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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Workin' 9 To 5...or 7-3:30...or 3:30-11...or Whatever...

In many ways, this Sunday Jukebox entry is going to be a bit of a departure from what you normally see in this space. 

Oh, don't worry, we're still going to be featuring #1 songs on the Billboard charts all year long.  For the rest of 2014, this will not change. 

It's just that this week, we're going to be tackling a genre of music that I don't really do a lot on...mainly because of the fact that I never really listen to it.

That genre, is country.

I have nothing against country music in general.  I think some of the artists who perform country music are very talented, and I think that I am a lot more open-minded to country music than I used to be.  But let me tell you...when you grow up in a family in which three-quarters of the whole family (extended and all) grew up listening to nothing but country music, there was a small part of me that wanted to rebel by listening to every other genre.  When my family were stamping their feet to Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson, George Strait, and the Judds, I was cranking up Michael Jackson, The Cure, Stone Temple Pilots, and Alanis Morissette on my stereo system.

What can I say?  I got my teenage rebellion out through music.

So, naturally, you've probably guessed that today's featured song is going to be by a country music artist...which might have you feeling quite confused.  After all, the Billboard Hot 100 is mostly devoted to Top 40 music, right?

Well, it's not that unusual for country artists to cross over to the pop charts and vice versa.  Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Faith Hill, Rascal Flatts, Jewel, and Michelle Branch have all had at least one hit on both the Top 40 and country music charts.  And, I'm sure that more will follow as time passes by.

And, that was the case with the Billboard Hot 100 charts of 1981.

I don't know about anyone else, but to me, 1981 was one of the most bizarre years of the Billboard Hot 100 charts.  But then again, I always looked at 1981 as a real transitional year for music.  It was the last gasp of the disco era, and the year where we heard the newborn cries of a genre that would come to be known as "New Wave".  And, the charts certainly reflected the instability of Top 40 music in 1981.  It almost seemed as though the music industry couldn't decide what the biggest music trend was because it was constantly changing week to week.

If you were a fan of rock and roll, Rick Springfield and REO Speedwagon had you covered.  For fans of dance pop, Sheena Easton and Olivia Newton-John were your go-to-ladies.  Adult contemporary artists like Christopher Cross and Air Supply were big in '81, as were R&B artists Lionel Richie and Diana Ross.  There was even a medley of old classic songs redone by a Dutch novelty pop act called "Stars on 45" that hit the top of the charts in the summer of 1981. 

Again, 1981 was a bizarre year in the world of music.

Perhaps the most bizarre period during the whole year was in the late winter of 1981.  During the period of mid-February to mid-March, the top of the charts were occupied by country music artists!  One of those artists was the late Eddie Rabbitt, whose love for a rainy night propelled him to the top of the charts in late February 1981.

But before - and after - Eddie's two week-run on the charts, another country legend took her turn at the top with this anthem of female empowerment in the workplace.

ARTIST:  Dolly Parton
SONG:  9 to 5
ALBUM:  9 to 5 and Odd Jobs
DATE RELEASED:  November 1980

NOTE:  The two weeks that Dolly Parton spent on the charts were non-consecutive.  The song hit #1 the week of February 21, 1981, was dethroned by Eddie Rabbitt for two weeks, re-entered the top spot on March 14, 1981, and was dethroned again by REO Speedwagon's "Keep On Loving You" one week later.

But, anyway.  Today, we're going to be looking at the song "9 to 5", which was made famous by Dolly Parton, and was the main theme to the 1980 film of the same name, which starred Parton, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dabney Coleman.  The film itself (which I won't really go into as this technically isn't a Monday Matinee) is about three women who are fed up with their sexist beast of a boss, and they team up to get him out of their lives once and for all.

Consider it like the movie "Horrible Bosses", had it been made in the early 1980s.

Thankfully, the song itself is not about how to poison your supervisor's coffee or pushing your boss over the side of a cliff.  Rather, it's a song about women in the workplace - and keep in mind that in 1980, there were far less women who held a full-time job than there are now.

And, certainly the lyrics seem to describe what a rat-race the working world could be.  It's hard enough for anybody to get ahead in the world of corporate business.  Trust me, I know exactly what that struggle is like, and there's a part of me that just wants to get out of that struggle entirely, but can't afford to do so, and I'm just rambling on about myself when I really should be talking about the song, so I'll conclude this run-on sentence before I steer this train of thought straight over a bridge.

(takes deep breath)

Anyway, it's hard enough to try and make a living.  But just imagine how hard it was for women of the 1970s and early 1980s to make their way in the world!  Statistics stated that women, on average, made less than their male counterparts, and very rarely did you ever have a female CEO or a female boss.  Of course, times are very different now, but back then women really had to struggle to make a living, as Dolly Parton sang about in "9 to 5".  I think that's why many women saw this particular song as a sort of anthem for the working gal. 

Well, at least they did until Donna Summer released "She Works Hard For The Money" three years later.

But I suppose in a lot of ways, the song "9 to 5" is kind of a slap in the face to corporate America as well, by pointing out the obvious.  That many people in the world are working their fingers to the bone so that someone else can become richer as a result.  It's capitalism at its finest.  And, while many of us may not like it, it's what we're stuck with until someone else comes up with a better idea.  I'm sure many of us (both male and female) have gotten up out of bed to drink a "cup of ambition" to get through the day and cope with another day at work.  Believe me.  I know I've been there.

But I also know that for most people who work a 9-5 job (or, I suppose in my case, it's mostly 11-8, or what have you), it's only a struggle if you let it get to you.  And, granted, I admit to being one of those who used to let it get to me.

But just keep in mind that in the end, a job is just a job.  And, while Dolly Parton certainly talks about the bad parts of working a 9-5 job, she does it in such a way that we can all relate to it, and relate to it very well.  And, hey, if it became the anthem to one of 1980's most successful films, it was an added bonus.

Now, here's something that is interesting about the song.  Did you know that it was one of TWO #1 songs that charted in 1981 with the title "9 To 5"?  Here was the other song, which was a #1 hit in May 1981.

Okay, so technically, Sheena Easton's "9 To 5" was released first.  In the United Kingdom, it was released on May 16, 1980.  But Dolly Parton's "9 To 5" charted on the American charts first.  So, as a result, when Sheena's version was released in the United States almost a full year after its European release, the title had to be changed to "Morning Train (Nine To Five)", as Dolly's song was still on the charts. 

Either way, both became #1 hits.  And, Dolly became one of the few people to have a Billboard hit on the country and pop charts at the same time...only the second woman to do so behind Jeannie C. Riley when she released "Harper Valley P.T.A." in 1978.

And, just for kicks, even Sesame Street covered the Dolly Parton song featuring the Muppet known as Polly Darton!

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