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Songs to Build By

If you have been following our Blog and Tweets, you will know that there has been A LOT of construction going on in the PCL.  As with all building, some noise has been involved and, despite many of us moving to avoid the worst of it, it is not possible keep the library going from the ground floor. So, what to listen to drown out the drills and hammers? Of course everyone will have his or her own favorites for high volume music to drown out the loudest of drilling and hammering.  I found Billy Idol’s Greatest Hits a good distraction.

However, I did get to wondering “what if you wanted some music with a construction/building motif?  Are there songs out there?”  Turns out there are a few and, depending how far you are willing to stretch the building/working definition, you can find a number of tributes to the working man and woman and to celebrating after the work is done.  It is an eclectic mix of oldies, country, and folk with a bit of rock thrown in.  Not often that you will see Bobby Darin, Tom Waits, and Kid Rock on the same list!  Some songs are serious, some funny, some a bit schmaltzy, and there is even one that is very creepy.  Overall it makes for an amusing listening experience.

A number of these links will take you to a page where, not only can you listen to the song, but can read about it origins.  While I warn you that I’m a bit of an old fogey when it comes to music, but if I were asked to recommend some of the best from this collection, I’d suggest

  • 16 Tons – Very old, but a classic that everyone should know.
  • Highwayman – When you bring Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson together, you can’t help but have an incredible song.
  • What’s He Building In There? – For those unfamiliar with Tom Waits and his delightfully odd and macabre ditties, you need to give him a try.
  • Electricity – From School House Rock, you might actually learn while listening.
  • Allentown – a lament for an industry’s glory days.
  • My top choice is the modern version of Chain Gang from the movie Cadence, complete with the fancy footwork.

Building Songs

These songs are actually about being a carpenter, builder, or about using the tools of the trade.

Bob the Builder theme song.   Not much on either lyrics or beat but really should be included since it fit our theme so well.

Grandpa Was A Carpenter   John Prine with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and others.  A country classic.

Hard Hat & a Hammer  Alan Jackson. Country.

Highwayman The Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson). The entire song is not about building but the third stanza specifically mentions a dam builder.

If I Had a Hammer  Peter Paul & Mary. A folk fan favorite.

If I Were a Carpenter (2 versions). Bobby Darin (at :45) OR Johnny & June Cash

Working on a Building   Cowboy Junkies.

Some songs can be very funny, or even downright weird.

Songs of the construction site
Improve comics on Whose Line (unaired segment) play Greatest Hits to create “Songs of the Construction Site.”

A selection of original humorous songs about homebuilding and remodeling as performed the Southern Building Show and the Chrysalis Awards for Remodeling Excellence.  Visit the Biscuit Joint website to listen to some sample songs. “The songs are written for industry professionals, but the joys and frustrations of the industry cross all boundaries.”

What’s He Building In There? Tom Waits. Creepy fun.

Other songs are specifically about certain parts of the building process


Electricity (School House Rock).


Come to My Window  Melissa Etheridge.

Working Hard

These songs are not specifically about building but are about those who work with their hand or who are on the bottom rungs of the executive food chain.  You could call them songs for the Everyman/Everywoman and they range from the funny or upbeat to resigned or even sadly wistful; something for every worker.

Blue Collar Man Styx.

9 to 5 – Dolly Parton. Not the most complex lyrics but toe-tapping catchy and has a beat to go with hammering.

16 Tons – Tennessee Ernie Ford. This ode to coal miners was recorded by many artists but this version is probably one of, if not the, most well-known.

Allentown– Billy Joel. Recounts one factory town’s decline

Bang the Drum All Day – Todd Rundgren. Catchy or damn annoying – whatever your opinion you cannot argue that it drowns out other noises

Bow River – Cold Chisel. “….describes the needs and wants of the working class man…”

Career Opportunities – The Clash. Chain Gang.

Sam Cook version.  For a modern video to this song check out this clip form the movies Cadence.

Cleaning Windows – Van Morrison.

Don’t You Love Me No More? -Henry Priestman. It is not just individuals who can be disloyal.  Your employer can do the same.

Draggin’ The Line – Tommy James.

For The Workforce, Drowning – Thursday (I really do not understand much of what they are saying, but I have that problem with a lot songs so you may love it.

Get A Job – The Silhouettes.

One Piece At A Time by Johnny Cash. A humorous story of a working man’s attempt to acquire one of the luxury cars that he’s spend his life building and the unique result of his efforts.

She Works Hard For The Money – Donna Summer.

After Work Songs

A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles.

Five O’Clock World – The Vogues.

God Bless Saturday – Kid Rock.

Questionably Related

Just because a song has “build” or “house” in the title does not mean that it has anything to do with building or construction.  However, the following titles showed up so often on lists of building songs that I’ve included them to present others’ viewpoints.

Build – Housemartins.

Highway Under Construction – Gorillaz.

Our House – Madness.

We Built This City – Jefferson Starship.

  1. July 19, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Fun post, Maureen, and well done! Good luck with the rest of the PCL construction.

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