Labor Day Discussion: Songs About Workers

While they’re not as common as they used to be in country music, sometimes good songs about workers still surface.    Tim McGraw’s “I’m Workin'” on his most recent album was a highlight, and Trace Adkins’ “I’m Tryin'” was his best single ever, in my opinion.  A perennial favorite is Alabama’s “40 Hour Week (For a Livin’)”, which I’d argue was their best single.   But I’m partial to celebrations of working class stiffs.

Nobody in the history of country music ever captured that spirit in song better than Aaron Tippin. I love ’em all.  “Working Man’s Ph.D.”  “I Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way.”  And my personal favorite, “I Got it Honest.”  It inspires me every time, especially now that my father has passed on.

I’m an educator myself, but my father was an electrician.   He was always impressed by my ability to speak in front of crowds and write (long-winded) papers, as it was always a weakness of his.  But he could look at a building once and instantly know the best way to wire it.    I would help him on the weekends growing up, and given that I’ve always had the coordination of a drunken sailor, he wisely kept me away from anything with an electrical current.

I always joked that if he tried to do what I do, he’d make a few spelling errors. If I tried to do what he did, I’d be dead in a matter of seconds.   Given that how hard it would’ve been to write those long-winded papers in the dark, I’d say the contributions he made to making this world a better place are far greater than anything I’ve done so far.

So this became about my father, which I didn’t intend when I began writing this, but what can I say? He was a working man, right up until he couldn’t work anymore.    He deserves the shout-out.

What are your favorite songs about workers?


  1. “Six Days On The Road” – Dave Dudley
    “Working Man Blues” – Merle Haggard
    “Sixteen Tons” – Tennessee Ernie Ford
    “The Legend of John Henry’s Hammer” – Johnny Cash
    “Bartender’s Blues” – George Jones

  2. If we’re not limiting this to country, here are five from me:

    “The Factory”–Kenny Rogers
    “Workin’ In The Coal Mine”–Lee Dorsey
    “Big Boss Man”–Elvis Presley
    “Car Wash”–Rose Royce
    “Working On The Highway”–Bruce Springsteen

  3. toby keith’ “heart to heart” from his 99 “how do like me now” album is a fine little song about one of the thoughest jobs at hand – bringing up children. the mom in that song seem to have understood how to use the ultimate power-tool in her toolbox – love.

  4. I think one of my favorites is “Lord Have Mercy On the Workin’ Man” by Travis Tritt. I also enjoy, though it’s kind of light, Joe Diffie’s “Down In A Ditch.” For those who live in the world of Office Space, Tim McGraw’s “Everybody Hates Me” is fun too.

  5. Not sure if you would consider him country – but Jim Croce’s “workin at the car wash blues” – has to be one of my favorite by one of my all time favorite artists —

  6. Kevin, I forgot to say that that was a wonderful tribute to your dad. I really envy those who can think with that part of their brains.

  7. I can’t believe I forgot “9 to 5.” That one’s brilliant. Also, “Going to Work”, which was co-written by Pam Tillis, and recorded by Judy Rodman and Martina McBride.


    Regarding my dad, I didn’t intend to write about him. Just kinda flowed out of me. I was going to erase it, but it felt too much like erasing him. And you know what? Music is personal, and I wouldn’t have ever heard country music in the first place if my parents didn’t play it around me all the time growing up. (Their song was Billie Jo Spears’ “Blanket on the Ground.”)

  8. “Workin man’s PHD”
    “The Factory”, and also by KR, “Homemade christmas in Kentucky”
    “Take this Job and Shove it”
    “That’s my Job”– It’s not really a work song, but it does remind us that some of our most important jobs are the ones we dont get a paycheck for.

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