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Classic Rock Songs - Work Themed

Updated on February 10, 2021
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Retired from investment banking and teaching, Philip has written several books on investing.

The Boss

Classic Songs with Something to do with Work in the Title

This is about songs that have something about work, something to do with work, or something to do with looking for work or losing a job. They are all classics in the sense that they have been top rock'n'roll hits in the past. Some of them have even made it to the pinnacle of the charts either here in the UK or over the pond in the USA. Of course any selection of songs is very subjective and compiled according to the current taste in music of the author of the piece. So blame me for any omissions you think I have made and I would welcome any suggestions for other titles to be inserted. Happy listening!

The Isley Brothers

Work to Do - Isley Brothers

Work To Do - The Isley Brothers

A good song for all those bankers who don't want to make the same mistakes again....and again.....and again "Work to Do" is a 1972 funky song by The Isley Brothers, distributed on their T-Neck label. The song, which was both written and produced by the band, was a track on their 1972 album, Brother, Brother, Brother, and reached number 51 in the US pop album charts and number 5 in the R&B charts. Lyrically, the song talks about a bad situation between a man and his wife, to do with his apparent lack of quality time he spent with his wife. The man insists that he can't wait to get home to her, however it turns out he is more committed to his career and work.

The Isley Brothers are an American R and B group who originally came from Cincinnati, Ohio. They originally were a vocal trio consisting of three brothers O'Kelly Isley, Jr., Rudolph Isley and Ronald Isley. Their fourth brother Vernon joined the group a few years into their career but sadly died. Two other brothers joined the group in 1973 and since then the group has enjoyed one of the longest, most musically influential, and most diverse careers in popular music.

Bruce Springsteen

Working on the Highway

Working on the Highway - Bruce Springsteen

Getting people back to work by building new roads and infrastructure. Of course Bruce Springsteen never actually worked on a highway and never had a job other than playing and writing music, but so much of his work deals with people who work desperately trying to get by. In this song, Springsteen looks at how work can lead us to take extreme measures. The original song title was "Child Bride" and Springsteen recorded this song for the Nebraska album, although it had been written initially as part of seventy songs eventually earmarked for selection for the Born in the USA album. Nebraska released in 1982, gained critical acclaim even though it didn't sell as well as Springsteen's earlier albums. However, many songs originally recorded in earlier sessions for the Nebraska album made it to the Born in the USA album which sold over 30 million records and topped the billboard album chart in 1984.

The Silhouettes

Get A Job - The Silhouettes

Get a Job - The Silhouettes

Sing this song to yourself over breakfast as you scour the wanted adverts. Get A Job was penned by group member Richard Lewis in the US army. After he left the army and returned to his home in Philadelphia, he joined a church group called the Gospel Tornadoes, which then changed their name to the Thunderbirds.They recorded for a local record label Kae Records whose management suggested owned that they change their name. The group came to a consensus on The Silhouettes. When the single began to sell the record was set up for national distribution by the record company. It made number 1 in the US charts in 1958 and was the only single by the Silhouettes to make the national charts. The song was later covered by the Mills Brothers with some success. The Silhouettes toured extensively with the likes of Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and Clyde McPhatter amongst other notable R&B artists. Despite the successful tours they never managed to muster another top ten hit on either side of the Atlantic.

9 to 5 - Dolly Parton

9 to 5 - Sheena Easton

9 to 5 - Dolly Parton

Millions of people around the world spend the hours of 9 to 5 as office workers working for an employer who they probably have a love hate relationship with. They hate the pay but love the fact that they have a job.

This song was written by Dolly Parton for the film 9 to 5 which was made in 1980. It was Dolly’s first film role and the movie also starred the great Jane Fonda, Dabney Coleman (who?) and Lily Tomlin. The film was about working in an office between the hours of 9am and 5pm. Apparently according to Dolly her inspiration for the song was her long acrylic fingernails which when she clicked them together made a sound like a typewriter. She even used her nails as part of the percussion backing when the record was cut. The song won two Grammys in 1981 as the Best Country Song and Best Country Vocal by a female artist. For Dolly Parton this was a cross over song in her career which expanded her audience into pop mainstream and in February 1981 she hit the top of the pop charts with it. Several other notable country singers followed Dolly Parton into mainstream pop after her success with 9 to 5.

A song with the same title 9 to 5 was released by Sheena Easton in 1981 and this went to number 1 both in the UK and in the States. In the States it was renamed Morning Train so as to not be associated with the Dolly Parton song. This song was the 12th biggest selling pop song of 1981.

The Beatles

A Hard Day's Night

Best Selling Song

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A Hard Days Night - The Beatles

This strange title was created from something Ringo Starr used to say about certain jobs they did where they (the Beatles) worked all day and then worked all night and because it was still night when they stopped work, Ringo said they had completed ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. The song is unusual as it is written in a key (mixolydic) that is not used so much in pop. It was the title song of the Beatles first movie and actually got two Oscar nominations. Although at the time there were many movies that starred musicians none of them were considered worthwhile cinema. However, A Hard days Night had some cinematic value. When the Beatles made the movie they had not yet conquered America but by the time filming had finished they had become huge and millions of people wanted to see the movie. The movie was actually shot in black and white to save costs.

Interestingly enough before the movie was made the Beatles were always marketed as a unified group but because the movie looked at each as four distinct personalities the subsequent marketing of the Beatles focused not only on the group as a whole but also on their individual personalities. The title song was the last song to be composed and John was asked to write it by the producers who expected him to work on it for several weeks. John amazed them by writing it in a day.

The Beatles won a Grammy for the song as well as best new artists in the same year 1964. A hotel in Liverpool situated next to the Cavern Club where the Beatles were discovered and  is called A Hard day’s Night.

The album A Hard Day’s Night went to number 1 in the album charts in the UK and in America and the singles from the album A Hard Day’s Night and Can’t Buy Me Love both were transatlantic number 1’s. A Hard Day’s Night was the first Beatles album to have tracks written solely by the Beatles. John Lennon wrote 13 of them and Paul McCartney the remaining 3 including the track Can’t Buy Me Love.


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