When you think about it, Labor Day is possibly the most American holiday we have, trumping even the Fourth of July. Let's face it: We pride ourselves on our blue-collar roots more than we do on a silly declaration. Therefore here is a handful of songs about the American working-class hero for you to enjoy this September 3, as you forget just how much you hate your job with the help of one or more of your favorite beers.
"Working Man," Rush (1974)
Geddy Lee puts us in the shoes of a working man who gets up at 7:00, is at work by 9:00, and comes home only to find he has no life except the beer he drinks to relax. Since he has nothing more, he knows that's why he's called a "working man."
From the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album, and since covered by everyone from Bowie to Ozzy to Green Day, this is an angry attack on class and the institutions that immobilize the masses with fear. It's also one of the first mainstream songs to use the word fuck. Fuck yeah.
The song is specifically about the residents of Allentown, Pennsylvania, trying to survive after the closing 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 United States has at least one bar with "Allentown" still on a jukebox, and at least a dozen men and women who weekly get drunk and lament their shitty lives by singing along with Billy Joel.
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. And in this song, he makes it clear that when it comes to Miami hip-hop, nobody's pushing more weight than the boss.
Written as a big fuck-you to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" offers up a big fuck-off to the class divide that in 1940 was just as apparent as it is today.
"Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)," Styx (1987)
The guy doesn't want charity. He doesn't want to collect unemployment. He just wants a job that will let him keep his self-respect.
On one hand, this song preaches that the absence of the Bible from homes in America has led to depravity everywhere. But on the other, it advocates that hard-working men become vigilantes and do what the judges won't — which is punish "them rascals." This contradiction provides a conundrum that only a "simple man" could figure out.
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