Labor Day Songs for the Working Men and Working Women of the World


Anybody else hauling 16 Tons at work these days?

We spend so much time of our lives at work and school. Hopefully we can all look back at what we have accomplished, goals we have met and feel proud. However, there are often times we wish we could be somewhere else. Shocking to say it on a business-related article but that’s the way I sometimes feel. Nobody that I know says “Thank God It’s Tuesday.” Entertainment rarely deals with work life. So when there have been songs that are about them, I take note. So here are some of my favorite songs in that genre.

This is Chuck Berry, in 1958, on American Bandstand singing School Days. As one YouTube commenter states; “I don’t think those kids realize what they’re witnessing….. ”

In our world today, nobody would be referred to as “The Gentleman From Tennessee.” When I was growing up, I do remember hearing 16 Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford. It wasn’t a current hit though it was a recent “oldie but a goody.” According to Billboard, it was #1 for 8 weeks in 1956. Hopefully your job is not this bad! If it is, let me plug the fact that I am an Executive Recruiter at BAP EXECUTIVE SEARCH LLC. It does express how hard it sometimes feels to work for a living, even if you’re not doing back-breaking labor. The song is a classic.

Donna Summer was one of the very biggest artists in the 1970s and peaked in 1979 with her Bad Girls album. Donna would still have some success in the 1980s and She Works Hard for The Money put her back in the top 3 in 1983 with a heavy rotation video for the new MTV Generation.

Maria Muldaur became a big star in 1973 with her song, Midnight at the Oasis, and her first self-titled Maria Muldaur album was a huge hit. One of the songs that I loved was The Work Song and I have also remembered it. I’ll certainly never forget now because Maria Muldaur is my Facebook Friend.

Our fathers worked very hard. They told us so themselves. But seriously folks…my father did work hard. The Smothers Brothers had a typical Smothers Brothers song called My Old Man. They start singing a very nice song about wanting a job like their father and to be like their father, Tom Smothers interrupts, Dick Smothers seems very annoyed and “it goes downhill from there.” In other words; it’s funny! I won’t post the complete version because the song is no longer politically correct. That version is available on YouTube. I will share My Old Man that is part of a nine minute folk music medley on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour which featured Peter, Paul & Mary and Donovan. When you get to it, it’s not exactly politically correct either.

Let’s get another politically incorrect song out of the way. Luxury by The Rolling Stones is from their It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll album. Mick Jagger is working hard for his boss, his woman, his daughter and “You can’t call me lazy, on a seven day a week/Make a million for the Texans, twenty dollar me.” Maybe you have had a job like that.

In February 1971, The Beach Boys were making a comeback and were about to appear at Carnegie Hall. Back in the days when radio was not programmed as now, the group appeared one evening on radio station WABC-FM (now WPLJ) for a couple of hours. They talked a lot, had fun and it was a treasure of an evening for a (still) young fan like me. They played some unreleased material including I Just Got My Pay. The group is happy on Friday at 5PM after they got paid “my take home comes to about $95” and they’re optimistic on a Monday morning too so good for them! It was released on their 1993 Box Set Greatest Hits.

I asked my wife if there was a song that I would like for this blog post (by now you get my style) and she remembered Bang The Drum All Day by Todd Rundgren. The anti-work song that you can do your best drum solo to since The Surfaris’ “Wipe Out.” On background are two of my all-time favorites, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman of The Turtles. When I ran an Accounting Department in 1984, I took a Friday off in the summer. I was suspicious when a young woman called a local radio station, said the boss was out and requested this song. So Marian, if you’re reading this, was that you?

The next time you go on a job interview and they tell you it’s not a 9 to 5 job, show your talent and sing Five O’clock World by The Vogues.

People don’t stay in offices that late anymore. They usually bring their work home. If you feel you’re working, working, working day and night, you can break the tension, and take a break and sing this 10 minute live version of Michael Jackson’s Working Day and Night from his Off the Wall album.

If you’re tired of taking the 8:15 into the city and if your train’s on time, you can get to work by nine and start your slaving job to get your pay, then Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s Takin’ Care of Business gives a rosy view of being a freelancer.

We’ll end this on a happy note with The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night. Yes, John, Paul, George and Ringo are working hard “But when I get home to you I find the things that you do/Will make me feel alright.” Yes, it’s old fashioned because “I work all day to get you money to buy you things.” However, the tone is a lot more upbeat than Tennessee Ernie Ford’s 16 Tons.


Have a great Labor Day weekend!




BAP EXECUTIVE SEARCH LLC specializes in placing public relations, communications, investor relations, marketing and social media professionals in mid- to senior level professionals at corporations, public relations firms and non-profits across all industries in full-time positions.


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