Discussion: Whistle While You Work

johnnypaycheckTonight’s topic was last included at Country Universe on Labor Day Weekend, but, considering that much of our lives are spent chasing the almighty dollar, I figured it was one worth revisiting. Songs about the working man (and woman) are a little less common in country music nowadays (Is there still no replacement for George Jones’ “It’s Finally Friday?”.). Quite possibly, the working songs are gone because radio listeners are supposed to forget about work, a necessary evil, altogether. Believe me, some days I dream of buying lotto tickets until my numbers come up (Where are you, Mary Chapin Carpenter? I don’t feel lucky.).

My favorite: “Take This Job and Shove It” by Johnny Paycheck (Please do yourself a favor and check out Paycheck’s catalog. The man is more than one song.)

What’s your favorite song about the daily grind?


  1. I really like my job, so I gravitate toward the Aaron Tippin song “I Got it Honest.” Tippin did a spin on the Jones song you mentioned that he released in two versions – “It’s Friday” and “Come Friday”, so it could be played throughout the week. It was pretty good.

    Also one of my favorites is the Pam Tillis co-write “Going to Work”, which was a minor hit for Judy Rodman, but most people know as a Martina McBride album cut.

    I echo your sentiments about Paycheck. The invaluable New Country magazine from the nineties exposed me to his earlier work. “Pardon Me (I’ve Got Someone to Kill)” is quite the listen.

  2. Paycheck is a given in this category. “Lord Have Mercy on the Workin’ Man” by Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart is another good one. I also enjoyed Garth’s version of “Workin’ for a Livin'” with Huey Lewis.

  3. I actually have a song idea spinnin’ in my head for ages and it revolves around the growing fact that people don’t work traditional work weeks anymore.

    There’s the “Hard Workin’ Man” song by Brooks & Dean (which I loathe as much as folks do “Achy Breaky Heart”). Speaking of BRC, his “Busy Man” has working themes.

    What about Darryl Worley’s “Tennessee River Run.” It’s a fun ‘enjoy the life outside of work’ song (who has life outside of work?)

    Of course there’s always Shiftwork….

  4. Leeann,

    It’s a hobby that I firmly believe could be more than one as I hone in on my writing skills. That being said, I’d actually probably be referred to as a lyricist more than a songwriter at this point.

  5. JR, I know your question was probably addressed to Matt,( and he is welcome to correct me if I’m wrong), but a lyricist is responsible for the lyrics, the words of the song, and may or may not actually put the words to music. If the lyricist doesn’t write his own music to go with the words, he would need a songwriter/partner to do so in order to turn the lyrics into a song.

  6. I’m with Andrew on his choice of Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt’s “Lord Have Mercy on the Working Man”…I’d also add Patty and VInce’s “On Down the Line”.

  7. There are a boatload of good “workin man songs”, but If i had to pick just one, it would be “I Got it Honest” by Aaron Tippin.

  8. Don’t forget about Dolly’s 9 to 5 … Best line: “you’re just a step on the boss-man’s ladder, but you’ve got dreams he’ll never take away…you’re all in the same boat with a lot of your friends, waitin’ for the day your ship will come in – the tide’s gonna turn and its all gonna roll your way…”

  9. Mac MacAnally wrote this:

    In the middle of late last night, I was sittin’ on a curb
    Didn’t know what about but something had me quite disturbed
    Street sweeper comes whistling by and he’s bouncing every step
    Seems strange how good he felt so I asked him while he swept

    He said it’s my job to be cleaning up this mess
    And that’s the best reason to go for me
    It’s my job to be better than the rest
    And that makes the day for me

    Got an uncle that owns a bank, he’s a self made millionaire
    Never had anyone to thank, never had no one to care
    He always seemed kind of sad to me so I asked him why that was
    And he told me it’s because in my contract there’s a clause

    That says it’s my job to be worried half to death
    And that’s the thing people respect in me
    It’s my job and without it I’d be less
    Than what I expect to be

    I’ve been lazy most all my life, singing songs and sleeping late
    Any manual labor I’ve done is purely by mistake
    If street sweepers can smile then I got no right to feel upset
    But sometimes I still forget till the lights come on and the stage is
    And the song hits home and you feel that sweat

    It’s my job to be different from the rest
    And that’s the best reason to go for me
    It’s my job to be better than the rest
    And that’s a tough break for me

    Great song!

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