Skip to main content

Best Labor Day Playlist: 10+ Songs That Celebrate Work

Listen to this Labor Day playlist!

Listen to this Labor Day playlist!

Labor Day Holiday History

New York City workers marched on September 5, 1882, from City Hall to an uptown park, marking the very first Labor Day parade. Back then, workers (including children) often pulled 12-hour shifts seven days a week. In the years that followed, workers lobbied for better working conditions, better pay, shorter hours, and a recognized worker's holiday. In 1894, President Grover Cleveland officially declared Labor Day a national holiday.

In the spin classes I teach, we still work hard on Labor Day, but not for pay. Instead, we earn sweat, calories burned, and an endorphin boost—all set to some great tunes! Below, I rank 10 songs included on my Labor Day spin class playlist.

1. "Working for the Weekend," Loverboy

Album: Get Lucky

Release Year: 1981

Working for the weekend is what we do every week. But, thankfully, Labor Day falls on a Monday, giving us a three-day weekend. What inspired this song? The story goes, according to Loverboy guitarist Paul Dean, that he was out walking midweek and noticed how no one was around because they were at work. "So I'm out on the beach and wondering, 'Where is everybody? Well, I guess they're all waiting for the weekend.'"3 Frontman Mike Reno came up with the song title and it all came together. I start my Labor Day spin class with this hit song!

Everybody's working for the weekend

Everybody wants a little romance

Everybody's goin' off the deep end

Everybody needs a second chance, oh

— "Working for the Weekend," Loverboy

2. "Workin' for a Living," Huey Lewis & The News

Album: Picture This

Release Year: 1982

According to the band's website bios, Huey Lewis has worn many hats during the last few decades. Best known as the frontman of the hit-making band Huey Lewis and The News, Lewis played characters in two Broadway shows, filmed the movie Duets with Gwyneth Paltrow, and guest starred on a sitcom. This fast-paced song and music video tell the story of all those who work for a living.

Hey I'm not complainin' 'cause I really need the work

Hittin' up my buddy's got me feelin' like a jerk

Hundred dollar car note, two hundred rent

I get a check on Friday, but it's all ready spent

— "Workin' for a Living'," Huey Lewis & The News

3. "Takin' Care of Business," Bachman-Turner Overdrive

Album: Bachman-Turner Overdrive II

Release Year: 1973

This song's lyrics speak to working hard and the challenges you will face while "taking care of business," everyday. The video below features a live performance from this Canadian band in Vancouver.

You get up every morning from your alarm clock's warning

Take the 8:15 into the city

There's a whistle up above and people pushin', people shovin'

— "Takin' Care of Business," Bachman-Turner Overdrive

4. "Livin' on a Prayer," Bon Jovi

Album: Slippery When Wet

Release Year: 1986

There's no doubt this song speaks to the hardworking regular folks out there. Just consider the lyrics and the band's New Jersey, working class roots. This hardworking band has gained its own success as one of the most financially successful rock bands around.

Tommy used to work on the docks, union's been on strike

He's down on his luck, it's tough, so tough

— "Livin' on a Prayer," Bon Jovi

5. "Stressed Out, Twenty One Pilots

Album: Blurryface

Release Year: 2015

Adulthood, with its jobs, bills, and endless responsibilities, certainly makes many people long for those childhood days when they had little responsibility. This song plays to that nostalgia, gaining success for the band Twenty One Pilots, reaching number two on the Hot 100 in 2015.

Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days

When our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out

Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days

When our momma sang us to sleep but now we're stressed out

— "Stressed Out," Twenty One Pilots

6. "She Works Hard for the Money," Donna Summer

Album: Live & More Encore

Release Year: 1999

Donna Summer speaks to all the hardworking women out there in this classic. The music video features scenes from the 1980s box office hit Flashdance, featuring a dedicated female dancer that moonlights as a welder to support her passion.

It's a sacrifice working day to day

For little money, just tips for pay

— "She Works Hard for the Money," Donna Summer

7. "Under Pressure," Queen & David Bowie

Album: Hot Space

Release Year: 1982

This classic came together with some impromptu creative work when David Bowie dropped in during a Queen recording session. The musicians happened to be recording in the same Swiss studio. This song reminds us of the tremendous talents we lost when David Bowie and Freddie Mercury died. Their incredible talent is evident in this song. The music video begins with a flurry of suit-clad workers traveling to work, filing in and out of a train station. Pressure builds as the imagery and lyrics become more and more intense throughout the video.

It's the terror of knowing what the world is about

Watching some good friends screaming

'Let me out!'

Pray tomorrow gets me higher

— "Under Pressure," Queen & David Bowie

8. "A Hard Day's Night," The Beatles

Album: A Hard Day's Night

Release Year: 1964

Ringo Starr described how he came up with the title of this song in a 1964 interview with disk jockey Dave Hull, saying, "We went to do a job, and we'd worked all day and we happened to work all night. I came up still thinking it was day, I suppose, and I said, 'It's been a hard day …' and I looked around and saw it was dark so I said, '… night!' So, we came to 'A Hard Day's Night.'"2

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 sleeping like a log

But when I get home to you I'll find the things that you do

Will make me feel alright

— "A Hard Day's Night," The Beatles

9. "Manic Monday," The Bangles

Album: Different Light

Release Year: 1986

Waking up early on a Monday morning, right in the middle of a dream, the lyrics explain the mayhem of Mondays and the wish that Sunday hadn't ended. Released in 1986, it was The Bangles first hit (although, it was written by Prince). Relient K covered this song with a faster, pop-punk beat, which I prefer to use in my spin class.

Have to catch an early train, have to be at work by nine

And if I had an airplane, I still couldn't make it on time

— "Manic Monday," The Bangles

10. "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked," Cage the Elephant

Album: Cage the Elephant

Release Year: 2008

This band knows hard work. Lead singer Matt Shultz penned this breakout hit while working as a plumber in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Matt and his bandmate brother, Brad, grew up in a strict religious household where only Gospel music was allowed. Luckily, they managed to purchase a cheap, backless guitar they taped together and found a drum set in the dumpster.1

Oh there ain't no rest for the wicked

Money don't grow on trees

I got bills to pay, I got mouths to feed

There ain't nothing in this world for free

— "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked," Cage the Elephant

"Bright Future in Sales," Fountains of Wayne

"Ants Marching," Dave Matthews Band

"We're Not Gonna Take It," Twisted Sister


1 Lopez, Korina. “On the Verge: Cage the Elephant Stampedes to Fame.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 22 Apr. 2011,

2 Badman, Keith, and Hunter Davies. The Beatles: off the Record. Omnibus Press, 2008.

3 MacIntosh, Dan. “Paul Dean of Loverboy : Songwriter Interviews.” Songfacts, Songfacts, LLC, 2 May 2012,

Zraick, Karen. “What Is Labor Day? A History of the Workers' Holiday.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Sept. 2018,

Whatley, Jack. “The Story behind David Bowie and Queen's Brilliant Song 'Under Pressure'.” Far Out Magazine, Far Out Magazine LTD., 19 July 2019,

Setaro, Shawn. “Inside The Business Of Bon Jovi With Bryan Reesman.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 26 Oct. 2016,

© 2019 Marcelle Bell


James C Moore from Joliet, IL on August 27, 2019:

I really like your choices for numbers 3,7 & 8. We used to say "tcb" back then to mean taking care of business. Good list.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 27, 2019:

Your good song choices all have a good beat, so great for exercise. I enjoyed your article.