It goes without saying how important work is. This is an integral part of our lives, a means of survival, a source of income. For many others, it gives their lives a purpose and a sense of identity.
Songwriters have captured these sentiments into timeless songs that encapsulate the grind and the hustle, and triumphs and challenges. They are the anthems for workers everywhere.
And so we have compiled 35 of the best songs about work. What are we waiting for? Read on!
1. “9 To 5” By Dolly Parton
If there’s a song that encapsulates the experience of many people who work long hours for little pay, it’s Dolly Parton‘s “9 to 5.” It exposes frustrations and inequities in the workplace, including gender inequality and unequal distribution of power.
“9 to 5” not only speaks about the daily grind but also about ambition and the frustrations of working life. It’s a commentary on the realities of working 9 to 5, that despite working for hours, one barely gets by.
The narrator also complains that “it’s all takin’ and no givin’.” Despite the hard work, she is not given credit for a job well done. Instead of “a fat promotion” for rendering service, the boss keeps taking from her. This reflects the reality that most people endured at that time.
2. “Work Hard, Play Harder” By Gretchen Wilson
The up-tempo song “Work Hard, Play Harder” by Gretchen Wilson is all about celebrating the balance between hard work and enjoying life.
The lyrics find the narrator working hard throughout the week. She devotes Monday to Thursday to laborious tasks, from having a full-time job to doing odd jobs on the side. But when weekends come, it’s time to let loose and enjoy the fruits of her labor.
Fridays to Sundays are for unwinding and having fun. The narrator calls her friends to party and spend her hard-earned money. This embodies the “work hard, play harder” ethos.
3. “Working Man” By Rush
The 1974 single “Working Man” by the rock band Rush reflects what many of us go through each day. We are stuck in a mundane life that consists of going to work, going home, and doing it all over again the following days.
The song represents the voice of the blue-collar worker who spends long hours at work, leaving little time for personal life or enjoyment. He has “no time for living'” because he’s “working all the time.”
The lyrics convey the drudgery of working life and how it can affect other aspects of life. In the case of the narrator, he acknowledges that he could live his life “a lot better” but has no strength to act on it.
4. “Chain Gang” By Sam Cooke
Singer-songwriter Sam Cooke‘s second biggest hit is “Chain Gang.” The title refers to a group of prisoners chained together to perform work as punishment. Cooke was inspired to pen the song after seeing a chain gang of prisoners while on tour.
This song provides a look into the harsh realities of forced labor. Here, the “work” being referred to is backbreaking, monotonous labor under difficult conditions. The lyrics depict the hardship and drudgery that the workers faced.
Notably, the nature of forced labor contrasts with the idea of work as a means of personal fulfillment or societal contribution. Instead, it paints a picture of work as a form of punishment devoid of any reward.
5. “Take This Job And Shove It” By Johnny Paycheck
If you’re working for a toxic boss, then you’ve probably dreamed about quitting in a dramatic fashion. And what better way to do that than tell him, according to Johnny Paycheck‘s song, “Take This Job and Shove It”?
The lyrics find the narrator feeling frustrated for being undervalued or overworked in an oppressive work environment. He has reached his breaking point due to dissatisfaction with his job. He had been working at the factory for 15 years but not getting enough pay for his bills.
To make matters worse, he has lost his woman, the only reason why he was working hard. This, coupled with the lack of reward for hard work, prompts him to tell his boss to “shove” the job while he walks away.
6. “Work Bitch” By Britney Spears
The motivational anthem “Work Bitch” by Britney Spears drives home the point that effort and determination are essential to achieve your dreams. It says that if you want something, then you have to work for it.
This song with “work” in the title has a line that says, “You better work, bitch.” It highlights the idea that nothing comes easily in life. Nothing is handed to us. We need to hustle if we want the fine things in life.
So if you want a fit body or material things, hard work is the key to achieving them. Spears is alluding to the things she has attained because of working hard, such as a hot body, a Lamborghini, and a lavish lifestyle. In this context, work is a tool to achieve personal success and fulfillment.
7. “Working Man Blues” By Merle Haggard
A song dedicated to blue-collar workers hustling every day for a weekly paycheck is Merle Haggard‘s “Working Man Blues.” It paints a picture of a hardworking individual’s everyday life, highlighting the pride and struggles associated with manual labor.
The lyrics describe the narrator as someone who is committed to his work despite the toll and monotony of his job. He has been working nearly all his life, but there’s no stopping now, particularly since he has nine kids and a wife to support.
In the context of work, the song depicts it not just as a tool for survival but as a source of identity and pride as well. It acknowledges the value of manual labor and celebrates those who dedicate their lives to it.
