Yeah, Labor Day is coming up, which means you get one extra day away from that ball and chain known as work. There have been many a song written about work, usually the disdain of it. So I thought you might want a few songs for your Labor Day playlist:
Maggie’s Farm–Bob Dylan:
This borders on “Take This Job And Shove It” territory, except while Bob is telling us he won’t be working on this woman’s farm any longer, he apparently did quite a job while he was there and clearly understands the family dynamic of this farm. Man, they are mean!
Workin’ For MCA–Lynyrd Skynyrd:
At least the guys in Lynyrd Skynyrd knew which label they were on. And there are plenty of bands out there who got royally screwed by their labels. These guys seemed to have a decent long term relationship and they admit to signing the contract, and keeping an eye on where their money was going. So maybe this is just a warning shot, or a statement of purpose. Still gutsy to write such a direct song to the hand that feeds you…
A Hard Day’s Night– The Beatles
The workingman’s lament carefully couched in the particulars of a love song. The foursome’s natural exuberance doesn’t lose any of it’s authenticity. This is, after all, a celebration of a girl who’s totally worthy of making you “work all day to get you money to buy you things.”
Chain Gang–Sam Cooke:
Ah, the sound of the men working on the chain gang and then it’s all grunts and rhythm. Almost makes it sound like fun. Well, not exactly. The one thing no one talks about when discussing chain gangs is how crazy and dangerous your co-workers are likely to be.
It’s often hard to understand an R.E.M. song. I think you are invited to come up with your own interpretations. And this one, if its title is to be believed, is a work song and not just any work song but the finest one. And I couldn’t in good conscience put together a list of the best work songs and not include the finest one. So that’s why this one’s here.
And just for the groove, which happens to make it one of my favorite R.E.M. songs.
Working For The Weekend--Loverboy
Technically, not everyone works for the weekend. Someone has to work ON the weekend in order for those who don’t be served food and drinks when they are out. Musicians usually work on weekends and the mall is filled with stores and clerks who work weekends. But if you sing it with tight red leather pants and a headband apparently it makes it okay.
Taking Care of Business –Bachman Turner Overdrive
A grooving number propelled by it’s memorable 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!
Working Class Hero–John Lennon:
To say this is one of John Lennon’s “angrier” songs would be an understatement of epic proportions. Also to think that he wrote the lines “Keep you doped with religion, sex, and TV” back before Cable TV was the norm is mind-boggling. It’s like HE KNEW. Ironically, he always watched lots of television.
Bang on the Drum All Day– Todd Rundgren
Todd Rundgren wrote it as a party song. The song is about not wanting to work, but to just have fun. I think a lot of people can relate to that.
Back On The Chain Gang—The Pretenders
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. The title refers to 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 one of my favorite songs by The Pretenders.
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.”
Just Got Paid—ZZ Top
ZZ Top tells it like it is when it comes to getting paid; it’s nice to get that money after all of that work, but it’s also bittersweet knowing what you had to go through to get that pocket full of change.
Signs– Five Man Electrical Band
This whole song doesn’t focus on jobs or work as much as others on this list, but I love the lyrics about applying for a job. When a young man sees a sign that says “long-haired freaky people need not apply,” he tucks his long hair under his hat, goes inside, and lands the job. Then he takes off his hat, lets his hair down, and says, “imagine that, me working for you.” PSYCHE!
Got any other “working” songs to add?