Sure, Labor Day originated thanks to labor unions in 1882, especially that part when 10,000 workers marched from City Hall to Union Square in New York in the first parade to jumpstart the workingman’s holiday. But when choosing the right songs to celebrate, angry tunes that tend to pop up in playlists across the web titled along the lines of “Labor Day History” don’t seem quite right. (Also, better to skip over the “Labor Day” film soundtrack completely.) Please do tap along to Johnny Paycheck‘s folksy 80’s anthem “Take This Job and Shove It,” if you feel so led. Meanwhile, here are a few songs spanning genres and decades that walk the line between celebratory and relaxing on your day off – leave summer on a high note.
Billy Joel – Allentown
No one can make frustration and disillusionment sound as catchy and upbeat as Billy Joel. Take what you will from “Allentown”‘s account of American restlessness handed down through generations. It ends with “And it’s hard to keep a good man down / but I won’t be getting up today.” There’s some finality, but not totally without hope.
Sheryl Crow – All I Wanna Do
Are they regretting their career paths? Are they getting existential? Are they watching people wash their cars and rejoicing that they’re drinking at noon instead? It sounds like it. All they wanna do is “have some fun,” and at least in the world of this 90s ballad, they can.
The Band – King Harvest (Has Surely Come)
Instead of heavy angst about the life of a union man, this song is about a farmer who has unionized, and he’s got his head up. There’s commentary without rage, Richard Manuel’s emphatic croon, and “corn in the fields” – enjoy.
Vance Joy – Riptide
Hear me out – this album is coming out this month to mark the end of summer. And there’s not only mention of New York City, but the music video is actually pretty great. There are no floral-clad hippies throwing maps out the window here. It’s fun and poppy without being the kind of thing Portlandia would poke fun at. Even if you’ve heard it a ton already, just give it a second chance – it’s feel-good, and plus, it feels wrong to not have something on this list from 2014.
The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night
An obvious choice? Yes. The perfect combo of work angst, post-work venting, and happiness vibes regardless? That too.