Tuesday, May 01, 2018

May Day Or Labour Day Pop Song Lyrics

May Day 

1st of May celebrates May Day. It's also called Labour Day in other countries and a holiday in Singapore.  So to cut the chase, here's a list of songs that we all used to sing and play but mostly not knowing that they were songs that had lyrics discussing the working class individual.


One of the most popular songs from the 60's was A Hard Day's Night, a Beatles hit that's forever and made into a movie. We were all frantically crazy, loved the song but how was the movie?

It's been a hard day's night

And I've been working like a dog
It's been a hard day's night
I should be sleepin' like a log
Video from Michael Clough: A Hard Day's Night by The Beatles. Thank you.

Another song we could tag as a May Day number was 9 To 5, the Dolly Parton protest classic that was also made into a movie.  The liberated women wanted to be recognised for their contribution. And they were. Hooray:

Working nine to five

What a way to make a living
Working nine to five
It's all taking and no giving


Then Sam Cooke came next with his sad refrain about the Chain Gang. Big boss Richard Branson used this song as an example when he spoke about teamwork, co-operation and customer service. My my:

That's the sound of the men 

Working on the chain gang
All day long they work so hard
Till the sun is going down...

Video from Twodawgzz: SummertimeBlues by Eddie Cochran. Thank you.


Eddie Cochran was another one complainin' because he's got Summertime Blues. He had to work late so he couldn't keep his date and the boss refused his leave. I love the beat, I love the lyrics because it's rock and roll. Keep on complainin' Eddie:

Well I'm gonna raise a fuss 

I'm gonna raise a holler
About working all summer
Just to try to earn a dollar

This classic by Johnny Cash was hot in the 60's but uncertain about its theme until I got older. 16 Tons focussed on coal mining activities and the suffering the workers had to endure:

I was born one morning when the sun didn't shine

I picked up my shovel and walked to the mine
I loaded 16 tons of number 9 coal
And the straw boss said, 'Well a blessed my soul!'
Video from BakNDaDay: Car Wash by Rose Royce. Thank you.

Here's one song I won't forget. Clean and shiny after a Car Wash by the Rose Royce, the workers suffered much when the day ended. Sorry guys, the disco music made me forget the splashes:

Well those cars never seem to stop coming

(Work and work)
Keep those rags and machines coming
(Work and work)
My fingers to the bone 

Notice that all the songs, except one, have the word, work in the lyrics. It all goes to prove the theme of each hit. There are many more of these songs about the working class. One way to make workers be heard? Play these songs. 

And by the way, First of May by the BeeGees is not a Labour Day song. It's about their puppy.

Check it out:

A Happy May Day Holiday To All.

Images: Google Vinyl Covers.

Composers: Lyrics/Music:
A Hard Day's Night: John Lennon/Paul McCartney.
9 To 5: Dolly Parton.
Chain Gang: Sam Cooke.
Summertime Blues: 
Eddie Cochran/Jerry Capehart.
16 Tons: Merle Travis.
Car Wash: Norman Whitfield.

(Got stories or songs to contribute?  Please write on the comment page.)


Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,

The song 'Part of the Union' by English band Strawbs from 1973 comes to mind. Was it popular in Singapore at the time? The song portrays unions and unionists as having exaggerated powers and it was long believed that the song was actually anti-unionist, but some band members have denied that. Whatever the intention of the songwriters, the song did become popular with union members. The song is easily found on youtube.



ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Steve,
You're on break time?

I know the song but just wondering how popular it was in Singapore. It's always found on this particular list of songs.

Anyone familiar with it here?

Thanks for the reminder my friend.


Yes, I'm working. But to take it in a positive light, being able to work is a marvellous thing. Cheers. 😀😀😀
Happy Labour Day!


Good morning dearest Andy Young. Happy Labour Day & a blessed new month. 🌻🌅♥️😊





Happy Labour Day!
Wishing you many blessings and may you stay healthy and happy always.


Labour Day is to remind everyone 8 hours work, 8 hours recreation and 8 hours rest.
To me, it reminds that all humans are equal. No one is supposed to be a SLAVE to another.

(Respecting the writer's wish to remain anon.)

FL said...

Hi, Andy, how about this song "Working in a coal mine" by Lee Dorsey. Parts of the lyrics are as follow:

Workin' in a coal mine
Goin' down down down
Workin' in a coal mine
Whop! about to slip down
Workin' in a coal mine
Goin' down down down......................

Anyway, a Happy May Day to all !

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi FL,

Yes, it's another hit list for such songs. Thanks so much. To be honest I heard this song very late. Having no Rediffusion, I don't remember hearing this song on the radio.

Appreciate you keeping in touch with your informative and delightful song choices.

Thanks again for visiting.

Thanks also to others from Facebook and this blog for writing in.


Even the Japanese have to work hard.People who had a hard time proving for the family in this high standard of living have to work on May Day.

JOEY KOH said...

Glad you have stopped working Andy. Enjoy and rest well. HAPPY & Blessed May Day brother, stay healthy always😀

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks, Stephen and Joey for both your comments. Yes, Singaporeans work pretty hard. Some of the songs could liven the heart a little.

Thanks also to Angela, Ann Rowena, Larry Lai, Winston and anonymous for all your varied replies. It only goes to show how popular the LABOUR topic is.

Anonymous said...

hain gang is not really that suitable for reference to working . Chain is the ball and chain worn by convicts and sound of the gang breaking rocks. It would infer slave labor or having convicts work for you, LOL

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

It is true of what you wrote.

That is why it is so significant. Working day to day without the will and a low salary is consistent with working like a SLAVE - the exact analogy of what some jobs are all about.

Thank you for your interest. You must be Matt Tan. Sounds like you.

FACEBOOK said...


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Still a labour ...today no labour ...rest rest rest at home ...😋😋😋😴😴😴😴

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you all who made comments. A very rewarding post for me indeed.

Funny or serious, short or long, I appreciate them all. Just goes to show we care about what's going on with our surroundings.

And the music selection, thanks for the songs some of you have provided.

Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,

Roy Orbison's 'Working for the man' is another one. Australian band Mental As Anything did a good version of it in the early 1980s.



ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks, Prof, wow! I like this one.
Appreciate your support, even you being so busy.


Wow, Andy,

I cannot believe my ears hearing that song Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran), I thought nobody even notices that song. My band had been playing and I sang that song almost every other night when we were in Hiroshima for the 6 months contract in Japan.

Our Japanese friends like it. I did not hear of it again any more or anywhere or of any band playing the song in Singapore or Malaysia since 1985 when I came back (cannot remember exactly which year). It had been totally out of my mind since then until I heard it from your blog today. All songs bring a specific memory of when, where and the happenings surrounding it, who you were with, or a special occasion.
A Hard Day's Night obviously an international Beatles hit, was so very popular among all age group, and that brought my memories back to my secondary school days at Katong; I used to write down all their songs lyrics in my songbook.

The song Car Wash (Rose Royce) brings back my memories with the Falcons years back in the 80s I think, a very popular Malaysian band. I was supposed to replace their singer who had to go back to the States, me practising the Car Wash refrains almost every day just to get that essence; it was not easy but their vocalist sang that number superbly. As I am more of a lounge singer I did not join the band.

What memories you brought back...

Thanks for the oldies and they do click with me. I want to thank you, Andy, for bringing back the good old times in your blog. Cheers to you.

Wouldn't know much about songs to protest about, as long as they're good to hear or sing... just go along happily.