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A musical Labor Day salute to workers everywhere

In honor of Labor Day and at a time of persistent unemployment in the nation, it’s an appropriate time to pause to celebrate the working life.

In honor of Labor Day and at a time of persistent unemployment in the nation, it’s an appropriate time to pause to celebrate the working life. We’ll salute it musically.

We’ll start with two different songs that share the same title: “The Work Song.” First, here are Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. And then there’s Walt Disney’s “The Work Song,” from the 1950 movie classic “Cinderella.”

Thirteen years earlier, Disney offered another animated ode to work in the groundbreaking “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Here’s “Whistle While You Work.”

 So, come along on our musical “orientation tour” for a wide-ranging sampler covering the ups and downs of the work world.

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Office life
Here are two upbeat-tempo, downbeat-message songs about the world of office workers: Dolly Parton’s Nine to Five” and the Vogues’ “Five O’Clock World.”

A goldmine of mining songs
In checking out the musical work world, I was surprised to find so many songs about mining — most of them on the melancholy side. I’ll save the only upbeat one for last in the section.

The biggest selling of them is Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons,” a 1955 giant that was No. 1 for eight weeks. 

Lee Dorsey sounds really down — very far down — in “Working in the Coal Mine.”

Jimmy Dean offers a bestselling heroic tale with a sad ending, “Big Bad John.”

The only mining optimists I came across were those Disney dwarves again, with their happy “Heigh Ho” marching song.

So, here’s a small sampling of a wide range of occupations — I chose only one song for each job (with a couple of exceptions at the very end). Check out these job listings (excluding athletics) and feel free to add some more songs about jobs in the Comment selection below.

Physical labor
• The Boss Man: Roy Orbison’s “Workin’ for the Man”

• Agriculture: The Premiers’ “Farmer John”

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• Auto maintenance: Rose Royce’s “Car Wash”

• Carpentry: Boby Darin’s “If I Were a Carpenter”

• Steelworkers: Jimmy Dean’s “Steel Men”

Public servants
• Street maintenance: The Browns’ “The Old Lamplighter”

• Astronaut: Elton John’s “Rocket Man”

• Parking enforcement: The Beatles’ “Lovely Rita, Meter Maid”

• Education: Doris Day’s Teacher’s Pet”

• Espionage: Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man”

• Law enforcement: Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff”

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Military service
• The Shirelles’ “Soldier Boy”

• Petula Clark’s “Sailor” (her first No. 1 song in Great Britain)

• Tom Lehrer’s satiric “Send in the Marines”

• George, Johnny and the Pilots’ “Flying Blue Angels,” a 1961 novelty song that reached the Top 5 in the Twin Cities but failed to make Billboard’s Hot 100

• Burlesque: David Rose’s “The Stripper”

• Variety shows: The Marvelettes’ “My Baby Must Be a Magician”

• Circus: Bobby Goldsboro’s “See the Funny Little Clown”

• Author: The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer”

Religious life
• Minister: Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man”

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• Chaplain: The Animals’ “Sky Pilot”

Specialty work
• Railroad work: The Weavers’ “Rock Island Line”

• Mysticism: Bobby Curtola’s “Fortune Teller”

• Contract work: Crispian St. Peters’ “The Pied Piper”

• Medicine: Jackson Browne’s “Doctor My Eyes”

• Truck driver: Wisconsin’s Dave Dudley offered “Six Days on the Road,” another regional hit that made it much bigger here than nationally.

• Rodeo performer: Paul Davis’ poignant “Ride ’em Cowboy”

• Deejay: Charlie Dore’s “Pilot of the Airwaves”  

• Engineering: Pete Seeger’s “I Was Gonna Be an Engineer”

Double duty
We’ll end with two pairs of songs:

• Transportation: The Mills Brothers’ “Cab Driver”  and Harry Chapin’s “Taxi”

• Involuntary work: Again, two different songs with the same name: Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” and Bobby Scott’s “Chain Gang.”