Work SongsPosted on by
The 2015 American Music Awards air this Sunday, November 22nd (8 pm EST in case you’re interested). Why is NIOSH blogging about this you may ask? Well, we’ve blogged about workplace safety and health themes in: movies twice (three times if you count the recent blog on James Bond’s occupational hazards), books, the theater, and figured it was time we looked at music to see if safety and health is represented in this medium. Turns out, we are not the only ones who have thought about this. In honor of Labor Day, Billboard released a list of 20 songs about Working for the Man, HitFix posted the 15 Greatest Songs About Working for a Living, the Tucson Sentinel collected Songs for Labor Day: Union tunes & working man blues, and NPR shared Labor Day Blues and Grooves. Song Facts’ list of Songs About Working is pretty comprehensive, including the Banana Boat Song, Flamethrower, and Heigh-Ho (yes, by the Seven Dwarfs). There is also Top 10 ’80s Songs About Work, Oldies For Workers, and Taste of Country’s 10 Best Work Songs. In 1999, the Smithsonian’s released Blues Routes: Heroes and Tricksters: Blues and Jazz Work Songs and Street Music and the Colonial Williamsburg website includes Slave Work Songs.
Work is a universal theme and there is truly something for everyone. Admittedly, all of these songs do not delve into safety and health issues but the majority touch on themes that impact workers’ overall well-being (think long hours, stress, unemployment, lack of control over work tasks, and low pay).
See if your favorite is on one of these lists (warning – some of the music sites may be blocked by your workplace) or just post your top pick it in the comment section. To get you thinking, we’ve included a few songs below:
- She Works Hard for the Money – Donna Summer
- Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot
- Industrial Disease – Dire Straits
- Work Hard Play Hard – Wiz Khalifa
- Working on the Highway – Bruce Springsteen
- Working in the Coal Mine – Lee Dorsey
- Allentown – Billy Joel
- Working Man Blues – Merle Haggard
- 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton
- Shiftwork – Kenny Chesney and George Strait
- Sixteen Tons – Tennessee Ernie Ford
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that listening to your favorite work anthem too loudly can cause music-induced hearing loss. Those who work in the music industry are also at risk for noise-induced hearing loss (see related blog).
After reading this blog maybe you’ll add She Works Hard for the Money or Working in the Coal Mine to your playlist.
**Note: We posted a List of Songs with Workplace Safety and Health Themes based on reader contributions on 12/18/2015 and will continue to update it as suggestions come in.
Julie Tisdale Pardi, MA
NIOSH Science Blog Coordinator