Top 10 Country Songs About Work
By now, hopefully you’ve clocked out and are well on your way to enjoying a relaxing Labor Day weekend. Whether you’re planning a barbecue or just looking forward to sitting on the couch for the first football games of the year, some good tunes would definitely improve your holiday — and even better if those tunes happen to be pretty relevant on Labor Day.
Whether you’re looking for a song to play at quittin’ time or are maybe ready to, as Johnny Paycheck would say, take your job and shove it, these 10 songs about working will provide an excellent soundtrack for when you’re playing hard once you’ve put in those 40 hours.
With her debut album Same Trailer, Different Park, Musgraves skewers small-town sacred cows. On “Blowin’ Smoke,” the singer’s depiction of a burnt-out waitress who catches a Vegas-bound bus feels uniquely accurate to those of us who have ever worked for tips or wanted to ditch our too-small hometowns.
Released in 1992, this Kershaw classic examines the juggling of work and life that working women do, and makes us wish that a “National Working Woman’s Holiday” actually existed. Since it doesn’t, we’ll have to settle for Labor Day.
Written by Ronnie Dunn and released in 1993, “Hard Workin’ Man” is an anthem for blue-collar workers — the ones who wear hardhats and steel-toed boots to work every day. The song peaked at No. 4 on the charts, but it remains one of the best songs around about a hard day’s work.
Released in 2003, Jackson’s ode to quitting time — even if it really isn’t quitting time — became an instant classic. The collaboration with Jimmy Buffett, who provided the song’s perfect beach-y vibe, earned Buffett and Jackson a Grammy nod for Best Country Collaboration With Vocals in 2004.
Written in 1973, this song about driving the long haul between San Antonio and Amarillo, Texas, became a hit when Strait released it more than a decade later. Considering that both co-writer Terry Stafford and King George each spent their time on the rodeo circuit, Strait’s version is quite the fitting cover.
“Take This Job and Shove It”
No list would be complete without the inclusion of this 1977 classic. Written by David Allan Coe and brought to No. 1 by Paycheck, “Take This Job and Shove It” details a feeling we’ve all had about one terrible job or another. Interestingly enough, Coe took a shot at Paycheck when he recorded his own version a year later, called “Take This Job and Shove It Too,” because Paycheck had misled people about who actually wrote the song.
This song was written and originally recorded by Merle Travis — it even went gold — but Ford’s No. 1 version is the definitive one. Featuring lines inspired by a letter from Travis’ brother (“You load sixteen tons, and what do you get? / Another day older and deeper in debt”) and a saying from Travis’ father (“I can’t afford to die, I owe my soul to the company store”), “Sixteen Tons” was added into the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry in 2015.
Butcher Holler’s most famous resident has never been shy about sharing her humble, small-town roots, starting with “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Written in 1969 and released on Lynn’s 1970 album of the same name, it’s long been her signature song. It also, of course, inspired the 1980 biopic of Lynn that earned Sissy Spacek a Best Actress win at the Academy Awards.
Written for the film starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and, of course, Parton, “9 to 5” became an instant hit after its release in 1980. It kicks off an entire album about the struggles of working folks, including “Poor Folks Town” and “Sing for the Common Man.” The song earned Parton four Grammy nominations, including two wins for Best Country Song and Best Female Country Vocal Performance, as well as an Academy Award nomination.
This work song has it all: “Workin’ Man Blues” is a superb example of the “Bakersfield sound” that Haggard helped popularize, became a No. 1 hit following its release as a single in the summer of 1969 and has endured with country music fans — and plenty outside the genre as well. And, really, who better to top this list than “the Poet of the Common Man”?