8. “Working For The Weekend” By Loverboy
Released in 1981, Loverboy‘s “Waiting for the Weekend” is a classic that captures the anticipation and excitement for the arrival of the weekend.
The song emphasizes the routine and often monotonous nature of the workweek. We work hard from Mondays to Fridays so that we can relax, be free, and have fun on the weekend. Thus, the idea of working for the weekend.
The song also suggests that the promise of the weekend is what motivates people to get through their workweek. We often find ourselves counting down the days until we can be free from our professional responsibilities.
9. “16 Tons” By Merle Travis
American musician Merle Travis wrote “16 Tons” as inspired by a coal miner, drawing from life in the mines of Kentucky. The song reflects on the harsh realities of labor exploitation and the plight of coal miners trapped in a cycle of hard work and perpetual debt.
“Sixteen tons” is a practice of initiating new miners during the mid-1920s. Old miners hauled eight to ten tons per day, but new miners could haul 16 on their first day.
However, the working environment at the time was oppressive. Even if they could haul 16 tons, they still ended up deeper in debt. This reflects the lack of progress despite their back-breaking effort.
10. “Drinking Class” By Lee Brice
Despite the “drinking” in the title, Lee Brice‘s “Drinking Class” is not about this practice. Rather, it is about the hard-working people who get up early and work hard.
The song’s narrator celebrates the camaraderie and shared experiences of the working class. He highlights the resilience and spirit of these people despite the challenging demands of their jobs. They remain proud and united, finding joy and relaxation in simple pleasures such as music and drinks.
Notably, the song carries an undertone of melancholy. It sends a message that for the working class, their only respite is the joy of Friday night.
11. “Shiftwork” By George Strait And Kenny Chesney
Another song that pays tribute to hard-working individuals is “Shiftwork,” a collaboration between Kenny Chesney and George Strait. Here, the narrator expresses his frustration over the working shifts at a convenience store.
The song acknowledges the sacrifices that these workers make. They have to work non-traditional hours and take on multiple jobs to make ends meet. This can make work-life balance difficult to maintain.
However, despite the challenges, the narrator finds a way to take a break that he deserves. After working for ten years, he uses the money to go to the beach and party as hard as he has worked.
12. “Hard Hat And A Hammer” By Alan Jackson
Country music artist Alan Jackson also pays homage to the blue-collar workers in “Hard Hat and a Hammer.” It celebrates their hard work, dedication, and the role they play in keeping the world running.
The song highlights the daily routine of a worker who is an average Joe receiving average pay but going through the same routine day by day. This repetition underscores the relentless and oftentimes thankless grind that they do.
On the other hand, the song emphasizes the values associated with blue-collar life. It gives importance to resilience, perseverance, and a strong work ethic. Despite the challenges of work, there’s a sense of satisfaction that comes from it.
13. “Takin’ Care Of Business” By Bachman–Turner Overdrive
Released in 1973, “Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive seems to indicate that an individual is on the job. It turns out it’s more than that.
The song pokes fun at the ordinary blue-collar workers who slave away at their jobs. The narrator seems to hate the idea of working early to “take the 8:15 into the city” and race with other workers to their workplaces. And if they’re lucky, their train is on time, and they can get to start work by nine.
The narrator compares himself to these workers, extolling the benefits of being a professional musician. The lyrics take a glimpse into the life of rock stars who don’t need to work. They refer to themselves as self-employed and “love to work at nothing all day.”
14. “Cleaning Windows” By Van Morrison
Northern Irish musician Van Morrison worked as a window cleaner before his musical career took off. He alludes to his happy memories doing the job in his 1982 single “Cleaning Windows.”
On the surface, the song is about the mundane job of cleaning windows, with lyrics depicting the everyday experience of the narrator. He takes pride in what he does, declaring, “I’m happy cleanin’ windows.”
On the other hand, the song is also metaphorical, with Morrison using window cleaning as a symbol of life and work. It suggests that one can find joy and fulfillment even in the most ordinary tasks.
15. “Get A Job” By The Silhouettes
Finding a job can be frustrating. The Silhouettes capture this sentiment in the 1973 song “Get a Job.”
The narrator’s difficulty in finding a job reflects the same experience of many individuals seeking employment. It’s either one doesn’t find a job at all or what they find does not align with their qualifications and skills.
The line “Get a job” reflects the pressure and urgency associated with the need to secure employment. It can get on one’s nerves, particularly when they still fail to secure a job despite continuous job hunting.
16. “Got A Job” The Miracles
The humorous song “Got a Job” by The Miracles was an answer record to The Silhouettes’ “Get A Job.” The song reflects the difficulty of finding a fulfilling and enjoyable work.
