Unless you’re born into a fortune, life sooner or later becomes all about the hustle.
Songs about work-life are ten a penny and we are all familiar with clocking in and clocking out.
Maybe you’ve wound up here looking for songs about working to put together a work songs list to help you pull through until the weekend.
Some songs about careers are more motivational than others. Sometimes the daily grind can seem unfair, so as you might expect some work songs are a therapeutic venting of sorts.
As usual, we have mustered up a mixture of songs about working hard at something you love as well as songs about jobs that aren’t worth the paycheck by employees who’d love to stick it to the man!
Table of Contents
- 45 Songs About Work
- 1. Dolly Parton – “Working 9-5”
- 2. Rose Royce – “Carwash”
- 3. Sam Cooke – “Chain Gang”
- 4. Chuck Berry – “Let It Rock”
- 6. The Vogues – “Five O’Clock World”
- 8. Huey Lewis & The News – “Workin’ For A Livin”
- 9. Donna Summer – “She Works Hard For The Money”
- 10. The Beatles – “A Hard Day’s Night”
- 11. John Lennon – “Working Class Hero”
- 12. The Miracles – “Got a Job”
- 13. Sting – We Work the Black Seam
- 14. The Bangles “Manic Monday”
- 15. Cher – “Working Girl”
- 16. Loverboy – “Working For The Weekend”
- 17. Travis Tritt – “Lord Have Mercy On The Working Man”
- 18. Kenny Chesney feat George Strait – “Shiftwork”
- 19. Johnny Paycheck – “Take This Job and Shove It”
- 20. Randy Houser – “Whole Lotta Quit”
- 21. Jon Pardi – “Night Shift”
- 22. Gretchen Wilson – “Work Hard, Play Harder”
- 23. “Toby Keith – “Hard Way To Make An Easy Living”
- 24. Zane Williams – “Hands of a Workin’ Man”
- 25. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Busy Man”
- 26. Randy Montana – “Assembly Line”
- 27. Jimmy Buffett – “It’s My Job”
- 28. The Who – “Bell Boy”
- 29. Bachman Turner Overdrive – “Taking Care Of Business”
- 30. Dire Straits – “Money for Nothing”
- 31. Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Workin”
- 32. Placebo – “Slave To The Wage”
- 33. The Clash – “Career Opportunities”
- 34. Elvis Costello – “Welcome To The Working Week”
- 35. The Pogues – “Poor Paddy On The Railway”
- 36. Dropkick Murphys – “Worker’s Song”
- 37. Grateful Dead – “Cumberland Blues”
- 38. Quiet Riot – “Overworked And Underpaid”
- 39. Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Door To Door”
- 40. Harry Chapin – “Cat’s In The Cradle”
- 41. Madness – “Cardiac Arrest”
- 42. Tupac Shakur – “Dear Mama”
- 43. Beyoncé – “6 inch”
- 44. George Formby – “When I’m Cleaning Windows”
- 45. Churchill/Morey Disney’s Dwarf Chorus – “Heigh-Ho”
- Final Thoughts
45 Songs About Work
1. Dolly Parton – “Working 9-5”
This one should be top of any list of work songs! Written for the comedy film starring Jane Fonda with the same title this is probably the first song about working that will come to most people’s minds.
Fun fact, Dolly Parton is credited for her voice and ‘Nails’.
As revealed on the Graham Norton Show and reported by Vanity Fair the singer ran them over one another to achieve the typewriter-like sounds sampled in the track.
2. Rose Royce – “Carwash”
Another famous track that will have already crossed many minds is this disco hit with its funky bass solo that was the perfect soundtrack for the comedy movie centered around a family-run carwash business.
The backing vocals singing ‘Work’ beneath Rose’s spectacular vocals whilst the playfulness of the music reflect the fun and relaxed work environment.
3. Sam Cooke – “Chain Gang”
An early 60’s R&B song about hard work that has been covered by many of the greats. Rumor has it the Cooke brothers were inspired to write this one after an interaction with a genuine chain gang they passed on whilst tour in their bus.
“All day long they work so hard
Till the sun is going’ down
Workin’ on the highways and byways
And wearing, wearing a frown”
The pair apparently left them with some cigarettes.
