The very first time the very first ancient African farmer planted the very first ancient seed in the ancient ground one may only imagine he did so while singing a song: “Agricultural revolution, la la la!” Of course by that time hunters had already been singing for millennia, making melodies while they stalked animals through the bush, and gatherers had always sung songs as they gathered . . . . For all time, whenever people performed the rhythmic, repetitive tasks of work, they sang songs to carry them through.
Over the ages, and especially since the dawn of factories and other industrial tasks, workers in all jobs have developed “work songs” that match their rhythms of their labor. There are boating songs, building songs, ditch digging songs and more. There are also songs about work — music about picking crops, narratives of life in the mines. By extension, there are songs of toil that are metaphors for eternal struggle — prison songs, songs sung by slaves — and union/labor songs that remind us how we can organize, fighting together for a better world.