HR Strange But True!
January 31, 2008

In last week's column, we wrote about a professor who said he had research that showed playing music in the workplace can increase productivity and morale. However, a new collection, "Working and Union Songs," probably wouldn't be the best option for playing music in the workplace because it goes beyond "Take This Job and Shove It" in replicating songs of overworked--and often disgruntled--employees from decades past.

This collection by Keith and Rusty McNeil, on the WEM Records label, chronicles songs sung by workers from the Industrial Revolution of the 1860s through the Labor Movement of the 1930s, so you can hear tunes of the "struggles of America 's working people: skilled workers, industrial workers, miners and farm workers ? martyrs, heroes, and heroines" according to the McNeil Music website.

While some songs are familiar ("Blow the Man Down"), the unknown ones are self-descriptive: "Weave Room Blues," "Hard Times in the Mill," and "The Weary Cutters."

The album also has songs and historical narrations that "chronicle labor's rise to major economic and political power, and explore problems including strikebreakers techniques, union corruption, immigrant labor, child labor, convict labor, automation, foreign competition, and the shift from manufacturing to service industry," according to the website. Some of these song titles include: "Eight-Hour Day," "What Side Are You On?" and "We Shall Not Be Moved"--first a union song!

A companion album, "Western Railroad Songs," starts with the familiar "Drill Ye Tarriers" and "Wabash Cannonball," but also contains some interesting, if politically incorrect, songs about the Chinese laborers working to link the continent by rail.

And some songs also remind us of the pre-OSHA dangers of working, including "There's Many a Man Killed on the Railroad" and "A Ballad of Dead Girls."

One song on this album, however, may be prime for a new "cover"--The Immigration Song!


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