4. Chuck Berry – “Let It Rock”
In his traditional high-energy blues style, Chuck Berry screams a harrowing story of terror about an unscheduled train and a panicked foreman trying to clear the rails of workers before its imminent arrival!
“Engineer blows the whistle loud and long
Can’t stop the train, have to let it roll on”
A somber finish to an upbeat rock and roll song.
5. Lee Dorsey – “Working In A Coal Mine”
Memorable, soul-filled, and full of harmonic backing vocals- One of those songs about hard work that you think you have never heard of but probably recognize!
Be careful, the simple chorus lyrics and the horn section make it a bit of an earworm.
6. The Vogues – “Five O’Clock World”
Another oldie that has plenty of backing vocals and counter melodies throughout. It is something of a love song, as the singer reveals he is happy to trade his time for money for the woman he loves.
The lyrics tell the reality of working to keep your loved ones looked after.
“In my five o’clock world she waits for me
Nothing else matters at all
‘Cause every time my baby smiles at me
I know that it’s all worthwhile, yeah”
7. Sheena Easton – “Morning Train (Nine to Five)”
This one was a huge hit back in the day for the Scottish star. The song was retitled for American audiences as it shared the title of Dolly’s track.
Like the song above it is a love song centered around her man working 9-5 and coming home to see her.
8. Huey Lewis & The News – “Workin’ For A Livin”
A semi-biographical song penned by Garth Brooks and Huey Lewis that reveals the reality for some of living hand to mouth, borrowing off of friends, owing out, and having spent your paycheck before it’s even arrived.
“Hey I’m not complaining ’cause I really need the work
Hitting up my buddy’s got me feeling like a jerk
Hundred dollar car note, two hundred rent.
I get a check on Friday, but it’s all ready spent.”
One of those songs about jobs that you are grateful to have no matter how hard you have to grind!
9. Donna Summer – “She Works Hard For The Money”
When you rack your brains looking for songs about working hard this one simply has to come to mind!
Summer apparently wrote this hit about a blue-collar woman after a real-life experience.
Summer revealed once revealed in a television program interview that she found an exhausted ladies’ room attendant named Onetta Johnson fast asleep with a T.V blaring as she was shattered.
10. The Beatles – “A Hard Day’s Night”
One of their catchiest tunes, that again echoes the sentiments of many we have already highlighted; A hard day work that is put in perspective once you get home to the one you love.
“But when I get home to you
I find the things that you do
Will make me feel alright”
11. John Lennon – “Working Class Hero”
We are sticking in the realms of The Beatles for a moment with one of Lennon’s solo songs that is probably worth a mention.
“Working Class Hero” is one of those stick-it-to-the-man songs we glossed over in our article intro. Opinions were always divided once Yoko Ono was on the scene but the sentiment in this one was one felt by many at the time.
12. The Miracles – “Got a Job”
A great song about getting a job and one of the oldest stories told, a down on his luck jobseeker finds work, hates it but like the majority has to stick it out!
The lyrics are comedic and Smokey Robinson’s vocals are like velvet. It was actually written as a response of sorts to the song “Get A Job” by the Silhouettes.
“I fin’lly fin’lly fin’lly fin’lly fin’lly (got a job)”
13. Sting – We Work the Black Seam
This one might seem like an odd choice of songs with work in the title. Although it may be unclear for those not in the know it was written at the time of the coal miners’ strike that happened under British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
A highly politically infused song, it tries to address Sting’s opposition to nuclear energy as well as the conservative government at the time.
The lyrics throw some homage to William Blakes’ poetry as well, who once described the farmlands being replaced by factories and industry as “dark satanic mills” In his poem “And Did Those Feet In Ancient Time”.
14. The Bangles “Manic Monday”
Next up is a well-loved 80’s pop song about work that perfectly describes a feeling that we can all relate to. The start of the working week after a weekend off can certainly be ‘Manic’; Getting yourself organized and back into the swing of things!
