Classic Country Singles: Johnny Paycheck, “Take This Job and Shove It”

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August 19, 2008

Take This Job and Shove It
Johnny Paycheck
1977

Written by David Allan Coe

David Allan Coe’s “Take this Job and Shove It” owns a comical hook and, since its release in the 1970s, has become a familiar refrain among the working class. But “Take this Job and Shove It” was much more than an anthem for the overworked and underpaid. It was a tale of a man who’s lost the love of his life, thereby losing “the reason that (he) was workin’ for.” In reality, the narrator never utters the famous phrase to his demanding boss, but lives for the day that he can gather the courage to take his stand.

The song’s most famous delivery came with Johnny Paycheck’s release back in 1977, and the tune reached No. 1 in January 1978. Paycheck’s distinctive growl gave the song great attitude and told of the frustrations felt by those who worked for minimum wage under maximum stress. Coupled with the loss of his lady love, who has left in an apparent attempt to show him where attention must be (and should have been) paid, the job’s troubles have left him at the brink of frustration.

At that time in the late 1970s, the economy was struggling, leaving many blue-collar workers to work tirelessly for little credit or compensation. This anthem was a glimmer of humor in an almost-hopeless fight against those who held both money and power, as a heartbroken man threatens to “blow his top” and head for the door. It speaks to the poor man’s anger at the rich man’s success.

“Take This Job and Shove It” has maintained popularity due to its use at radio stations across the country, becoming a popular tune on Friday afternoons for those about to end the work week. The song even spawned a 1981 film starring Robert Hays, Barbara Hershey and Art Carney and takes place in a Texas brewery. Although both Coe and Paycheck would court controversy in the years to come (Coe would later release a handful of X-rated albums; Paycheck spent time in prison and in bankruptcy court), they will be forever remembered for pairing a working man’s swagger and struggle in a brilliant ode to the hard times in life and love.

“”Take This Job and Shove It” is the latest in a series of articles showcasing Classic Country Singles. You can read previous entries at the Classic Country Singles page.

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  1. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve always loved this song. I have a great job, but I still like the attitude and know plenty of people who relate.

  2. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar says:

    I like this song, but it strikes me as a bit of a tragedy that Johnny Paycheck is largely remembered for this one song, which isn’t one of his ten best efforts. The Little Darlin’ and Certron label recordings for Aubrey Mayhew contain many songs more more “outlaw” than “Take This Job and Shove It”, and Paycheck compiled a large dossier of great songs elsewhere as well, be it for Epic, Mercury, AVI or other labels

  3. TrailerNo Gravatar says:

    The hook of this song goes through my mind at least once a day, but when I listen to Paycheck, I usually skip this one.

  4. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar says:

    It’s my intention (and my hope) that these articles influence visitors of the site to delve a little further into the music and take a longer look at an artist’s career. I know plenty more about Paycheck after examining this song…hopefully this will convince others to do the same.

  5. This is one of those country songs that everybody knows the hook of, but often don’t pick up on the rest of the song. It reminds me of Bruce’s “Born in the U.S.A.” which many mistook for a patriotic anthem because of its chorus. Here, as Blake emphasizes, the man never actually quits the job, but just listening to the chorus, you’d never know that.

    I think the tension in the verses is builds up brilliantly, right into that catharsis of a chorus. It’s what we all want to say at work sometimes, but can’t because we have bills to pay.

    So while I agree that people should look into Paycheck’s other work, this is his only single I’d consider a classic country single. But oh, what a classic it is!

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