In honor of Labor Day, here are some songs about working. A common theme is to remember the value of labor provided by others and yourself. The work you do is more than a job. It is a portion of your life.
Many people have Labor Day Monday off, unlike the typical “Manic Monday” that The Bangles sing about.
John Lennon‘s use of profanity in his solo 1970 song “Working Class Hero” inspired a Federal Communications Commission complaint. As other songs below indicate, it’s not all that uncommon to associate “rough” language with job satisfaction. Radio stations adopted an edited version. The version below contains the F-words left in.
One of the classic odes to the struggle of working is Dolly Parton‘s theme song from the 1980 film “Nine to Five.” Technology changes make the song dated, such as the sound of typewriters, but the sentiment lingers for some.
“Take This Job and Shove It” by Johnny Paycheck. Another country song, this questions the purpose of working hard if one isn’t able to enjoy the reasons for living, including relationships and the ability to live without fear and debt.
The blues-rock song “Workin’ for a Livin'” by Huey Lewis also laments the feeling of trading effort for too little reward. Also check out this later duet of the same song, with Garth Brooks.
Don Williams sings about a working woman in “Maggie’s Dream.”
Donna Summer reminds people that “She Works Hard for the Money,” so they’d better treat the working woman right.
A song about the pull of the heart while on the job is Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.”
Bill Joel sang of giving up the workaday life in “Movin’ Out,” which is also known as “Anthony’s Song.”
Lee Dorsey’s “Working in a Coal Mine” is about labor that is so exhausting that enjoying non-work time isn’t possible.
Tennessee Ernie Ford also sings about heavy labor in “Sixteen Tons.” Some company stores, owned by the employer, would charge workers so much that they would go into debt.
Not all songs characterize work as miserable or disappointing. Especially Disney’s “Heigh Ho” and “Whistle While You Work,” both from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”
Master of Mockery Weird Al Yankovic “praised” the corporate culture in “Dog Eat Dog.”
Feel sorry for the musicians of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, who are “Takin’ Care of Business.”
Dire Straits also celebrated the creative industry with “Money for Nothing.”
ZZ Top sings about one of the rewards of working, and rocks with guitar and drums, in “Just Got Paid.”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis remind people to “Make the Money” but don’t let the money make you. This version includes uncensored profanity.
As you celebrate Labor Day, remember that the country was built and runs on those who work, so honor them and yourself.
Al Jolson sings “Brother Can You Spare a Dime.”