The day after Labor Day, September 6th, 1939, the great American songsmith David Allan Coe was born.
It comes as no surprise that the man behind the song “Take This Job & Shove It” was born right around the working man’s holiday.
The song tells the tale of a man grown tired of being underappreciated and overworked at his job, fantasizing about telling his boss to “take this job and shove it.”
“Take this job and shove it I ain’t working here no more My woman done left and took all the reason I was workin’ for You better not try to stand in my way As I’m a-walkin’ out the door Take this job and shove it I ain’t workin’ here no more…”
Coe wrote the song amidst taking a break from music. He had been spending his time gambling, treasure hunting, and traveling.
According to the 2003 documentary David Allan Coe: Live At Billy Bob’s Texas, Coe had been living on a boat in Nashville, Tennessee, with “seven wives,” and one night, he and two of his wives were on their way to Johnny Cash’s house when Coe saw fire on the waterfront. Coe approached the water to find that a dock had caught fire. He was able to cut the ropes on the docked boats and push them out into the water, salvaging the vessels.
The local news wrote a story about Coe saving the boats, and shortly after Coe was hanging out with some friends at producer Billy Sherrill’s house when someone joked that Coe should get a job with the fire department.
“Man, they can take that job and shove it”
Sherrill immediately told Coe he had to write a song based on the phrase.
Coe took Sherrill’s advice.
He went home and wrote “Take This Job And Shove It” in “about five minutes.”
After completing the song, he tried to pitch it to George Jones, which didn’t pan out. Word of the song, however, got to Johnny Paycheck, who personally called Coe to ask for his permission to sing it.
Coe didn’t know who Paycheck was, but he agreed, and the song became a massive hit and Paycheck’s signature song.
It became the title track for Paycheck’s 1977 album and became Paycheck’s only song to go to #1, spending 18 weeks on the charts.
Coe however didn’t take it too well when people began to assume that Paycheck wrote the song.
With Paycheck’s career burgeoning, he was invited onto The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. When asked who wrote the song, Paycheck said, “Some guy in Nashville,” and at another point credited his grandfather for the song’s vision.
Word got to Coe, and he was quite displeased, going as far as to say it broke his heart.
His feelings resurfaced in the recording of “Take This Job And Shove It Too,” which was released in 1980 on his album I’ve Got Something To Say.
The song includes a clear crack at Paycheck:
“This ain’t the first job I ever quit And I know it won’t be my last Paycheck Who knows after today You may be a thing of the past”
“Take this Job and Shove It” has continued to live a life of its own.
The song inspired the 1981 film of the same name, it is the opening track for The Dead Kennedy’s Bedtime in Democracy album, and has been referenced in TV shows such as Hannah Montana and the Simpsons.
Johnny Paycheck’s version
David Allan Coe’s version
David Allan Coe explaining the history of the song: