It doesn’t have to be Labor Day, which is the September national holiday celebrating those in the work force, it can be anytime of the year. These 10 selected songs honor those who go to work five days throughout the week working a total of 40 hours or less. They’re the fortunate ones with what seems to be secure jobs, being gainfully employed, and for those in labor type or blue collar career fields. You could say some of the pop, rock or country tunes range from attitudes of "heigh-ho, heigh-ho" to slacking off to pure disdain about the workplace in general.
Now with an increasing anxiety of many jobs still being discontinued or outsourced domestically and globally, not to mention downsized altogether, this song list about work may seem dated, obsolete and a painful memory. Nevertheless, it can also be a way to remember happier times. This is a dedication songs list to those still fortunate enough to have jobs in these tough economic times. Some of them come from a time when jobs were so plentiful it was inconceivable we'd be in this predicament. You’ll find songs coming from various eras starting in the mid-’60s to the early ‘80s. Even if you don't want to be reminded of work, these 10 hits are still fun to listen to.
10.) "A Hard Day's Night” - The Beatles (1964)
What a perfect opener from a fabulous pop and rock band about working like a dog. The title of the song came from an expression by the band’s drummer Ringo Starr. They would start out working when it was daytime, then not realize when they finished it was well into the night. If this isn't the perfect work song lyrically, then what is? A film of the same name was also made that became a critical and box office success. “A Hard Day’s Night” is still shown on music cable TV channels such as VH1 Classics. This #1 song in both the U.S. and the UK is infectious and fun even after 50 years since its release. You won’t even realize it's about working hard and long into the night.
9.) "Bang the Drum All Day” - Todd Rundgren (1983)
You've probably heard this song on some television ads like the Carnival Cruise Line. Todd Rundgren wrote it as a party song. His record label had no desire to release it, because they felt it was a novelty song that wasn’t to be taken seriously. Somehow it grew in popularity. It has some memorable lyrics such as “I don't want to work, I want to bang on the drum all day,” and “And I pound on that drum like it was the boss's head.” “Bang the Drum All Day” is about not wanting to work, but to just have fun. No doubt a lot of people can relate to that.
8.) “Working Day and Night” - Michael Jackson (1979)
From MJ’s “Off the Wall” album, a precursor to “Thriller,” came about this heavily played B-side of “Rock with You.” ”Working Day and Night” has to be one of Jackson’s fastest songs ever recorded and performed live. It’s definitely a great motivator to listen to when you’re at work. The music and the lyrics will have you dancing off the wall.
7.) "Back on the Chain Gang” - The Pretenders (1982)
This is actually a tribute song to the Pretenders late guitarist. In “Back on the Chain Gang” you hear in the chorus some sound effects that are reminiscent to working on a chain gang with the call and response type chant. The title is also reminiscent of how one sometimes says "I have to go back to the chain gang or salt mines" when referring to going back to work.
6.) "Working Class Hero” - John Lennon (1970)
In typical Lennon fashion, here’s one of his angrier songs about the working man and woman. It also features the f-bomb, a word of caution for those who don't know about its lyrics. That's how fed-up he is in “Working Class Hero.” 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)
Originally it was to be 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. “Takin’ Care of Business” was the song used in Home Depot TV commercials.
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. “Workin’ for a Livin’” is a straightforward tribute to the working man and woman. This is one of Huey Lewis and the News’ earliest hits. The record label they were with at the time was having financial troubles. Instead of handing their recording tapes over, the band went on tour themselves playing to small venues. After their label recovered everyone had great success. Hard work does pay off after all.
3.) "Take This Job and Shove It” - Johnny Paycheck (1978)
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. This country tune became a number one hit and had some constant airplay on Top 40 pop radio stations. “Take this Job and Shove It” tells 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)
Why people work in the first place? It's for the weekend. It's a song that's relevant today as it was in the early 1980s. It will never get old. Lover Boy band member Paul Dean, one of the songwriters for “Working for the Weekend,” was inspired when he went for a walk in a place that’s usually very populated during the weekend. It happened to be a work day in the middle of the week and no one was around. Another time Dean went to the beach on a weekday and it was deserted. That’s when he got inspired and came up with the song title “Working for the Weekend.” Everyone must be working and waiting for the weekend.
1.) "9 to 5” - Dolly Parton (1980)
Following on the heels of another country crossover into pop song is this excellent high-energy movie theme classic from start to finish. It’s Dolly Parton’s ode about women in the workforce. Finally we come to a song that was released 35 years ago, but is also extremely relevant today. Dolly wrote it specifically for the feature film of the same name.
It's a comedy about three secretaries, now called personal assistants, in a high-rise office. Dolly plays the executive secretary to the head boss of the company. The lyrics truly tell you what the plot is about. In “9 to 5” you see the technology is vastly outdated with the ladies still using typewriters. Unfortunately the office politics that’s conveyed in the song and film has never gone out of style.