Working Class Heroes

The best work tunes to enjoy over Labor Day

When you think about it, Labor Day is the most American holiday we have, trumping even the Fourth of July, since, let's face it, this nation prides itself on its blue-collar roots more than a silly declaration of independence. So here are a handful of songs about the American working-class hero to enjoy September 3 as you forget just how much you hate your job with the help of one or more 12-packs of your favorite beers.

"Working Man," Rush (1974)

It might seem like a strange mix, prog-rock and working-class blues, but Geddy Lee pulls it off, as he puts us in the shoes of a working man who gets up at 7, is at work at 9, and comes home only to find he has no life except the beer in his hand to help him relax.

"Allentown," Billy Joel (1982)

The song is specifically about the residents of Allentown, Pennsylvania, trying to survive after the closure of Bethlehem Steel. More broadly, it's about the slow death of the American manufacturing industry in the last two decades of the 20th Century. This means that just about every county in the U.S. has at least one Allentown, at least one bar with "Allentown" still on the jukebox, and at least a dozen men and women who weekly get drunk and lament their shitty lives by singing along with Billy Joel. Unfortunately, this guarantees that Joel will never be forgotten, despite popular opinion.

"Everyday I'm Hustlin," Rick Ross (2006)

Maybe Ricky Ross doesn't embody the typical American working-class stiff, but that doesn't mean he's not moving "work" and hustling day and night trying to achieve the American Dream. Forget about FDR's New Deal. Rick Ross is on the street pushing new product, and in this song, he makes it clear that when it comes to Miami hip-hop, nobody's pushing more weight than the boss.

"This Land Is Your Land," Woody Guthrie (1940)

Written as a big fuck-you to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" rages against the same class divide that in 1940 was just as apparent as it is today.

"Working Class Hero," John Lennon (1970)

From the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album and since covered by everyone from Bowie to Ozzy to Green Day, this angry attack on class and the institutions that immobilize the masses with fear exalts the working-class hero. It's also one of the first mainstream songs to use the word fucking. Fuck yeah.

"She Works Hard for the Money," Donna Summer (1983)

We can't think of another song about hard-working waitresses in need of more respect than this one. Can you?

 
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