Guest Author - Chris Curtis
Labor Day is celebrated in the United States on the first Monday of September each year. It is a holiday to celebrate the labor of the working man and was conceived by America's Labor Unions in 1882. The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City. It unofficially marks the end of the summer as the last long weekend for friends and family to gather together for summer picnics. Traditionally the children in the United States returned to school after the summer break the day after Labor Day.
The efforts of labor have been celebrated in song throughout the world. Here are some fine labor tunes in folk music traditions.
I Don't Want Your Millions, Mister (written by Jim Garland – 1930s)
The most recognizable version of this song was originally recorded by the Almanac Singers in1941. The song memorialized the loss of jobs during the "Great Depression" and it might be said that it is as poignant today in the deep recession of 2008 and beyond.
Pete Seeger (at the age of 89) with Grandson Tao Rodriguez Seeger.
One More Dollar Gillian Welch and David Rawlings
This one is a modern day song of labor with a traditional feel as is the style of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. The song speaks of a young person leaving home to find work in the orchards but longing to return home. His wages are sent home to support the family with the hope that "one more dollar" earned will be enough to take him back home.
Babies In the Mill Dorsey Dixon (written in the 1960s)
Before the US Labor laws were developed and we became an industrialized nation, young children were forced to work in the mills for pennies. Most grew up uneducated and many were abused on the job for minor infractions. In true Folk Music tradition, this song, written by Dorsey Dixon, chronicles the historical feel of those times.
Babies in the Mill
Lowell Factory Girls David Rovics
Like the children of the mills, woman also lived a very brutal factory life in the early stages of our industrial history. Many never lived to see their 30th birthdays due to the harsh conditions under which they worked. David Rovics wrote this folk tune to memorialize the woman's fate in the days of the textile mills of New England.
Lowell Factory Girls
When a Fellow is Out of the Job (written by Grant Rogers)
Grant Rogers hails from the Catskills area of New York which was hit hard by joblessness during the depression years. This song is considered a classic from this era but again hits home in current times. It speaks of the feelings of uselessness when a man is out of work. Thematically it conveys the message that the lack of a job robs a man of all of the joys in life.