Labor Day 2017
And so another summer comes to an end. Around here, the weather gods have jumped early into autumn (58 degrees when I awoke) even as Houston starts to rebuild from a hurricane. September can be puzzling in a continent-spanning country.
Selfishly, I decided to take time off from my more typical posts and end summer with a six-pack devoted to work. I tried to avoid obvious picks (I bet Huey Lewis gets a lot of airplay this weekend). Hope these make you smile.
Enjoy the long weekend.
Highway Patrol, Junior Brown (1993)
A not-well-enough-known national treasure, Junior Brown sports the longest face, and one of the best baritones, in country music. This Indiana native is also one hell of picker (and the inventor of the git-steel). Here he salutes the men and women who patrol our highways and byways. In these parts we often get worked up about the pay for police. It’s important to remember that in a lot of the country the pay is less and the perk is taking the car home so you can respond to calls.
Earn Enough for Us, XTC (1986)
Live to work, work to live, it’s an eternal debate. We should all remember that work ought to have a purpose, even if it’s nearby and personal. Here the lads from Swindon (who may have the best claim on pushing along The Beatles‘ pop legacy) remind us of just that.
It’s Like That, Run-D.M.C., (1984)
I promised myself I’d stay away from politics which saves you all from a dance-able Trotsykite manifesto. Yet sometimes we lose sight of just how hard daily living can be, especially if you don’t happen to be born into a set of circumstances that makes things marginally easier. My down-the-road (from Hollis, NY) contemporaries did a great job of making that point and delivering some sound advice that applies to everyone.
Car Wash, Rose Royce (1976)
On the other hand, if we leave the world of work to the commercial tunesmiths it’ll come out as all play. Which doesn’t mean you don’t get a great tune and a visual that will be stuck in your memory for life. It’s just a far cry from the place “where all it ever does is rain.” I secretly loved this at the height of the disco-rocker wars and I love it still.
Cumberland Blues, Grateful Dead (1970)
Kicking off side two (yes, there used to be such a thing) of the Grateful Dead’s fourth record, this song comes closest to paying off the album’s title: Workingman’s Dead. If you stumbled across this out of context it would fit right in with a strain of American folk music going back to Scots-Irish immigrants. A fabulous summation of how, where and why we work.
Work Song, Nina Simone (1961)
An amazing musician who has taken long to be properly acknowledged (thank you Netflix), Nina Simone defied easy pigeon-holing. I’ve always loved this version of a song penned by Nat Adderly that had lyrics added by Oscar Brown, Jr. (The Adderly‘s also don’t get their due if you ask me.) That’s probably because it’s really a 12-bar blues. You don’t have to believe me, but you can hear for yourself on the Butterfield Band‘s East-West.
PLAYLIST AND BONUS VIDEO
I put together a baker’s dozen of songs including all of the above and some honorable mentions. I let politics creep in a bit here and, this being Labor Day, thought it appropriate to end with Billy Bragg‘s version of Joe Hill‘s labor classic, complete with Springsteen-esque sermon, below.