November is known for Thanksgiving, Veterans Day, and being the last full month of the fall season in the Northern Hemisphere. What it’s not known for is its abundance of great songs, and that’s where this list comes in. Since I gave you 10 great September songs and a threefer of October tunes, I figured I might as well keep it going with 10 November songs. All that mattered for inclusion was the song had “November” in its title. This list has something for everyone – from British folk to punk rock to left-field hip-hop and R&B.
Vashti Bunyan – “Rose Hip November”
Songwriter: Vashti Bunyan
English folk singer-songwriter Vashti Bunyan’s debut album Just Another Diamond Day sold poorly upon its release in 1970. It wasn’t until 30 years later when the LP was reissued on CD that Bunyan garnered much-deserved attention and acclaim. She has since released two more albums of all original material, 2005’s Lookaftering and 2014’s Heartleap.
“Rose Hip November” is one of the standouts from Just Another Diamond Day. Rose hips are the small, apple-like fruits of rose plants that ripen in the fall. Like a lot of songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s British folk boom, it sounds like it could have been written centuries ago. Bunyan has one of the most unique and soothing voices in folk.
Sandy Denny – “Late November”
Songwriter: Sandy Denny
Sandy Denny, who for a period fronted the legendary British folk-rock group Fairport Convention, released four solo albums during her short life. “Late November” is from her 1971 solo debut The North Star Grassman and the Ravens. The song was also recorded by her group Fotheringay, appearing on their unfinished second LP.
Singer-songwriter Richard Thompson, also a member of Fairport, produced and played guitar on “Late November.” The song’s dark lyrical content was inspired by a dream Denny had about the death of Fairport drummer Martin Lamble, who died when the band’s van crashed in 1969.
Morrissey – “November Spawned a Monster”
Songwriters: Morrissey and Clive Langer
Genre: Alternative rock
Released as a single in 1990 and included on Morrissey’s classic compilation Bona Drag, “November Spawned a Monster” is about the plight of the disabled. One of the biggest hits of Moz’s lengthy solo career, “November Spawned a Monster” peaked at #6 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The Smiths’ bassist Andy Rourke played on the track, and Mary Margaret O’Hara provided the screaming vocals on the bridge.
“I went into the vocal booth and said, ‘Just simply give birth,’ which she most expertly did, while I stood behind with a mop and a bucket,” Morrissey told Vox in November 1990.
Guns ‘N Roses – “November Rain”
Songwriter: Axl Rose
Genre: Hard rock
“November Rain” was the third and final single of the Use Your Illusion I album. The 9-minute track (the original version was 25 minutes!) peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. GNR frontman Axl Rose has been quoted as saying the epic ballad is about “not wanting to be in a state of having to deal with unrequited love.” The music video had a budget of about $1 million, making it among the most expensive ever. It’s received well over a billion views on YouTube.
J Church – “November”
Songwriter: Lance Hahn
Genre: Punk rock
Here’s another song that references rain in November. “Tears from the sky, I’m satisfied that I can’t stop the rain,” sings Lance Hahn, the late guitarist and songwriter for J Church, a San Francisco pop-punk trio. “November” appeared on their first singles comp, Camels, Spilled Corona and the Sound of Mariachi Bands. Now that’s a great album title.
Wyclef Jean – “Gone Til November”
Songwriters: Wyclef Jean and Jerry Duplessis
Fugees rapper and singer Wyclef Jean scored his first big pop hit with “Gone Til November” from his solo debut The Carnival. The song, about a drug dealer who has to leave his lover, features a boom-bap beat and orchestral accompaniment from the New York Philharmonic.
The National – “Mr. November”
Songwriters: Matt Berninger and Aaron Dessner
Genre: Indie rock
The closing track from The National’s third studio album Alligator, “Mr. November” references Election Day and has Matt Berninger repeatedly singing, “I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr. November.”
“If you read into the lyrics of any of our supposedly political songs, they aren’t partisan messages,” Berninger told Vice. “They aren’t protests. We made t-shirts for Obama that said ‘Mr. November,’ but that song was actually written about John Kerry and how uncomfortable it must be to run for president. It must be so stressful and annoying to constantly play that role.”
Gorillaz – “November Has Come”
Songwriters: Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett, and Daniel Dumile
Genre: Alternative rock/hip-hop
This track from the British cartoon band co-created by Blur’s Damon Albarn features the late great masked rapper MF Doom spitting rhymes about the lackluster state of hip-hop circa 2005.
SZA – “Sweet November”
Songwriter: Solána Rowe
Genre: Alternative R&B
A single from SZA’s third EP, Z, “Sweet November” samples the Marvin Gaye instrumental “Mandota,” an outtake from the Let’s Get It On sessions. SZA got a blessing from the Gaye estate, and Marvin was credited as a producer.
The Waterboys – “November Tale”
Songwriters: Mike Scott and James Maddock
The Waterboys are a British folk-rock band perhaps best known for their sublime 1988 album Fisherman’s Blues and its hit title track. Singer-songwriter Mike Scott told Paste that “November Tale,” a single from their 2015 album Modern Blues, began as a folk-rock ballad with him strumming acoustic guitar.
“We had a guitar player in from Austin, Zach Ernst, and he’s very influenced by soul players from the ‘60s like Cornell Dupree. He brought a wonderful late-’60s Memphis kind of feel to it. Once I heard his playing, I shifted the rhythm of the song and brought it more into that vein.”
I don’t plan on making a list of December songs [Editor’s Note: Oh really…], but I do have some fun Christmas music content in store for you, so stay tuned to 360°Sound.