“It’s just another manic Monday (Woah, woah)
I wish it was Sunday (Woah, woah)
‘Cause that’s my fun day (Woah, woah, woah, woah)
My I don’t have to run day (Woah, woah)
It’s just another manic Monday”
15. Cher – “Working Girl”
Cher’s dramatic work song is about a “Working girl, livin’ in a man’s world” who is aptly described as a “pawn in the struggle” working in a “tower made of steel in the sky”.
The singer calls attention to the sexism and harassment that once upon a time was rife in the workplace.
16. Loverboy – “Working For The Weekend”
A popular song that propelled the band into the limelight. It like many others conveys the idea that we are all just powering through the workweek for that little bit of freedom at the weekend. The light at the end of the tunnel!
Inspired by a deserted beach during the working week that would otherwise be full of people.
17. Travis Tritt – “Lord Have Mercy On The Working Man”
A modern country staple that begs the Lord to give you a break from the endless cycle of hard work.
The lyrics are a little tongue in cheek in place but make some strong points.
“Uncle Sam’s got his hands in my pockets
And he helps himself each time he needs a dime
Them politicians treat me like a mushroom
‘Cause they feed me bull and keep me in the blind”
18. Kenny Chesney feat George Strait – “Shiftwork”
We are keeping it country for a beat or two as country music likes to have a moan and who doesn’t like to have a moan about their job?
Shiftwork can be some of the hardest work when you are constantly coming and going and standing around for long hours.
The lyrics make mention of saving cash for a little time off that is ultimately short-lived and hardly ever feels like it compensates for the blood, sweat, and tears put in.
19. Johnny Paycheck – “Take This Job and Shove It”
Let’s face it sometimes the demands of a job can be too much. So much that you eventually crack and jack it in. Even if you don’t you may have days where you wish you could.
Donald Eugene Lytle fittingly better-known as ‘Johnny Paycheck’ sums up how we all feel.
“One of these days I’m gonna’ blow my top
And that sucker, he’s gonna’ pay
Lord, I can’t wait to see their faces
When I get the nerve to say
Take this job and shove it
I ain’t working here no more”
20. Randy Houser – “Whole Lotta Quit”
A foot-stomping country tune with a heavy harmonica that also tells it like it is!
“40 hours in a jailhouse
I need a cold beer bailout
I ain’t got another shift in me
I got a whole lotta quit in me”
The parallels and imagery in it are great the perfect anthem for the angry worker who hates his job but has no choice!
21. Jon Pardi – “Night Shift”
A modern country hit penned by an a-lister set of songwriters (Tofer Brown, Phillip LaRue, and Billy Montana( that once again makes use of the familiar trope of bustin’ ones behind for those at home. The protagonist makes it through the hard work in anticipation of the nights ahead with his lover.
22. Gretchen Wilson – “Work Hard, Play Harder”
A blue-collar, self-proclaimed redneck anthem that reminds us all we have to have a little downtime. It is okay to work hard so long as we play hard as well.
The singer relays her busy week, double shifts multiple part-time job positions and makes sure that everyone knows she isn’t wasting it on materialistic, typically ‘girly’ things.
“Now, I don’t waste my time on
Manicures and spray on tans
And I don’t pay no never mind
To the callouses I’ve had on my hands”
It’s a fun song about working and the last line of the chorus hook is pretty clever.
23. “Toby Keith – “Hard Way To Make An Easy Living”
An honest look at the life of a homesteader, who from afar may look like they have everything they need on a plate.
“They call him lucky, but they don’t know
He’s up and running when the rooster crows”
You have to put a lot in to maintain a lifestyle like this, the starts are early, the days are long, and the work is never done!
24. Zane Williams – “Hands of a Workin’ Man”
There has already been mention of calloused hands, but this one is centered around the hands of someone who works with their hands for a living.
“Hit you hard as a hammer if you pick a fight
But they’d rather hold a pretty girl tight tonight
They’re the rough and dirty, strong and sturdy
Hands of a working man”
25. Billy Ray Cyrus – “Busy Man”
When you spend a lot of time at work as a parent inevitably you miss out. Billy Ray Cyrus sums it all up in his rootsy tune about a father who doesn’t buy lemonade from his little girl among many things and finally puts some time aside to make it right.
