It’s time to clock in—we’ve got 10 hard-working songs to help you celebrate Labor Day.
Country music throughout the decades has not only embraced its working class roots, it’s made a point to praise them. Yes, work is tough, as Merle Haggard wrote in “Workin’ Man’s Blues,” but hard work and sticking to it also represents a badge of pride. That’s why so many country songs are devoted to the working class. As we observe Labor Day on Sept. 7, here are 10 country songs that truly get to the heart of the working man and woman.
“Lord Have Mercy on the Working Man”
Travis Tritt’s spin on the working man’s anthem highlights the economic imbalance of working people and the wealthy. The working man breaks his back to break even, while the wealthy man dances unawares. It’s as relevant today as it was in ’92.
“Call the Captain”
Steep Canyon Rangers
The Steep Canyon Rangers’ despondent bluegrass ballad about the perils of coalmining sounds like it could have been written a century earlier. Within that turn-of-the-century aura is the relatable everyman struggle of yearning for a better life outside of the mines where there are clear blue skies and a whole lot more.
Kenny’s touching tune about the daily struggles of a factory worker with a family of nine serves as a poignant reminder that it’s OK to dream bigger, but don’t forget to be thankful for what you have. That’s why Papa got down on his knees and prayed, Please help me through another day / Thank you, Lord, for my job down at the factory.
Let’s be honest. Every job, no matter how much you love it, can be a grind now and then, but if you’re on your feet all day slingin’ hash, making less than minimum wage and pulling doubles for the tips, the grinds are a little greater. Kacey nails the attitude of a waitress who doesn’t have a damn left to give.
Kenny Chesney & George Strait
Holding down inconvenient hours at the convenience store is nothing but a bunch of shiftwork. And they are saying “shiftwork,” right? Because the way they extend the first syllable almost sounds like . . . well, you get the picture. Amazing how a song about the monotony of everyday work can actually sound fresh and non-repetitious.
“Long Hot Summer Day”
The Turnpike Troubadours took the John Hartford bluegrass ditty, which harkens back to the Twainesque era of working on barges and tugboats, and punched it up with an electrifying fiddle solo and boot-stomping beat that almost makes working on the Illinois River in the summer heat sound idyllic.
“Coal Miner’s Daughter”
This iconic tune was pure biography for Loretta—born into a family of eight kids in Appalachia, Loretta witnessed her coal mining father breaking his back to put food on the table. Her mother’s hands bled from the washboard she used on the clothes. Luxuries for the kids were few and life was hard, but Loretta remains defiantly proud of how she grew up.
“Hard Workin’ Man”
Brooks & Dunn
It’s good to take pride in your work, which is exactly what Brooks & Dunn say in the title track of their sophomore album. The people they describe end each day with calloused hands and sweat on their brows, but still look forward to getting up the next day just to do it again.
“Workin’ Man’s Blues”
Merle wrote this as a tribute to the folks that largely made up his core audience: the blue-collar working class. It’s part lament and part declaration of pride, as Merle brilliantly describes the can’t-get-out-from-under existence of the average working guy. That’s the working man to a “T.”
“9 to 5″
Even in the corporate world, anyone not at the top of the food chain is drained of valuable resources and slowly ground down one day at a time. Dolly masterfully illustrated that in her Grammy-winning classic from the film of same name: they use your mind and they never give you credit, she says, but the workers keep showing up. But in keeping with the buoyant, danceable disco beat of the tune, there’s a sliver of hope in Dolly’s message. The boss can’t take away your dreams, and one of these days the tide is going to turn for the better. It almost sounds like she’s talking about revolution.
photos by AFF-USA.com