In the olden days, May Day was a holiday where a May Queen is crowned, where a May pole is erected, and where Morris dancing is a thing. In modern times, May Day has become a chance to fight for workers’ rights. With the recent unrest in the Occupy movement, May Day 2012 is looking to be the most protest-filled May Day since the 70s. In order to celebrate, we take a look at our top 10 favorite protest songs.
10. Max Burgundy “Save Ferris (Fuck My Job)”
If you are going to write an angry rap song about hating your job, what better way to do it than sampling The Office theme song? That is exactly what Max Burgundy does with “Save Ferris.” On the track, Burgundy rejects the idea of work and instead says he going to let his pants sag and eat oreos for breakfast.
MP3: Max Burgundy “Save Ferris (Fuck My Job)”
09. Strike Anywhere “You’re Fired”
Strike Anywhere is one of the most social and politically conscious bands in punk and they kicked off their debut album, Change is a Sound with “You’re Fired.” The track does a wonderful job of highlighting the oppression of capitalism in two minutes flat.
MP3: Strike Anywhere “You’re Fired”
08. R.E.M. “Finest Worksong”
For being often mealy-mouthed and obtuse, Michael Stipe pens a surprisingly easy to understand working man’s song with “Finest Worksong.” Though some people might miss the “Throw Thoreau” reference to Henry David Thoreau’s anti-work/society ethics but everyone can understand Bill Berry’s “hammering of railroad spikes” drum beat.
MP3: R.E.M. “Finest Worksong [other mix]”
07. The Ramones “It’s Not My Place (In the 9 to 5 World)”
The Ramones are no strangers to writing anthems but “It’s Not My Place (In the 9 to 5 World)” seemed to become the rallying cry of many disenfranchised youth in the early 80s. Kids rebelling against the standard message of “go to school so you can get a good job so you can work the rest of your life.” Joey Ramone instead penned a track that said “I’d rather stay home and watch TV.”
MP3: The Ramones “It’s Not My Place (In the 9 to 5 World)”
06. Dolly Parton “9 to 5”
It might seem cheesy, but Dolly Parton‘s “9 to 5” was a working woman’s anthem. The 70s were the highlight of the second-wave of feminism, and “9 to 5” seemed to embody all that women had accomplished in the decade by presenting an empower but frustrated protagonist.
MP3: Dolly Parton “9 to 5”
05. Cam’ron “I Hate My Job”
In the late aughts, “recession rap” became a real thing. The typical “money, power, respect” message gave way to no money, no power, and feeling disrespected rap. The best of this genre was Cam’ron light-hearted but chord-striking “I Hate My Job.” For people with a typical 9-5, the first verse stanza should hit home “I woke up late, didn’t even have a shower/Lunch break? Give me a break, a damn half an hour/All this bullshit for twelve bucks an hour/Plug me to Chuck D, wanna Fight the Power.”
MP3: Cam’ron “I Hate My Job”
04. Dropkick Murphys “Do Or Die”
My first introduction to songs of workers’ rights was the titular song from Dropkick Murphys‘ debut album, Do Or Die. The track is filled with Dropkick Murphys’ punk fury but the lyrics are what make this song special. The lyrics deal with the history of Unions, from Reagan’s less than friendly policies to Unions’ waning power in the 90s. The track is an anthem for future Union rights protests.
MP3: Dropkick Murphys “Do Or Die”
03. Piebald “Still We Let It Choke Us”
For a decent part of their early career, Piebald was considered an “emo band.” While they may have projected some qualities of emo, their lyrics were anything but. To prove this I point to their anti-work bohemeith “Still We Let It Choke Us.” The stanza of “Tie is on tight for eight hours every day now/you cannot breathe/no time for yourself/what if your paperwork caught on fire?” still gets me every time.
MP3: Piebald “Still We Let It Choke Us”
02. Johnny Paycheck “Take This Job and Shove It”
Since 1977, when Johnny Paycheck‘s cover of David Allan Coe‘s “Take This Job and Shove It” hit number one on the country charts in 1977, I wonder how many people have quit their jobs using the song’s refrain? I would think that anyone who has ever quit a job has wanted to say it but only a certain amount of people have the balls to spit it out.
MP3: Johnny Paycheck “Take This Job and Shove It”
01. Bob Dylan “Maggie’s Farm”
For as complex as Bob Dylan’s lyrics can be tricky, but no one can listen to “Maggie’s Farm” and not understand what he is getting at. Verses like “I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s pa no more/he puts his cigar out in your face just for kicks/His bedroom window is made out of bricks/The National Guard stands around his door” are so stark with imagery that it just makes you want to call out of work forever.
MP3: Bob Dylan “Maggie’s Farm”