“There’s a call one day from the office
They need you down in Birmingham
You say no way, the weekend’s mine
I got plans with the kids and a date with my wife
I’m a busy man”
26. Randy Montana – “Assembly Line”
As if the title isn’t a dead give-away, this one gets inside the mindset of a guy plowing hard on an assembly line. The clock in and out ‘rhythm of work-life’ vibe makes it relatable for any kind of regular job.
“There’s a rumor going ’round that’s got nothing to do with me
Charlie swears he’s gonna quit
Put his two weeks in and that’s it
He’s been talkin’ that way since the summer of ’93
It ain’t a job for everyone but it’s mine”
27. Jimmy Buffett – “It’s My Job”
Buffet puts a slightly different spin on things in telling us what his ‘job’ is, after a discussion with a hard-working street sweeper and reflecting on his self-made millionaire uncle.
He puts it honestly;
“I’ve been lazy most all of my life
Writing songs and sleeping late
Any manual labor I’ve done purely by mistake
If street sweepers can smile then
I’ve got no right to feel upset”
28. The Who – “Bell Boy”
A song about a profession in particular from “Quadrophenia”, who remembers this one? Now you are showing your age!
The bell boy protagonist in this story arc learns to keep his mouth shut and lick boots for a better tip.
You learn a lot working a menial labour job;
“The secret to me, It ain’t flown like a flag
I carry it behind This bleedin’ little badge, What says”
29. Bachman Turner Overdrive – “Taking Care Of Business”
A feel-good work-related song that should be top of any office playlist!
It has all the classic features of a great song about work…Alarm clocks, trains, slaving away, and overtime. Except with a twist, the fortune of landing yourself an easy job!
“And I be taking care of business (every day)
Taking care of business (every way)”
30. Dire Straits – “Money for Nothing”
A song about work in a similar vein and probably far more famous is “Money For Nothing. It is a pretty self-explanatory song that sort of mocks the easy lifestyles of the rich and famous.
It was purportedly written after Knopfler overheard some deliverymen complaining about their jobs whilst watching MTV and hit home as the band is paid a decent wage to play their instruments on T.V.
31. Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Workin”
If you are looking for a decent rock song about working then Jacksonvillian rockers have you covered.
Once again classic work song themes in abundance and some nice imagery and personification, such as “Mr.Yankee Slicker”.
Our favorite line;“Suckers took my money since I was seventeen” – great assonance!
32. Placebo – “Slave To The Wage”
Working hard can make you apathetic so it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of alternative songs with lyrics about working too!
Brian Molko reflects upon the nature of the day in day out rat race and dares the listener to tap out.
“All it takes is one decision
A lot of guts, a little vision to wave
Your worries, and cares goodbye”
33. The Clash – “Career Opportunities”
Of course, amidst the armada of songs about working are the songs about being unemployed or not having a job!
‘The Clash’ encapsulates the disillusionment of the era in their cynical, sarcastic punk track about “Career Opportunities” that are never “gonna knock“!
34. Elvis Costello – “Welcome To The Working Week”
Another sarcastically angled song about working hard and the reality of adult life that doesn’t tip-toe around things!
Costello is brutal when he opens his song with the mention of obituary photos. It is dark but true, most of us work and pay our taxes until the day we die! The lyrics are pretty negative but make strong observational statements that many can agree with.
“Welcome to the working week
You gotta do it till you’re through it, so you better get to it”
35. The Pogues – “Poor Paddy On The Railway”
In a ‘traditional Irish music meets stone-cold anarchy’ style the Pogues, knock out their version of this hit made famous first by ‘The Dubliners’.
“I’m sick to my death of the railway”
Poor Paddy indeed!
36. Dropkick Murphys – “Worker’s Song”
Still in the punk genre for now with the Dropkick Murphys with another politically-edged working song that has something to say about the class division and how a lot of the labor is divided.
The working class feeds the rich and fights their wars, and strives to work hard with the hopes of something grander coming along one day- the majority in vain.
