In honor of the Labor Day holiday, I’ve revised a previous attempt at the impossible task of naming the best songs ever written about working people. The list is highly debatable; songs about working and working people cut across musical genres and generations. I know it’s a travesty to not include “Which Side Are You On?” or Johnny Paycheck’s classic “Take This Job and Shove It.” I also feel terrible neglecting Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg, Nina Simone and John Mellencamp and giving short shrift to the rich history of punk rock odes to the insanity of wage slavery. Hopefully, these songs will get you thinking about your own favorite musical celebrations of the blood, sweat and tears that exemplify the working condition. Please use the comments field below to let me know what I missed.
1. Pete Seeger, Solidarity Forever
2. Sweet Honey in the Rock, More Than a Paycheck
3. The Clash, Career Opportunities
4. Tennessee Ernie Ford, Sixteen Tons
5. Judy Collins, Bread and Roses
6. Dolly Parton, 9 to 5
7. Woody Guthrie, Union Burying Ground
8. Phil Ochs, The Ballad of Joe Hill
9. Hazel Dickens, Fire in the Hole
10. Gil Scott-Heron, Three Miles Down
Bonus Track #1: The Kinks, Get Back in Line
Bonus Track #2: Paul Robeson, Joe Hill
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