No man can sing about hard work and beer drinking quite like Merle Haggard could during his illustrious country music career.
Haggard always told it like it was, and was honest and wrote from a place of experience. Those characteristics drew a lot of country music fans to his work, and allowed this song to act as a tribute to the American blue-collared working man.
“Workin’ Man Blues” was released on June 30th of 1969 and was the second single from the Hag’s album A Portrait of Merle Haggard. The song quickly found its way rocketing up the country charts, and on this date in 1969 was at the number one spot on the Billboard country singles chart.
It also eventually went on to top the Canadian RPM country tracks charts, proving that singing about hard work and sacrificing for family (while also kicking back and relaxing) was a pretty relatable mindset back in the day. I wonder how the song would fit in if it were released today…
“Workin’ Man Blues” was one of Haggard’s many signature songs throughout his career. The strong songwriting and Haggard’s patented “Bakersfield sound” present in the tune helped make it a standout track, and one that Merle leaned on during live performances over the next four decades.
With lyrics like these, you are bound to appeal to a certain demographic of people that weren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get to work:
“I keep my nose on the grindstone, I work hard every day Might get a little tired on the weekend, after I draw my pay But I’ll go back workin, come Monday morning I’m right back with the crew I’ll drink a little beer that evening, Sing a little bit of these working man blues…”
And the studio version of the song is great, and is pretty fast-paced, but the “Workin’ Man Blues” really shined when it was malleable and given time to explore musically.
This version of the song that was played live in Austin, Texas in 1978 is viewed as one of Merle’s golden performances of the track.
Take a listen and try not to let your foot tap to the infectious beat:
And you know you’ve officially “made it” as an artist when your song is featured in The Simpsons. “Workin’ Man Blues” was utilized in the long-running cartoon’s 20th season in 2008, and I’d venture to say that Haggard was probably fine with its use: