Labor Music Books
Alterman, Eric. It Ain't No Sin to be Glad You're Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen. Boston: Little, Brown, 1999.

Malone, Bill C. Don't Get Above Your Raisin': Country Music and the Southwestern Working Class. Urbana: University of Illinios Press, 2002.


Labor Music Web Sites (a mere sampling):
In the fall of 1999, I placed a call on the CWCS list-serve asking if anyone could recommend songs about work and/or workers.  Several list-servers recommended songs, and this list includes many of their recommendations.  The list-servers who sent recommendations include Renny Christopher, Cheryl Cline, Keith Danner, Laura Goostree, Larry Hanley, Steven High, Henry Laufenberg, Irving Peckham, Wendell Ricketts, Jeff Sharlet, Eric Swank, and Todd Vogel.  This music list was compiled in the spirit of collective work, and your recommendations will build upon the foundation that has been laid here.  Terry Easton 


ALAN LOMAX COLLECTION.  See this site for recordings and collections of prison songs and folk songs of the United States.  See also the Rounder Records web site for labor-related recordings at


AMERICAN FOLK SONGS.  See this site for labor-related folk songs, hymns, and spirituals of the U.S.


AMERICAN UNION AND LABOR MUSIC.  See this site for songs of the IWW, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Joe Hill, Pete Seeger, Utah Phillips, and others.


AMERICAN ROUTES.  Use the search engine on this site to hear Labor Day broadcasts, interviews, and music about work and working people.  Type in Deep Routes in the search engine for a portal of links to histories, geographies, performers, and productions of the music featured on the American Routes radio show.  This site contains links which feature essays, photographs, audio and video recordings, archives, and webcasts.


DICK GAUGHAN.  See this site for recordings by this Scottish folk singer.  You can purchase Gaughans recordings at Appleseed Recordings  


FREEDOM SONG NETWORK.  See this site for San Francisco Bay Area social justice organizations with links to music, radio, and events.


THE GEORGIA SEA ISLAND SINGERS.  See this site for information about the history of this musical group that performs chants, slave songs, and work songs.


GREAT LABOR ARTS EXCHANGE.  See this site for conference information and links for artists and activists.


JOHN HENRY: THE STEEL DRIVING MAN.  This site chronicles the story, legends, and music of John Henry.  This site was constructed by graduate students in the school of Mass Communications and Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


HISTORY IN SONG.  See this site for labor songs.  Go to the table of contents to access songs of the sea, penitentiary songs, chain gang songs, railroad songs, coal mining songs, and songs of tramps, hoboes, migrants and homeless workers.


JEFFERSON COUNTY GOSPEL QUARTETS, Jefferson County, Alabama.  See this site for the origins of a cappella gospel singing and its relationship to African American coal miners and steel workers. 


THE LABOR HERITAGE FOUNDATION.  See this site for a directory of labor artists with a catalog of labor music.  At this site you will find picket line chants, labor song parodies, labor media, and more.


KEITH AND RUSTY MCNEILS WORKING AND UNION SONG PAGE.  See this site for songs that document work and workers from agrarianism through the industrial revolution and beyond in the United States.


MARTIN WHELAN: SINGER AND SONGWRITER.  See this site for recordings by Whelan, a Dublin fitter and trade union activist.


MUSIC OF THE 1995 DETROIT NEWSPAPER STRIKE.  See this site for information about the strike and music by Steve Earle, Billy Bragg, Detroit Labor Rappers, and others


SHANTIES AND SEA SONGS.  See this site for song lyrics, discographies, and musical links about shanties and sea songs.


SOJOURNERS MAGAZINE.  See this site for an article entitled From the Church to the Union Hall: The Songs of Working People by Margaret Hoven and David Earle Anderson (September October 1996, Vol. 25, No. 5).


SONGS OF IRISH LABOUR.  See this site for Irish labor songs.


SOUTHERN FOLKLIFE COLLECTION.  Search one of the largest archives of traditional music as presented by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  This site contains recordings of textile worker songs and photographs of singers.


