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More than 120 years ago thousands of New Yorkers marched from City Hall to Union Square, down 42nd Street and toward Wendel's Elm Park where they gathered for food, music and demonstrations in what was America's first Labor Day celebration. The idea for a workers' holiday is said to have emerged from the ranks of organized labor during a time when workers wished to demonstrate the strength of this burgeoning movement and advocate for improvements in working conditions. The trend eventually caught on, inspiring similar events across the country. In 1887 Oregon became the first state to grant legal status to the holiday and in 1894 Congress passed legislation declaring Labor Day a national holiday.
Throughout the following decades, workers viewed the holiday as an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments while fighting for better working conditions and salaries. These days, the first Monday in September is often associated less with union activities and protests, and instead is a time for eating, drinking, sporting, and paying homage to summer's last hurrah.
So whether you're working on a dream, taking a break from your 9 to 5, or enjoying your mo' money (and thinking about your mo' problems), take it easy with this GRAMMY Labor Day playlist.
"9 To 5" (iTunes>)
Dolly Parton, Best Country Song, 1981
Working 9 to 5 is enough to drive you crazy if you let it, according to Parton on this track, which was also the theme song to her acting debut in 9 To 5. The song, which Parton sings to the hardworking, coffee-drinking, traffic-sitting workers, became her first No. 1 single on the pop charts. Now that's a way to make a livin'.
"A Hard Day's Night" (iTunes>)
Beatles, Best Performance By A Vocal Group, 1964
Even the Beatles knew what it was like to work like a dog. But a hard day's work can't even get the Fab Four down when they know they're going home to that special someone: "But when I get home to you/I find the things that you do/Will make me feel alright." John, Paul, George, and Ringo's hard work helped the album of the same name reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
"All I Wanna Do" (iTunes>)
Sheryl Crow, Record Of The Year, 1994
This track, which includes lyrics from "Fun," a poem written by Wyn Cooper, is a snapshot of two people in a bar, drowning their sorrows and wishing for some fun. Are they lamenting their dead-end jobs? It's hard to tell, but let this be a cautionary tale: Go have some fun this Labor Day.
"Just Got Paid" (iTunes>)
Johnny Kemp, Best Rhythm & Blues Song nominee, 1988
Now here's one of the true benefits of working: payday. Kemp, along with a slew of background movers and shakers, couldn't be happier that it's Friday night and he's just gotten paid. And just what does he plan to do with that paycheck? Apparently, "Party hoppin', feelin' right/Booties shakin', all around."
"Just Got Paid" (iTunes>)
'N Sync, No Strings Attached, Best Pop Vocal Album nominee, 2000
The guys in this prolific boy band were also pretty thrilled to be getting paid. So thrilled that they recorded a cover of the Kemp original. The track appeared on the group's second release, No Strings Attached, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
"Mo Money Mo Problems" (iTunes>)
Notorious B.I.G. featuring Mase and Sean "Diddy" Combs, Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group nominee, 1997
The late Notorious B.I.G., born Christopher Wallace, paints a clear picture of what it could be like to make too much money: "It's like the more money we come across/The more problems we see." We're not completely sure that rap mogul Combs would still agree today.
"Monday, Monday" (iTunes>)
Mamas And The Papas, Best Contemporary (R&R) Group Performance, Vocal Or Instrumental, 1966
For some of us, Monday means the close of the weekend and fighting the morning rush-hour traffic to get into work while the coffee is still hot. For the Mamas And The Papas, it's even worse than that: "But whenever Monday comes/You can find me crying all the time" (not to mention they just flat-out couldn't "trust that day"). The tears of this California-based group likely dried up when they found this song had garnered a Record Of The Year nomination and taken them to the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
"Money Ain't A Thang" (iTunes>)
Jermaine Dupri featuring Jay-Z, Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group nominee, 1998
Working 9 to 5 to get a decent paycheck might be a problem for some, but not for Dupri and Jay-Z, who stress on this track that "money ain't a thang" because they have plenty of it. Since he could afford to switch lanes in a "Ferrari or a Jaguar," money wasn't one of Jay-Z's 99 problems, and charting certainly wasn't one of Dupri's as this track garnered him his first chart appearance.
"Money For Nothing" (iTunes>)
Dire Straits, Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal, 1985
Released in 1985 on Brothers In Arms, which featured MTV star Sting, "Money For Nothing" is a parody of the "yo-yo's" seen playing guitar on MTV who are getting "money for nothin'" and "chicks for free." "That ain't working, that's the way you do it," Mark Knopfler sings in a sort of anti-Labor Day mood. The name Dire Straits reveals that the band probably knew a thing or two about getting money for something, and getting nothing for free.
"Money Maker" (iTunes>)
Ludacris featuring Pharrell, Best Rap Song, 2006
In this GRAMMY-winning track, Ludacris and Pharrell give what seems like very valuable advice for anyone who's looking for a job: "Shake your money maker like somebody 'bout to pay ya." Ludacris must have known what he was talking about because he shook it all the way to the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
"Take This Job And Shove It" (iTunes>)
Johnny Paycheck, Best Country Vocal Performance, Male nominee, 1978
With a last name like Paycheck, this track might be the most appropriate addition to the list. Paycheck became a star in 1977 when this song inspired one-man "wildcat" strikes throughout America. The track reached No. 1 on Billboard's Country Singles chart but it sounds like Paycheck lost his own No. 1 in this song: "My woman done left me/And took all the reasons I was working for."
Fred Hersch, Best Improvised Jazz Solo nominee, 2011
While some of us may not be fortunate enough to have Labor Day off, there's still music for you. Turn up this jazz instrumental and think about all of the holiday pay you'll be rolling in.
"Working Class Hero" (iTunes>)
Green Day, Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals nominee, 2007
This cover of the John Lennon original appeared on the charity album Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign To Save Darfur. The song makes the working class something to aspire to ("A working class hero is something to be") and questions society's ideas of what we should hope to achieve ("When they've tortured and scared you for 20 odd years/Then they expect you to pick a career").
"Working On A Dream" (iTunes>)
Bruce Springsteen, Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance, 2009
The Boss is inspiring on this GRAMMY-winning track that speaks to the benefits of hard work, pressing on and never giving up ("Though trouble can feel like it's here to stay/I'm working on a dream"). The album of the same name was released just one week after President Barack Obama's historic inauguration and reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200, Springsteen's seventh studio album to top the charts over three decades. (He topped the chart again in 2012 with Wrecking Ball.) He can also be seen working on (or wrecking) a few other things in this video.
What track will help you celebrate and have some fun on this Labor Day? Drop us a comment and let us know.
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