A Workers’ Playlist

This tune was featured on Guthrie’s 1941 album Struggle, and was written to commemorate everyone who died in labour actions in the early 20th century. According to The Patriot Ledger, the album was full of “raw, gut wrenching protest songs … His charismatic style gets back to the roots of folk and the voice of the people.”

You’d be hard pressed to find a rock musician with more of a symbolic connection to blue collar workers than Bruce Springsteen. Though his catalogue is full of stories of the working class, Factory from 1978’s Darkness on the Edge of Town is one of the most poignant.

The song was supposedly written about Springsteen’s father. The two didn’t get on very well, and Factory is a somber representation of the struggles of the average worker.

There is Power in a Union was written by Joe Hill in 1913, but was popularized by Billy Bragg on his 1986 album Talking With the Taxman about Poetry. The song was first published in The Little Red Songbook in 1913.

Tarik, radical band from Shillong sing Khasi version of the worker’s classic Power to the Union on the the launch of Nazreth Hospital Worker’s Union (NHWU) on 19th November 2015, Shillong, Meghalaya

Florence Reece never claimed to be a singer, but this song is one of the most important accounts of the union movement. Her father was a coal miner who was killed in the mines, and her husband, a union organizer in Kentucky, died slowly of the Black Lung.

Reece wrote the song after she and her children were accosted by a group of men said to be working for the owners of a mine during a strike in the ‘30s. Like a lot of folk songs, its melody came from a hymn – Lay the Lily Low.

Union Town is an EP by The Nightwatchman, alter ego of musician Tom Morello. It is his first release as the Nightwatchman overall, and includes many covers of famous union songs, including “Solidarity Forever” and “Which Side Are You On?“. Unlike Morello’s previous efforts, the EP was self-produced by Morello himself, and is his first release on the New West Records label.

Working Class Hero was featured on John Lennon’s first post-Beatles solo album, 1970’s John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, and it’s one of his best.

Backed by an acoustic guitar and three chords, Lennon venomously plumes the difference between social classes. “A working class hero is something to be” remains one of his most memorable lines.

Aint Gonna work on Maggie’s farm anymore in a brilliant version

Bread and Roses was a 1976 album by Judy Collins that attempted to merge the singer’s political convictions with the commercial success of the previous year’s Judith. Political statements like the title song, originally a poem by James Oppenheim commonly associated with a 1912 garment workers strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts

This is Dick Gaughan’s rendition of a great working class rebel song, which appeared on his 1981 album Handful of Earth. Originally written by the north-east of England singer and songwriter Ed Pickford

 featured image Indonesian workers shout slogans during a May Day protest in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sunday, May 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Irwin Fedriansyah)


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