VOICES FROM THE DUST BOWL: THE CHARLES L. TODD AND ROBERT SONKIN MIGRANT WORKER COLLECTION 1940-1941.  See this site for songs, texts, audio recording, and photographs that document migrant workers in central Californias Farm Security Administration (FSA) migrant work camps in 1940 and 1941. 




Songs About Work and/or Working Class Life (a mere sampling):


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Alabama.  40 Hour Week (1985, RCA).


Alvin, Dave. Tulare Dust: A Songwriters Tribute to Merle Haggard (1994, HighTone), produced by Dave Alvin and Tom Russell


Anderson, Bill. Laid Off (1982)


Aunt Molly Jackson. I Am a Union Woman


Baez, Joan. I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill (1969)


Bragg, Billy and Wilco. Mermaid Avenue (1998, Elektra)


Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Blue Collar from Bachman-Turner Overdrive (1973, Mercury)


Bandy, Moe. Thank Goodness for Friday


Bar-Kays, The. A Hard Days Night from The Complete Stax/Volt Singles 1959-1968 (Stax/Atlantic)


Bare, Bobby. Detroit City (1963, RCA Victor)


Basie, Count. Shoe-Shine Boy from Count Basie and the Kansas City 7 (Impulse)


Beastie Boys. Funky Boss from Check Your Head (Capitol)    


Bee Gees. Stayin Alive


Black 47. Fire of Freedom (1993, EMI)


Brooks, Garth. Alabama Clay


Brown, James. Living in America 


Brown, Roy. Beautician Blues from Blues Deluxe (Charley)


Campbell, Glen. Wichita Lineman


Carolina Tar Heels (The). Got the Farm Land Blues (1930)


Cash, Johnny. Onie, One Piece at a Time


Chapin, Ralph. Solidarity Forever


Chapman, Tracy. Fast Car from Tracy Chapman (1988, Elektra Asylum)


Charles, Ray. Busted from Ingredients in a Recipe for Soul/Have a Smile With Me (Rhino)


Cohn, Ronald, ed. Songs for Political Action, various artists (1996).  A ten-box compact disc set.


Dickens and various artists (1987, Rounder). Coalmining WomenHazel


Coles, Ann. Got My Mo-Jo Working available on Jump Blues Classics (Rhino).  See also Muddy Waters version.


Conlee, John. Working Man, Songs for the Working Man


Cotton, Elizabeth. Freight Train (1958).  Hear this song on Smithsonian Folkways American Routes Collection (1996, Smithsonian Folkways). 


Croce, Jim.  Working at the Car Wash Blues 


Dean, Jimmy. Steel Man (1962)


Delevantes (The). It's A Living from Long About That Time (Rounder)


DeMent, Iris. See her version of Merle Haggards Big City on her album The Way I Should (1996, Warner Brothers), and on Tulare Dust: A Songwriters Tribute to Merle Haggard (1994, HighTone Records).


Dickens, Hazel. You'll Get No More of Me, Working Girl Blues, Hard Hit Songs for Hard Hit People (1981)


DiFranco, Ani and Utah Phillips. Fellow Workers (1999)


Dixon Brothers. Weavers Life (1936?), Spinning Room Blues (1936)


Dorsey, Lee. Work, Work, Work from Wheelin and Dealin (Arista), Working in a Coal Mine 


Dudley, Dave. Six Days on the Road.


Dylan, Bob. Maggies Farm from Bringing it All Back Home (Columbia)


Earle, Steve. Hillbilly Highway


Ellington, Duke. Work Song from Black, Brown & Beige (Music Masters)


Foley, Red. Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy from Only Country 1950-1954 (JCI)


Ford, Tennessee Ernie. Sixteen Tons (1955).  This song can be found on Only Country 1955-1959 (JCI).  See also the original version by Merle Travis (1947). 


