Recently it was Labor Day which is the national holiday celebrating those in the work force. Also, my local oldies radio station has what is called “Friday Festivities”. This is where they celebrate the upcoming weekend with playing a lot of zany songs relating to work, jobs and employment. They’ve been doing this for over twenty years now and it’s still as popular as ever. Much of the ten songs featured on this song list about work come from the “Friday Festivities”.
However, with a lot of jobs being outsourced domestically and globally, not to mention downsized altogether, the song list may seem dated, obsolete and a painful memory. I can certainly relate to this wholeheartedly. Nevertheless, it can also be a way to remember the happier times. This is a dedication song to those still fortunate enough to have jobs in these tough economic times. Some of the songs come from a time when jobs were so plentiful it was inconceivable we’d be in this predicament. These are excellent songs from various eras starting from the late 50s to the early 80s. Even if you don’t want to be reminded of work they are fun to listen to.
10.) A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles (1964)
What a prefect opener from a fabulous pop band about working like a dog. The title of the song came from an expression by Ringo. They would start out working when it was daytime and not realize when they finished it was well into the night. If this isn’t the perfect work song lyrically I don’t know what one is? A film of the same name was also made that was a critical and box office success. It is still shown on some music channels such as VH1 Classics. This #1 song in both the U.S. and the UK is infectious and fun, even if it’s about working hard.
9.) Bang the Drum All Day – Todd Rundgren (1983)
You’ve probably heard this song on the Carnival Cruise Line television commercial. Todd Rundgren wrote it as a party song and it’s used continuously for the “Friday Festivities” on my local oldies radio station as the opener. The song is about not wanting to work, but to just have fun. I think a lot of people can relate to that.
8.) Get A Job – The Silhouettes (1958)
Talk about an oldie but goodie from the early days of rock and roll. This is sung in the doo-wop style on a topic that is always timeless and that is to “get a job”. Well, it would be nice if there were plenty to choose from during the 21st century. The song features some great harmonies and unique vocalizations.
7.) Back on the Chain Gang – The Pretenders (1982)
Chrissie Hynde is one of my favorite vocalists, because she sings with such emotional depth. This is actually a tribute song to their late guitarist. In the song you hear in the chorus sound effects that are reminiscent to working on a chain gang with the call and response type chant. The title reminds me of how you sometimes say “I have to go back to the chain gang or salt mines” when referring to going back to work. It’s actually one of my favorite songs by The Pretenders.
6.) Working Class Hero – John Lennon (1970)
In typical Lennon fashion here is one of his angrier songs about the working man and woman. It also features the f-bomb word, so I’m cautioning those who don’t know about the lyrics. That’s how fed-up he is in the song. In 2007 Green Day recorded their cover version as a tribute. Coincidentally John Lennon also wrote the song “Hard Day’s Night” that was featured earlier in the list. Even though Lennon/McCartney always got credited together it was in fact John’s composition.
5.) Takin’ Care of Business – Bachman-Turner Overdrive (1973)
Here is a song about going to work that was originally titled “White Collar Worker”. The singer/songwriter Randy Bachman was listening to the radio when the DJ said they were “taking care of business”. Instantly that gave him the idea for a new song title and a great hook to use. The phrase “Takin’ care of business” is now part of our pop culture slang to mean taking responsibility and doing good work. Even though the song could be interpreted as working hard and studiously, it can also refer to slacking off as well. It all depends on your point of view.
4.) Workin’ for a Livin’ – Huey Lewis and the News (1982)
The quintessential work song about spending your paycheck before getting it and never getting paid what you’re worth. Lyrically it is completely accurate and spot on. No sugar coating on this one. It’s also another song featured on my oldies radio “Friday Festivities” every week. During the 80s I was a huge fan of Huey Lewis and the News.
3.) Take this Job and Shove It – Johnny Paycheck (1977)
What more can you say about the song’s title? It spells it all out on how one feels at times about a job, employment and work. Naturally this is the anthem on the “Friday Festivities”. The lyrics tell the story of how things got so bad over the years for the songwriter to get to this point. It’s a true honky-tonk song you can cry in your beer over.
2.) Working for the Weekend – Lover Boy (1981)
An excellent high energy song from start to finish about why people work in the first place, it’s for the weekend. I fell in love with this song when I first heard it on the “Friday Festivities”. Sometime recently I heard it being used in a television commercial. It’s a song that’s relevant today as it was in the early 80s. It will never get old.
1.) 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton (1980)
Finally we come to a song that is thirty years old, but is also extremely relevant today. Dolly Parton wrote the song specifically for the film of the same name. It’s a comedy about three secretaries, now called personal assistants, in an office. Dolly plays the executive secretary to the head boss of the company. The lyrics truly tell you what the plot is about. In the film you see the technology is vastly outdated with the ladies still using typewriters. Unfortunately the office politics that the song makes a dig at never go out of style.
Some of these songs may be nostalgic while some you may not have heard of. These are the top ten songs about work, employment, jobs and labor. You can download any or all of them at www.amazon.com or at www.iTunes.com. They’re not just for Labor Day, but for any work occasion or at your own leisure.
Aida Ekberg, “Top 20 Songs About the Stages of Work for Labor Day”, Associated Content from Yahoo!
Broadcast Yourself, YouTube
Song Meanings at Songfacts, Songfacts