Labor Day Playlist
by J.A. Myerson
Here: fifteen songs about work, workers and unions — some of them are obvious choices, others are from a little farther afield. Enjoy, and a happy Labor Day, even though…
The best song to come out of the Great Recession so far.
2. Sam Cooke – Chain Gang
Do you realize what a radical song this was, coming from the dude whose previous big hit was Wonderful World and before that Everybody Likes to Cha Cha Cha?
3. Dan Reeder – Work Song
Can’t get no more honest than that.
4. Leonard Cohen – Solidarity Forever
I really like Cohen’s articulation of this one, don’t you?
5. The Almanac Singers and Pete Seeger – We Shall Not Be Moved
I had to struggle to choose which of the classic union songs I would present Pete’s version of. This one ultimately won, though everyone should hear Mavis Staples do it as well.
6. Old Crow Medicine Show – Union Maid
Why isn’t Woody’s version of this on YouTube? Mysterious. Anyhow, OCMS captures the spirit of the thing, I think. We need an alternative last verse to the Lady’s Auxiliary one.
7. Bob Dylan – Maggie’s Farm
That dude was angry, huh?
8. Tom Morello – Which Side Are You On?
Sarah likes this version because of Morello’s hot voice. Can’t really blame her. Otherwise, I would have posted Pete’s version.
9. Joan Baez and Mimi Farina – Bread and Roses
10. Jimmy Reed – Big Boss Man
Most bosses are such shit, right?!
11. The Coup – IJustWannaLayAroundAllDayInBedWithYou
There is nothing about this song I don’t love. One of the greatest labor songs in history, and nobody counts it as such.
12. Lee Dorsey – Working In The Coal Mine
Listen to his articulation of those lines and that harmonic phrasing. Gold.
13. James Taylor – Millworker
This is from “Working,” a musical based on the Turkel oral history (and one that I was in, incidentally) — total tearjerker.
14. XTC – Earn Enough for Us
Apart from the ’80s-ness of the production value, this album is such great pop music, really on a level with anything post-Beatles. The earnestness of the sentiment expressed in the lyrics is also impressive.
15. Paul Robeson – Joe Hill
Nothing to be said here. The master performing the great labor ballad. Close your eyes and dive in.