Bruce Springsteen’s exploration through the lives of working class people has been a frequent theme throughout his musicianship. He has become a storyteller of characters struggling to find their place in the world.
In honour of International Worker’s Day 2020, check out my list of six Springsteen tracks that feature their protagonist actually working. I’m sure you can come up with more. Feel free to continue the list in the comments below.
Working On The Highway opens with a bored state employee monitoring traffic during construction projects. He meets a pretty young girl (too young as it turns out) and runs off with her to Florida. When the law catches up to him, he ends up working on the highway as part of a prison road gang.
Factory is about Springsteen’s father. The lyrics describe everyday life of hard work in a factory, with no safe return guaranteed.
The track Jack of All Trades is a long list of odd jobs that the narrator is qualified to take, from fixing cars to mowing lawns, as he tries to comfort his wife, presumably following the loss of many jobs in town. However, though the man is initially confident his work ethic will see him through, he finds its not the case.
Well I work down at the car wash/For a dollar and a dime/And mister, I hate my boss/It’s at the car wash I’m doing my time
Car Wash is told from a female perspective. Catherine Lefevre dreams of being a professional singer instead of her current job at a car wash. However, she’s stuck in this dead end job and doesn’t have the drive to change her lot in life.
Rain pourin’ down, I swing my hammer/My hands are rough from working on a dream/I’m working on a dream
Springsteen initially debuted Working on a Dream in acoustic form while on the road supporting Barack Obama during the presidential elections. The lyrics are on the ongoing effort to build something and how you mustn’t give up.
Highway Patrolman, Joe Roberts, has to deal with his brother constantly getting in trouble with the law. This song was the basis for the 1991 Sean Penn move The Indian Runner.