Gabriel, Peter. Don't Give Up from So (1986, Geffen)


Garland, Jim. All I Want


Gaughan, Dick. World Turned Upside Down, Handful of Earth, Which Side Are You On? The Pound A Week Rise, Call It Freedom;  Workers Song and Song of Accounting written by Ewan Maccoll.  See Gaughans web site at and a web site with samples of his music at


Gaye, Marvin. Inner City Blues [Make Me Wanna Holler], What's Going On (1971)


Gillespie, Dizzy. Don't Try to Keep Up With The Joneses from Jambo Caribe (Verve)


Glazer, Joe and the Elm City Four. We Will Overcome (1950)


Grandmaster Mel/The Furious Five.  We Don't Work For Free 


Grateful Dead (The). Cumberland Blues from Workingman's Dead (Warner Brothers)


Griffith, Nanci. Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) from Other Voices, Too (1998, Elektra) [words and music by Woody Guthrie and Martin Hoffman], Gulf Coast Highway, Love at the Five and Dime, Nevermind, by Harlan Howard, Lookin For the Time.


Gunning, Sarah Ogan. Come All You Coal Miners, Down on the Picket Line, Dreadful Memories, Hello, Coal Miner, I'm Going to Organize, I Hate the Company Bosses, That Twenty Five Cents You Paid


Guthrie, Woody. Pastures of Plenty from This Land is Your Land The Asch Recordings Volume 1 (Smithsonian Folkways), Union Maid, and various other work-related recordings.


Haggard, Merle. Big City, Mama Tried, Hungry Eyes, Harolds Super Service, If We Make it Through December, White Line Fever, The Way I Am, Tulare Dust, Workin Man Blues, and various other work-related songs.


Hart, Alvin Youngblood. Ouachita Run from Territory (Hannibal)


Hayes, Alfred. Joe Hill


Hinojosa, Tish. There Must Be Something in the Rain


Holliday, Billie. Nice Work if You Can Get It from The Billie Holiday Story Volume 3 (Columbia)


Hopkins, Lightnin.  Mr. Charlie Part 2 from Lightnin Hopkins: Morning Blues Charly Blues Masterworks Volume 8 (Charly).


Howard, Camille. Business Woman from Works Many Voices Volume 1 (Arhoolie)


Jimenez, Flaco. Mojado Sin Licencia from Mojado Sin Licencia (Arhoolie)


Joel, Billy. Allentown from The Nylon Curtain (1982)


Jones, George. Small Time Laboring Man


Kahn, Si.  Doing My Job (1982), Unfinished Portraits (1985), Aragon Mill, and various other work-related recordings.


Lampell, Millard, Lee Hays and Pete Seeger.  Talking Union


Lay, Rodney and The Wild West. I Wish I Had a Job to Shove (1982, Churchill)


Lennon, John. Working Class Hero 


Lullaby for the Working Class. I Never Even Asked for Light (1997)


Lynn, Loretta. Coal Miner's Daughter (1969, Decca)


Mackey, Percival and his band. Sing As We Go Medley from Music While You Work (Empress)


McCarn, Dave. Rich Man, Poor Man (Cotton Mill Colic, No. 2) (1930), Hobo Life (1930)


McReynolds, Jim and Jessie, and the Virginia Boys. Cotton Mill Man (ca. 1964)


McShann, Jay and his Jazz Men. Hard Working Man Blues from Kansas City Blues 1944-1949 (Capitol)


Mead, Dale. Cable Car Operator from Works Many Voices, Volume 2 (Arhoolie)


Miller, Roger. King of the Road (1964, Smash)


Millican, Moon. Pipeliner's Blues   


McGarrigle, Kate and Anna. Matapedia (1996)


Morton, Jelly Roll. Shoe Shiners Drag from Chicago: The Red Hot Peppers (Smithsonian Collection)


Milner, Dan and Bob Conroy. Irish in America (2001, Folk-Legacy Records).  This recording chronicles in song the labor of Irish immigrants to the U.S. from 1780-1980.  See the Folk-Legacy Records web site at  for more detailed information about this recording.


Newman, Randy. Mr. President Have Pity on the Working Man from Good Old Boys (Reprise)


NWA. Straight Outta Compton (1998)


Ochs, Phil. Links on the Chain


Parton, Dolly. Coat of Many Colors (1971, RCA),  9 to 5 (1980, RCA),  Working Girl 


Paycheck, Johnny. Take This Job and Shove It (1977, Epic)


Paxton, Tom. Changing My Name to Chrysler from Politics Live (1988, Rounder)


Perkins, Carl. Give Me Back My Job from The Oxford American Southern Sampler


Phillips, Utah. We Have Fed You All for a Thousand Years (1983), Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco Fellow Workers (1999), and various other work-related recordings.


