Work!

As the musical accompaniment for the Work Symposium, the esteemed Burt Likko, Esq. suggested a post full of songs about work and working. Several OT contributors offered their picks, and here they are:

From Mike Schilling

The Kinks – “Shangri-la”

And from me, since we’re doing The Kinks:

The Kinks – “Well Respected Man”

From Patrick

Rose Royce – “Car Wash”

Dolly Parton = “9 to 5”

Can I just say that I love Dolly Parton? Yes, I can. I love Dolly Parton.

Sheryl Crow – “All I Wanna Do”

Rush – “Working Man”

Loverboy – “Workin’ For the Weekend”

From Professor James Hanley

Donna Summer – “She Works Hard for the Money”

From Glyph, non-slacker

Superchunk – “Slack Motherfucker

The Clash – “Clampdown”

Glyph included some lyrics from “Clampdown”:

The men at the factory are old and cunning
You don’t owe nothin’, boy get runnin’
It’s the best years of your life they want to steal.

And from me (no politics! even if this is obviously my politics):

Pete Seeger – “Solidarity”

Tennessee Ernie Ford – “Sixteen Tons”

Woodie Guthrie – “Union Burying Ground”

Billy Bragg – “There Is Power In a Union”

The Band – “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)”

Bob Dylan – “Maggie’s Farm

Leadbelly – “John Henry”

Woody Guthrie – “Farmer Labor Train”

Woody Guthrie – “1913 Massacre”

Hazel Dickens – “Black Lung”

My great grandfather died of black lung from working in coal mines. Actually, he was dying from it, and hung himself. No politics, right?

Pete Seeger and the Almanac Singers – “Casey Jones (Union Scab)”

Harry Belafonte – “Banana Boat Song”

Talib Kweli – “Get By” (This has an n-word or two, and some other bad words, so beware.)

We sell, crack to our own out the back of our homes
We smell the musk of the dusk in the crack of the dawn
We go through episodes too, like Attack of the Clones
Work til we break our back and you hear the crack of the bone
To get by, just to get by.

So what working songs have you got?

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
Share

32 thoughts on “Work!

  1. A lot of Stan Rogers’ songs are about working (my favorite is Barrett’s Privateers, which I have sung on a stage or two and in many more pubs.)

    For some reason, I am thinking a lot tonight about the forms of work that used to be very satisfying for people I knew (even if they were also very hard), and which are fading away now, at least in the context in which they still thrived when I was little and living in Atlantic Canada, and so both this song and the Great Big Sea song I will post in a minute are about that.

    Here’s a song about small farming. Farms are just kind of part of life for a country kid where I grew up. Some of my happiest memories of my earliest years involve my dad’s berry farming and the workers and owners I tagged along after (someone let me help drive the forklift!). When I was a somewhat older kid, we lived with my grandmother for a couple of years, and I spent a lot of time with two really old farmers who lived down the road (they were brothers, both bachelors), following them about, riding on their tractor, making faces at their milk that came straight from the cow, befriending their small animals, and generally making a pest of myself. After that it was more piecemeal. We helped with hayings and things, sometimes. One thing this song doesn’t talk about is how many people sort of farmed, even if it wasn’t what they “really did” for a living: we had horses in our fields who belonged to a neighbor who worked full time, but also raised beef cows (he bartered one for the pasturing every year); with the horses, he sold the foals to both show hobbyists and people who had work for them to do, and also sold the pregnant mares’ urine – all very practical, but he also kept his old gelding long past his working / showing days, and treated him like a faithful hound (I loved that horse); my aunt and uncle worked part time as a dietician and an artificial inseminator, but mostly what they did was garden, large scale enough to feed themselves and their friends, and they had a horse and two goats; plenty of our neighbors had marriages where one partner stayed home and managed the fields/livestock/children all on their own and another partner worked full time and then helped out as soon as they got home at night and on the weekends….

    Anyway, this is Stan Rogers, “Field Behind the Plow”.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • And, although without talking about politics the only thing I can really say is that one of my uncles was a lobster fisherman until the big boats rui^H^H^H^H^H^H until the fisheries got decimated, here’s Chris Frizzell’s rousing cover of Great Big Sea’s Fisherman’s Lament:

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • PS Back when the band was young, Sean McCann usually introduced this song by talking about his own dad, and how he just basically set his fathers’ rants, and those of his fathers’ friends, to rhyme and music. Which, I think, is the grand power of a folk song, whether or not it’s political at all – to take not just your own experiences, but those of your dear ones, and make them into something that will last and spread.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Oh here’s one more, because while it has never been among my favorite Stan Rogers songs, I am ruefully amused by the echoes: this song is about 30 years or more old, but it describes the experiences of people my youngest sister’s age and younger as much as it did the young people of the 70s: a song about going west to work with oil and gas, instead of giving up on being employed in the economically depressed east.

        Stan Rogers, The Idiot:

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • My father was a fisherman
        My mama was a fisherman’s friend
        And I was born in the boredom
        And the chowder
        So when I reached my prime
        I left my home in the Maritimes
        Headed down the turnpike for
        New England, sweet New England

          Quote  Link

        Report

    • Maribou, love the songs, and while the place where I grew was in many ways very different from the one where you did, I see much of the same change and loss that you do.

      It was also a community in which many people who weren’t farmers “farmed” in some way. If they didn’t have some livestock, they may have worked part time, during the various harvest seasons, on a farm for extra money. The tobacco farms, for example, largely used local youth to harvest, so that a large portion of the people who grew up there had some experience harvesting tobacco by the time they finished high school.

        Quote  Link

      Report

  2. I look forward to listening to all of the old songs you’ve posted, Chris. But I’m a bit miffed that you overlooked BTO’s Takin’ Care of Business and Loverboy’s Working for the Weekend.

      Quote  Link

    Report

  3. Can’t believe I forgot

    And

    And

    And

    And

    And

    And

    And

    (Also, it’s funny how “Slack MF-er” got misinterpreted as a slacker anthem, when Mac is about the furthest from a slacker there is and the song’s pretty explicitly anti-slacker. It was written about a lazy coworker at Kinko’s).

      Quote  Link

    Report

      • Just saying that trashing a man who sacrificed his life to save others does not reflect terribly well on Joe Hill, especially since Jones’ widow was alive and well at the time. He could have just made up a name.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • Eh, I can understand that perspective. Hill was using the song celebrating Jones to make a point about an ongoing strike, and I think it’s effective, but like I said in the post, it’s my politics. Plus I think it’s funny, and we’re pretty damn far removed now. But I do see what you’re saying.

          Quote  Link

        Report

    • For those who don’t know, Casey Jones was an engineer who stayed aboard his train in order to slow it down before it hit another train that had stalled on the track. Before doing so, he told the rest of the crew to jump. He was able to slow it enough to prevent any passenger fatalities, and consequently his was the only life lost. As far as I can tell, that he died is the only actual fact in that song.

        Quote  Link

      Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *