Top 10 Labor Day Songs about Working Your Butt Off
Sean Patrick Dooley
Happy Labor Day weekend, American Gibson fans! (And happy weekend to all Gibson fans worldwide.) In honor of the Labor Day holiday in the U.S., we felt it apropos to look at some of the top “working” songs of all time. Now, before you get your knickers in a bunch about what’s missing (“How dare you leave off Roy Orbison’s ‘Working for the Man’ or Sheena Easton’s ‘9 to 5 (Morning Train)’”), keep in mind that these are merely the opinions of one hard-working Gibson editor. Your “Top 10 Best Working Songs” might be entirely different (and, ergo, ridiculously wrong!).
Happy Labor Day, friends!
1. Johnny Paycheck, “Take this Job and Shove It”
With those six simple words, Johnny Paycheck voiced what everyone who’s ever punched a time-clock, dug a ditch, cleaned a bedpan (etc.) has felt like saying at one time or another. The mother of all “work sucks!” songs.
2. Rush, “Working Man”
The song that really broke Rush in the U.S., “Working Man” resonated with blue collar stiffs everywhere, who readily identified with its timeless message: “I get up at seven, yeah/And I go to work at nine/I got no time for livin’/Yes, I’m workin’ all the time.”
3. Loverboy, “Working for the Weekend”
Gotta give Loverboy props on “Working for the Weekend,” one of the most kick-ass “can’t-wait-till-Friday” tunes of all time. Where most work songs focus on the drudgery of the moment, Loverboy keeps our eyes focused on the prize: Friday night two-for-one margaritas then sleeping in late Saturday morning.
4. Merle Haggard, “Working Man Blues”
No other singer-songwriter, save for maybe Johnny Cash, has tapped into the mindset of the working man (and woman) as keenly as Merle Haggard. “Working Man Blues” is the Hag’s Mona Lisa of “working too much for too little” songs.
5. Bachman Turner Overdrive, “Taking Care of Business”
A grooving number propelled by great lyrics, “Taking Care of Business” has more of a white-collar, citified-vibe to the timeless notion of toiling one’s precious hours away for the man. And the song’s lesson is timeless, too: Learn to play the guitar, man! Duh!
6. The Beatles, “A Hard Day’s Night”
Written by John Lennon with an assist by Paul, the seed for “A Hard Day’s Night” came from something Ringo told a disc jockey in 1964. In talking about the band having just worked all day and night, he said it had been “a hard day,” only to look around and notice it was dark. So he added “…night!” Genius comes in many forms. Thanks, Ringo!
7. Bob Dylan, “Maggie’s Farm”
At its essence, a protest song Dylan wrote to rail against the folk movement, “Maggie’s Farm” casts Dylan as the working man and the folk music scene as, well, the man. Despite the personal nature of the symbolism (Dylan vs. the folk establishment), laypeople latched onto the basic sentiment of the message: workplace oppression sucks, regardless of its form.
8. Donna Summer, “She Works Hard for the Money”
If the video for Donna Summer’s signature tune taught us anything, it’s that after a long hard day of toil and sweat, it’s always best to take to the streets and bust out a mega-choreographed dance number.
9. Dolly Parton, “9 to 5”
Dolly Parton penned the title track to the movie 9 to 5 while trying to stave off boredom on the movie’s set. One can only endure so many custom, air-conditioned trailers and catered meals before losing one’s mind. It was the biggest hit of Dolly’s singing career.
10. Sam Cooke, “Chain Gang”
Sam Cooke’s painful lyrics (“Hooh! Aah! Hooh! Aah!/That’s the sound of the men/working on the chain ga-a-ang”) are synonymous with hard back-breaking work under blazing hot sun. It’s hard to hear “Chain Gang” and not feel a tinge of that exhaustion in your bones.