(Left) radiowv / YouTube / (Center) The Ed Sullivan Show / YouTube / (Right) Alabama Band / YouTube
Many country music stars come from blue-collar backgrounds. So they place a lot of value in hard work and the jobs that often get overlooked by the rest of society.
Country singers have recognized hard workin’ folks in their music from the get-go. There are songs that honor linemen, farmers, coal miners, and shift workers of all kinds. Some of these songs celebrate the value to be found in hard work, while others expose the hardships associated with working for “the dollar.”
This list showcases 16 of the best blue-collar anthems in country music. Some songs are modern, others are traditional, but all tip their hats to the hard workers who make the world go round.
Dolly Parton‘s “9 to 5” is known around the world as a workplace anthem. In it, Parton sings about the repetitive nature of “working 9 to 5” and how “it’s all takin’ and no givin‘.” She seems to capture the thoughts of many when she sings, “It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it.”
Parton wrote “9 to 5” for the 1980 workplace comedy film of the same name, which she also starred in.
In “The Dollar,” Johnson tells a heartbreaking tale about a little boy who desperately wants to spend time with his dad. When he asks his mama why his dad leaves home so much, she tells him it’s because he has a job and gets paid for his time.
The little boy starts gathering up all the spare change he can find. He asks his mama if the dimes and pennies will be enough to buy some time with his daddy.
As Johnson sings, “If I’m a little short then how much more does daddy need, to spend some time with me…”
No list about country blue-collar anthems would be complete without featuring Merle Haggard‘s “Workin’ Man Blues.” He wrote the track as well, and released it in 1969.
“Workin’ Man Blues” follows a man who turns in a hard day’s work over and over again, all to help support his wife and nine children. As Haggard sings:
“I’ve been a workin’ man dang near all my life. I’ll be working long as my two hands are fit to use. I’ll drink my beer in a tavern. Sing a little bit of these workin’ man blues.”
Jimmy Webb wrote “Wichita Lineman,” and Glen Campbell recorded the song first. His recording debuted in 1968, and was a crossover success.
“Wichita Lineman” hit #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart and peaked at #3 on the all-genre Hot 100. It remained on the chart for a total of 15 weeks.
Campbell takes on the voice of a county lineman, who longs for the woman he loves while he’s away. He tells her over the phone how his work seems as though it’s never done:
“I know I need a small vacation but it don’t look like rain. And if it snows that stretch down south won’t ever stand the strain.”
“I’m a Survivor” is one of Reba McEntire‘s most well-known songs. It served as the theme for her popular sitcom, Reba, which ran from 2001-2007.
The song is told from the perspective of a woman who was born three months premature. She continues to face challenges throughout life, as she finds herself raising her own children by herself.
As McEntire sings in the famous chorus:
“A single mom who works two jobs, who loves her kids and never stops. With gentle hands and a heart of a fighter. I’m a survivor.”
The newest song in this list comes from viral sensation Oliver Anthony. “Rich Men North of Richmond” has him singing about a variety of hot-button topics, as he lists many of the wrongs he sees in the world.
Millions of listeners were able to relate to the track, which opens with the lines, “I’ve been sellin’ my soul, workin’ all day. Overtime hours for bulls— pay.”
Lee Brice released the powerful song “Drinking Class” in 2014. It reached the third spot on the Hot Country Songs chart and also crossed over to claim the 53rd slot on the all-genre Hot 100.
The song has Brice calling on listeners to “raise [their] glass” if they “belong to the drinking class.” He goes on to sing about the unbreakable spirit of many blue-collar folks, who pick themselves back up whenever the world knocks them down.
Alan Jackson wrote “Hard Hat and a Hammer,” which he released in 2010. The song reached the 17th spot on the Hot Country Songs chart following its release.
“Hard Hat and a Hammer” serves as Jackson’s ode to the American blue-collar worker. As he sings in the chorus:
“But there’s nothing wrong with a hard hat and a hammer, kind of glue that sticks this world together. Hands of steel and cradle of the Promised Land. God bless the working man.”
