This post first appeared in The Nation blog.
In honor of Labor Day, 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 work and working people cut across genres and generations. I know it’s a travesty to neglect “Which Side Are You On?” or Johnny Paycheck’s classic “Take This Job and Shove It.” I also feel terrible excluding Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg, Nina Simone, and John Mellencamp, and giving such short shrift to the rich history of punk rock odes to the insanity of wage slavery. But hopefully these songs will get you thinking about your own favorite musical celebrations of the working condition.
Top Ten Labor Day Songs
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
The views expressed in this post are the authors’ alone, and presented here to offer a variety of perspectives to our readers.