“We’re the first ones to starve the first ones to die
The first ones in line for that pie-in-the-sky
And always the last when the cream is shared out
For the worker is working when the fat cat’s about”
37. Grateful Dead – “Cumberland Blues”
The lyrics for this song about working in a mine are a little more risque, the song sings about toiling underground to make extra money for ‘Melinda’ who for all intents and purposes is probably a lady of the night.
The upbeat music creates a real juxtaposition against the miserable lyrics in which the character begs for his colleague’s shifts on top.
“Make good money, five dollars a day
If I made any more I might move away”
38. Quiet Riot – “Overworked And Underpaid”
A heavier song with a title that literally sums up the themes found in nearly half of our work songs list!
Even if you love your job there are days when you wake and might not feel ready to “face another day”.
Quiet Riot uses some great colloquialisms in their lyrics that tell the world how underappreciated they feel.
“Make ends meet”, “piece of the pie”, “throw you a bone”, “cradle to grave”, “bust your ass”, “break your back” a classic bunch of work-related idioms to feast yer ears on!
39. Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Door To Door”
Like so many of the best work songs, this one focuses on a specific job occupation and one that is universally accepted as a pretty rubbish one- Cold calling!
The song makes lots of references to door-to-door professionals that are welcome on your doorsteps such as the milkman or postie and highlights the sometimes manipulative selling techniques that are encouraged.
The drummer wrote it based upon experience when he needed a job and took one on selling pots and pans, however, he quickly quit after the boss explained how to ‘trick’ buyers into signing up.
40. Harry Chapin – “Cat’s In The Cradle”
A sadly-tinged but beautiful song about having no time to spend with your loved ones.
The story centers on a busy career-driven father and the missed opportunities with his son who goes on to mirror the same workaholic lifestyle. The two sadly never seem to make time for one another.
“When you coming home, son?” “I don’t know when”
But we’ll get together then”
41. Madness – “Cardiac Arrest”
Another workaholic song that springs to mind is this tongue-in-cheek ska track by Madness about working yourself to death!
The lyrics are witty and clever…
“Think of seven letters
Begin and end in c
Like a big american car
But misspelt with a d.”
It really is all about finding that work-life balance, eh?
42. Tupac Shakur – “Dear Mama”
In a touching song, Tupac wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to appreciating his single mother who worked her hardest to raise him.
“You just workin’ with the scraps you was given. And Mama made miracles every Thanksgivin’. But now the road got rough, you’re alone. You’re tryin’ to raise two bad kids on your own. And there’s no way I can pay you back. But my plan is to show you that I understand. You are appreciated.”
43. Beyoncé – “6 inch”
This one is also about hard-working women, it is one of those songs to describe work ethic that may not spring immediately to mind. The protagonist works in a busy club and seriously brings home the bacon and what is more as the title of the track makes it clear she does it all in 6-inch heels!
“She worth every dollar and she worth every minute”
44. George Formby – “When I’m Cleaning Windows”
This Formby staple was once performed in front of the royal family, personally requested!
Of course, many of the double-entendre-filled verses were amended to keep it a little cleaner for her majesty.
There is nothing better than funny songs about work and this one sharing the sights seen by a busy window cleaner has plenty to chuckle at.
“At eight o’clock a girl she wakes, at five past eight a bath she takes
At ten past eight (hm) my ladder breaks, when I’m cleaning windows”
45. Churchill/Morey Disney’s Dwarf Chorus – “Heigh-Ho”
Last on our list, is a song about working that really needs no introduction. Heigh-ho from Disneys’ ‘Snow White’ like many we have included in our work songs list; it features the mining industry.
In a typical wholesome family style that Disney songs are renowned for it has a jolly sing-along/whistle-along nature.
It’s home from work we go”
So there you have it, our top 45 working songs, did you think of any that we missed?
For most of us, work is a big part of life, so it is hardly surprising there are so many songs about careers floating out there in the musical ethos.
Pop songs about work have evolved a little in the last couple of decades, we have gone from toiling in mineshafts and hard labor to high-rise office blocks and petty gripes between the staff. And, courtesy of the pandemic there has been a recent rise in songs about working from home.
Be it songs for work or songs about hard workers, hopefully, our list has come up trumps for you.
At the very least you have some tunes to tide you over whilst you work a busy shift, until next time.