The lyrics follow a man who, after a lengthy and tiring search, finds employment at a grocery store. Unfortunately, his enjoyment quickly turns to disillusionment when he finds out that it’s far from a fulfilling job.
The song perfectly captures the struggle of many people in finding a job. More often, they have to settle for jobs they don’t enjoy due to necessity.
17. “A Hard Day’s Night” By The Beatles
The English rock band The Beatles are not strangers to hard work. In fact, there was a time when the members worked all night. Drummer Ringo Starr commented that it had been a hard day, only to realize that it was already night. John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote “A Hard Day’s Night” based on Starr’s statement.
At its core, the song depicts the experience of a person working hard during the day and looking forward to returning home to his loved one. He works “like a dog,” which suggests he works extremely hard and dedicates himself to his work to the point of exhaustion.
Despite the fatigue, he finds fulfillment in what he does, knowing it’s for the woman he loves. She is the motivation why he endures hard work.
18. “Five O’clock World” By The Vogues
For people who work, five o’clock means good things. The Vogues‘ “Five O’Clock World” captures the end of the daily grind and signals a time to celebrate the relief and freedom that comes with it.
In relation to work, the song paints a picture of the daily struggles that the working class faces. The narrator is dedicated to keeping his job despite the drudgery and routine it involves. This represents what many experience when it comes to doing repetitive jobs out of necessity.
But when five o’clock strikes, he comes alive because it signals the end of the workday. He lives “for the end of the day” when he can leave behind the demands of his job and turn his attention to his personal life.
19. “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” By Alan Jackson
In “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere” by Alan Jackson, featuring Jimmy Buffett, the narrator expresses his frustrations over his job. This song with “work” in the lyrics reflects the universal desire to take a break from the daily grind.
The phrase “it’s five o’clock somewhere” is a saying used to justify kicking back and relaxing. The narrator is basically saying that it’s quitting time somewhere else, so it must be fine to end the day early.
He dreams of an escape to a place where he can unwind and have something to drink. He acknowledges the risk he’s taking for tomorrow. He might find himself jobless. But for now, he doesn’t care because he believes that he deserves such a long-awaited break.
20. “Workin For A Livin'” By Huey Lewis And The News
The pop-rock band Huey Lewis and the News knew what it was like to work long hours for their dreams. Lewis, in particular, had worked as a truck driver, busboy, and bartender before becoming a musician. He wrote “Workin’ For A Livin'” as a tribute to the working man.
The song portrays the relentless hustle of the working class. It’s about the daily grind and the struggle to make ends meet, which many workers can resonate with.
In relation to work, the narrator is stuck in an endless cycle of labor. Sometimes it feels like the day has no end, and other times it feels like it passes quickly. But what remains the same is that he’ll be working “until I die.”
21. “She Works Hard For The Money” By Donna Summer
There was a time when there were not many jobs available to women. And if there were, they were hard or weren’t high-paying. Donna Summer knew it all too well in her 1983 song “She Works Hard for the Money.”
This track is a tribute to all hard-working women out there, especially those who have low-paying jobs and often go unnoticed. It highlights the amount of effort and dedication they put forth in their jobs despite the struggles.
The song also makes a case about respecting these women. They work hard to survive and support their families.
22. “Car Wash” By Rose Royce
Some jobs may not pay high but are fun to do. Rose Royce‘s “Car Wash” portrays the environment of a car wash in an upbeat manner. It shows the day-to-day operations of a group of workers, emphasizing the importance of teamwork and the value of hard work.
This funky car wash song shows that one can enjoy a job despite not earning a lot of money. The narrator claims that “it’s better than diggin’ a ditch” and offers some perks, such as meeting a movie star. What’s more, the boss sounds like a cool person.
All in all, the song is an ode to the workers at the car wash and acknowledges their dedication. It places importance on every worker’s role, no matter how small it seems. And no matter the job, it has its own value and significance.
23. “Manic Monday” By The Bangles
In “Manic Monday,” The Bangles sing about the stress and pressure that often accompanies the start of the workweek. The title symbolizes the frenzied and hectic nature of Mondays, which is typically the start of the week for many workers.
In the lyrics, the narrator struggles with the transition between weekends and weekdays. She wishes it’s still the weekend when she doesn’t have to rush to work.
In a broader context, “Manic Monday” reflects the common sentiment toward this particular day and work in general. It underscores the importance of self-care and grounding oneself amid the hustle of work life.
24. “Working Girl” By Cher
In Cher‘s “Working Girl,” the focus is on the experiences and challenges of women in the workforce. It speaks to the struggle of balancing professional responsibilities with personal life, particularly in a society that imposes disproportionate burdens on women.
