince Guaraldi, who wrote and played the equally lively and distinctive “Linus and Lucy” and other songs for the Peanuts animated television specials.

Winston would be asked to score a Peanuts special in the 1990s, which he viewed as a personal achievement.

Winston’s most commercially successful album — December — was a multi-Platinum seller, an unusual accomplishment for a solo piano work. It was not his only Platinum-selling album, with two others reaching this sales pinnacle.

December consists of originals and versions of traditional holiday songs. The tone of Winston’s piano gave everything a life and charm that remains hard to resist. He produced a number of seasonal albums (Autumn, Summer, Winter Into Spring), scored movies and television shows, and won one Grammy Award (he was nominated for four, including one for his interpretations of the songs of the Doors).  

Winston was also an accomplished stride and R&B piano player, a professional guitarist, and an excellent harmonica player. He founded Dancing Cat Records, focusing on traditional American musicians.

Winston overcame cancer on three separate occasions before finally succumbing this month.

“Thanksgiving” is a song from December and a perfect example of Winston’s most well-known style and approach.