Saturday Single No.183

It’s May Day, a day of dancing in celebration of spring and of marching in solidarity with labor. Well, at least traditionally.

Here, we’re not doing any dancing, unless the RealPlayer provides us with a groove so infectious we can’t ignore it as we do the dishes. And we’ll do no marching, either.

Labor? Now that’s likely another story. Last evening, we hauled home seventy-six edging bricks from a garden and farm supply store in the adjoining city of Waite Park. And those bricks will have to be installed along the sidewalk next to the house, providing a dusky red border between flower beds and sidewalk. It will, I expect, not be easy.

The Texas Gal finds that sort of thing therapeutic. She’ll enjoy herself as we clear a shallow trench for the bricks and install them along the length of the sidewalk. There’s no doubt that by the time we take a break to watch the Kentucky Derby late in the afternoon, her muscles will ache and her hands will be blackened. But she’ll look at the brick along the walk and she’ll find satisfaction and some sort of grace in the improved appearance and its physical costs. Me? I’ll be tired and dirty as well, and I admit I’ll be pleased with the result of our efforts. But I have to admit I find no grace in anything that results in dirt under my fingernails.

But that’s just me and just my reaction to one type of labor. All of us here – and by here, I mean on this blue planet – work hard at one thing or another. If our bodies don’t sweat as we haul things from one place to another, then our minds ache as we think of better ways to do that hauling. If we don’t hold in our hands the scalpels that can save lives, then we place our hands on keyboards that help us find the words of comfort when lives are lost. We all work at something.

So I thought I’d sort my music for songs with the word “work” in the title, putting together a random list and stopping at the sixth one. Here goes:

First up is “Working Class Hero” by Alan Jackson from 1991’s Don’t Rock The Jukebox. I don’t have a lot of Jackson’s work, but it’s pretty solid country and when I’m in the right frame of mind, I like it quite a bit. “There’s no Hall of Fame for the working class hero,” he sings.

Next we get “Working On The Highway” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, live at Giants Stadium in 1985. There are those who mock Springsteen and his songs about the working class, wondering what a rich rock superstar can known about blue-collar life. From what I understand, though, Springsteen grew up in a working class home and comes by his knowledge of that life honestly.

Third on our list is the sprightly “Working Shoes” by Minnesota troubadour Larry Long from his 1981 album Living in a Rich Man’s World. “Sure can’t wait ’til Friday, when I get my pay,” he sings. “And I’m gonna kick off my working shoes and grab that gal of mine, put on my dancin’ shoes and have a good time . . .”

Then comes a 1978 cover of “Working In A Coal Mine” by the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils. Lee Dorsey had the hit (titled as “Working In The Coal Mine), taking the song to No. 8 in 1966, but the Devils do a pretty good reading of the song. The track was on their album All Kidding Aside, which itself was a pretty good listen. Thanks to Chuntao at Rare MP3 Music.

Then we say hello to the great pop-funk of the Isleys’ “Work To Do,” a single pulled from the group’s 1972 album Brother, Brother, Brother. The infectious record made it to No. 51on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart.

And we settle on a tune by another band that knew what it was like to grow up in the world of work, from what I’ve read. The members of Creedence Clearwater Revival came from blue collar stock, so when John Fogerty writes and then sings, “I was born on a Sunday. By Thursday, I had me a job,” the words ring true, and the musical amalgam of late Sixties rock and the rockabilly of an earlier era mesh perfectly behind the tale.

So for all those who work, whatever that labor may be, here’s Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “The Working Man” from 1968’s Creedence Clearwater Revival, today’s Saturday Single.

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3 Responses to “Saturday Single No.183”

  1. Paco Malo says:

    Great post — beginning to end.

    An additional note: all one has to do is give Bruce Springsteen’s “The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle” or “Nebraska” albums a hard listen to know he came from working class roots. And then later, after he’d achieved stardom, a number of the songs on “The Ghost of Tom Joad” document the plight of the disenfranchised.

    These albums are just a few that come immediately to mind. His body of work places him solidly in Woody Guthrie / Bob Dylan tradition when it comes to understanding what May day used to be about.

  2. AMD says:

    Great choices there. I love the Isleys’ Work To Do, but also have lots of times for the Average White Band’s cover of the song (I think it’s on the Feel No Fret album).

    Alan Jackson is really good, though I still can’t get past this whole stetson fraternity thing of the 1990s, of which Jackson was a key member.

  3. Perplexio says:

    Another great song with work in the title is Jimmy Barnes “Working Class Man.” It was the theme song to the somewhat forgettable 1986 Michael Keaton movie “Gung-Ho” and Jimmy’s unsuccessful attempt to crack the US market with the help of Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain (whom I believe wrote the song and may have even produced the album it was on). The song was considerably more successful in Barnes native Australia and remains a concert staple at many of his live shows down under even today. Barnes changed a lyric about the midwestern sky to one about the Australian sky but other than that his live version is pretty faithful to the original.

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