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Be Thankful For What You’ve Got – William DeVaughn

Be Thankful for What You Got by William DeVaughn is a 1974 one-hit wonderGratitude.

It’s a theme you don’t hear often in one-hit wonders, unless that song is a love song where the guy or girl is thankful for the guy or girl and is so overwhelmed with joy, they simply must sing about it.

But William DeVaughn added his soulful groove to the gratitude canon with “Be Thankful For What You’ve Got,” a song that reached #4 on the Billboard Top 40 in 1974 making William DeVaughn a one-hit wonder.

The song not only stands out among most 1974 hits with its exhortations for gratitude and holding your head high, but also for the fact that it really only has one verse and that verse is all about being grateful for what you got even though you might not got a big Cadillac with antennas in the back.

And don’t forget that the song only has two chords total. Most have a minimum of three.

DeVaughn was happy with two.

Aspiring songwriters who are tired of the tried-and-true verse/verse/chorus/verse/bridge/chorus style of most popular music, listen closely for a graduate-level example of fluid and seemingly simple yet devastatingly complex songwriting structure that works amazingly well.

DeVaughn was ably backed by many members of fellow soul one-hit wonder, MFSB, who gave the world the exceptional “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” that reached #1 in 1974. If you don’t recognize the title of the song, you’ll remember the groove, particularly if you watched Soul Train since “TSOP” was the theme song of that legendary music program.

Be Thankful For What You’ve Got – William DeVaughn

Here are the lyrics. Now read them as you listen to the song and notice how DeVaughn emphasizes new lines to start lyrical phrases.

Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac
Gangsta whitewalls
TV antennas in the back
You may not have a car at all
But remember brothers and sisters
You can still stand tall

Just be thankful for what you’ve got
Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin’ the scene
With a gangsta lean
Gangsta whitewalls
TV antennas in the back

You may not have a car at all
But remember brothers and sisters
You can still stand tall
Just be thankful for what you’ve got

The song sounds amazingly simple on first blush. But it gets better and more complex with each passing listen.

I hear it as a sermon. And as a song. Brilliant work, Mr. DeVaughn.

It makes me grateful for songwriters who push the boundaries in positive places.

“Be Thankful For What You’ve Got” by William DeVaughn should have never been a popular hit. It doesn’t sound like pop music. But I’m awfully thankful it was.

Bonus points to savvy listeners who connected the reference to “Digging the scene with a Gangsta Lean” to “Gangsta Lean” by DRS, a hip-hop one-hit wonder from 1993.

Written by

I'm an obsessive music collector, cataloger, commenter and trivia nut. Sometimes I'm even a listener. One-hit wonders have always been a guilty pleasure.

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2 Responses to "Be Thankful For What You’ve Got – William DeVaughn"

  1. Mike says:

    Thanks for posting up “Hooked on Classics”!

    Nice write-up…and for a bonus reference, 2000s one-hit wonder Big Tymers mention this song in their only Top 40 hit, “Still Fly”.

    For the reference:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iCd6UHR-3I at 4:00 (“Diamond in the back…”)

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