Craig Morgan reached the tenth spot on the Hot Country Songs chart with “International Harvester.” Released in 2007, the song has Morgan singing as a farmer who’s driving his combine down the road. He ends up angering everyone behind him in the process.
The narrator defends himself and his profession, singing:
“Excuse me for trying to do my job, but this year ain’t been no bumper crop. If you don’t like the way I’m a driving, get back on the interstate. Otherwise sit tight and be nice, and quit your honking at me that way.”
Travis Tritt released “Lord Have Mercy on the Working Man” in 1992. The song peaked at the fifth spot on the Hot Country Songs chart following its release.
The final chorus includes backing vocals from several country artists. Those artists include Brooks & Dunn, T. Graham Brown, George Jones, Little Texas, Dana McVicker, Tanya Tucker, and Porter Wagoner.
Kostas wrote “Lord Have Mercy on the Working Man.” His lyrics describe a working man’s woes as he watches the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As the chorus goes:
“Why’s the rich man busy dancing, while the poor man pays the band? Oh, they’re billing me for killing me. Lord, have mercy on the working man.”
“Forty Hour Week” is Alabama‘s ode to all of the hard workin’ folks across the United States. They specifically thank Detroit auto workers, steel mill workers in Pittsburgh, farmers in Kansas, and West Virginia coal miners.
Alabama also recognizes other blue-collar workers such as firefighters, mail carriers, truck drivers, cops, mechanics, and many more.
David Allan Coe captured the feelings of frustrated workers around the world when he wrote “Take This Job and Shove It.” Johnny Paycheck recorded the track, and it became his first and only song to reach #1 on the chart.
As the chorus goes, “Take this job and shove it. I ain’t workin’ here no more. My woman done left and took all the reasons, I was working for…“
The song popularized the phrase “take this job and shove it” in general culture. It also inspired a 1981 film of the same title, which starred Robert Hays, Barbara Hershey, Art Carney, and David Keith.
Country and Western singer Merle Travis wrote “Sixteen Tons” and was the first artist to record it. Tennessee Ernie Ford covered the song in 1955. His version reached #1 on the country chart and held on to that spot for ten weeks.
“Sixteen Tons” is about a coal miner, and Travis based it on the mines in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. The chorus has the narrator lamenting about how hard he works, yet he continues to fall deeper in debt:
“You load sixteen tons, whattaya get? Another day older and deeper in debt. St. Peter don’cha call me, ’cause I can’t go. I owe my soul to the company store.”
While “Sixteen Tons” tells a coal miner’s perspective, Loretta Lynn‘s autobiographical tune is about a “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”
Lynn was a real-life coal miner’s daughter, as her father worked in the coal mines of Van Lear, Kentucky. He worked in the mines at night, and came home to work on the family farm during the day.
As Lynn sings of her father in some of the song’s famous opening lines:
“We were poor but we had love. That’s the one thing that daddy made sure of. He’d shovel coal to make a poor man’s dollar.”
“Shiftwork” leans into the humorous side of things in the chorus, as it goes, “Talking about a bunch of shift work. A big ol’ pile of shift work.” The way Chesney and Strait stretch the word “shift” as they sing makes it sound like another word entirely…if you catch our drift.
Beyond being a bit comical, “Shiftwork” offers a nod to blue-collar folks who “Work seven to three, three to eleven, eleven to seven.”
Some of the standout lyrics are:
“Got everything I own, by the sweat of my brow. From my four-wheel drive to my cowboy boots. I owe it all to my blue collar roots.”
Brooks & Dunn re-recorded “Hard Workin’ Man” with Brothers Osborne for their 2019 album, Reboot. Listen to their updated rendition below!
Which one of the songs in this list is your favorite? Let us know the names of other country songs about hard-workin’ folks that weren’t featured here.