Pretenders (The). My City Was Gone (1982)


Prysock, Arthur. Working Man's Prayer (1968)


Redbone, Leon. Lazy Bones from No Regrets (Sugar Hill)


Red Clay Ramblers. Aragon Mill composed by union organizer Si Kahn in 1979 for the album Chuckin the Frizz (Flying Fish)


Reece, Florence. Which Side Are You On?


Reed, Jimmy. Big Boss Man from 18 Greatest Hits (Motown)


Reeves, Del. [Looking at the] World through a Windshield


Rivers, Johnny. Poor Side of Town (1966)


Robeson, Paul. Joe Hill from Dont Mourn Organize! Songs of Labor Songwriter Joe Hill (Smithsonian Folkways)


Roe, Tommy. Working-Class Hero (1973).  Listen also to Marianne Faithfuls version.


Seger, Bob. Boomtown Blues from The DistanceFeel Like a Number (1981, Capitol)


Seeger, Pete. Solidarity Forever with the Almanac Singers from Talking Union (Folkways), Carry It On: Songs of American People (1987),  The Spring Hill Mine Disaster (see also Peter, Paul and Marys version), and various other work-related recordings.


Seeger, Peggy. Gonna Be an Engineer.  This song can be heard on The Folkways Years 1955-1992, Songs of Love and Politics (Smithsonian/Folkways) and on Smithsonian Folkways American Roots Collection (1996, Smithsonian/Folkways).     


Silhouettes (The). Get a Job


Simon, Paul and Art Garfunkel.  The Boxer


Simone, Nina. Work Song from Nina Smith Anthology The Colpix Years (Rhino)


Simpson, Red. Nitro Express, Highway Patrol


Slim, T-Bone. Popular Wobbly


Songs of the Working People: From the American Revolution to the Civil War.  Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, Alan Lomax, Tommy Maken, and others  (1988, Flying Fish).  Listen to songs of whaling, buffalo hunting, railroad drilling, farming, immigrant labor, and slave labor.


Sovine, Red. Teddy Bear, Phantom 309


Springsteen, Bruce. Youngstown, Sinaloa Cowboys, The Line, and Galveston Bay from The Ghost of Tom JoadWorking on the Highway from Born in the USA.   Highway Patrolman from Nebraska.   Factory, My Hometown, and numerous other work-related recordings.


Staples Singers. When Will We Be Paid from The Complete Stax/Volt Soul Singles 1968-1971 (Stax)


Steagall, Red. Various truck driving songs and cowboy songs.


Stephenson, Joe. Red Wing from Moonlight on the Colorado (Adobe)


Sting. We Work the Black Seam from The Dream of the Blue Turtles (1985, A & M), Island of Souls from The Soul Cages (1991, A & M)


Stutes, Jay. Hey Boss Man from Workers Many Voices Volume 1 (Arhoolie)


Styx. Blue Collar Man from Long Nights (1978).  Mr. Roboto (1983)


Sugarloaf. Don't Call Us, Well Call You (1974)


Summer, Donna. She Works Hard for the Money 


Taylor, James. Bartenders' Blues


They'll Never Keep Us Down: Women's Coal Mining Songs. Phyllis Boyens, Hazel Dickens, Reel World String Band, and others (1984, Rounder).


Travis, Merle. Dark as a Dungeon (1947).  See Folk Songs of the Hills (Capitol)


Truck Drivin' Man. A compilation of various trucking songs.


Turner, Ike and Tina. Proud Mary.  Listen to the original version by Creedence Clearwater Revival. 


Vogues (The). Five O'Clock World (1965)


Weavers (The). Various work-related songs and recordings.


Weeping Tile. Cold Snap (1995)


Welch, Gillian. Miners Refrain, from Hell Among the Yearlings (1998, Almo Sounds)


Working for a Living (BMG). A collection of work-related songs


Wynne, Pat , Hali Hammer and Chet Gardiner. Labor of Love: Songs of Work and Play (1998, At Long Last Records)


Yankovich, Weird Al.  Dog Eat Dog 


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