The lyrics illustrate a woman’s typical workday. It starts with waiting for her ride to her corporate job. The line “Working girl, livin’ in a man’s world” proves that there are still gender disparities existing in many workplaces. It also suggests that the narrator is navigating a work environment dominated by men.
In addition, the narrator is forced to put aside her own dreams out of necessity. Obviously, this is not the job she dreams of. But perhaps this is what is available at the moment to make ends meet.
25. “Gonna Be An Engineer” By Peggy Seeger
The powerful song “Gonna Be an Engineer” by Peggy Seeger challenges societal norms and breaks barriers in the workforce. It fights against prejudice, gender stereotyping, conditioning, and inequality.
The lyrics highlight the conflict between fulfilling traditional gender roles and the narrator’s desire to pursue a career in a field considered unconventional for women at the time.
The narrative follows a woman who aspires to be an engineer. It depicts her journey of overcoming societal expectations, where the people around her tell her to be a lady and have babies.
The woman works hard and eventually becomes an engineer. Unfortunately, she is paid less than men. She is also treated poorly just because she is a woman.
26. “Whole Lotta Quit” By Randy Houser
The clock-out anthem “Whole Lotta Quit” by Randy Houser reflects the common sentiment of looking forward to the end of a hard day’s work. It encapsulates the anticipation that many workers feel about clocking off their shifts.
In the lyrics, the narrator is counting down the hours until the end of his workday. Can’t blame him, particularly since he has been working “like a dog all day.” This suggests the intensity and exhaustion that his job brings him.
The song suggests one’s strong desire to stop working, take a break, or even maybe leave the job altogether.
27. “Working In The Coal Mine” By Lee Dorsey
In “Working in the Coal Mine,” Lee Dorsey gives voice to the workers of manual labor, particularly coal mining. The song delves into the tough, dangerous, and exhausting nature of these jobs.
Working in a coal mine is associated with physical hardship and risks. Fatigue accompanies such demanding labor, with workers already toiling at five in the morning. The narrator complains of tiredness, indicating the taxing nature of their work.
Another harsh reality of this kind of work is the disparity between work rendered and pay. Workers are “haulin’ coal by the ton” but “make a little money.” And even when it’s time to relax, they are unable to do so because of how tired they are.
28. “Lord Have Mercy On The Working Man” By Travis Tritt
The country song “Lord Have Mercy on the Working Man” by Travis Tritt reflects the plight of many workers living paycheck to paycheck. It carries an eye-opening message about the struggles and hardships that the working class face.
The song mentions “working” from the perspective of someone who toils daily just to make ends meet. It’s about their frustration and desperation, observing how he works hard day in and day out and yet does not have money in his name.
This shows the disparity between different social classes. In other words, the rich get richer, while the poor continue to struggle financially despite the hard work.
29. “Working Class Hero” By John Lennon
Up next, we have a commentary on the societal and class structures that define our working lives. John Lennon‘s “Working Class Hero” criticizes the system that conditions people to conform to societal expectations.
In relation to work, the song emphasizes the grim reality of a working-class life. Individuals are taught to be content with what they have and not question the status quo. It suppresses individuality and shapes a person to be a working-class hero.
At the same time, the song is also a call to action. The narrator urges the listeners not to be content with the oppression, lies, and manipulation.
30. “Busy Man” By Billy Ray Cyrus
Sometimes, work gets in the way of personal life, as the narrator in Billy Ray Cyrus‘ “Busy Man” experiences. The song explores the theme of work-life balance and the struggle to find time for life outside of work.
The narrative follows a working man who is so caught up in his job that he has little time for his family. He cannot play basketball with his son, buy lemonade from his daughter’s lemonade stand, or even spend time with his wife. He reasons that he is a very busy man.
The song underscores the idea that while being committed to the job, it’s equally important not to let it consume all of one’s time and energy. It highlights the importance of balance toward a successful life.
31. “Worker’s Song” By Dropkick Murphys
Our last song is aptly titled “Worker’s Song.” This track by the punk band Dropkick Murphys is a tribute to working-class people all over the world.
Due to its message, “Worker’s Song” has become an anthem in labor protests and demonstrations. The song follows the story of workers who work day and night, using both their hands and brains to earn their living.
The song emphasizes the hardship and challenges that these workers face. The reality is that they’re “the first ones to starve, the first ones to die” but “always the last when the cream is shared out.”
Summing Up Our List Of Work Songs
So, that wraps up our list of songs for today. We hope we have offered you a unique perspective on the theme of work.
And if you’re a worker, we hope we have given you a voice to highlight your resilience and dignity despite the challenges.
We also hope that the songs above remind you of the critical role the working class plays in society. May we recognize and respect the efforts of all these individuals.