Working in the Coal Mine

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Vinyl release of original Lee Dorsey version
"Working in the Coalmine"
U.S. edition
Single by Devo
B-side "Planet Earth"
Released 1981
Format 7"
Genre New wave
Length 2:47
Label Warner Bros., Asylum
Producer(s) Robert Margouleff
Devo singles chronology
"Gates of Steel"
"Working in a Coalmine"
"Beautiful World"

"Working in the Coal Mine" is a song with music and lyrics by Allen Toussaint.

After Toussaint returned to New Orleans from the Army (from 1963–65), he formed a production company, Sansu, with partner Marshall Sehorn. He produced a number of singles, performed by Lee Dorsey, followed in 1965-66, including "Working in the Coal Mine".[1]

The song is about the suffering of a man who gets up at 5 o'clock in the morning in order to work in the coal mine five days a week, where the conditions are very harsh and dangerous, but it's the only way to make money. The singer repeatedly asks the Lord, "How long can this go on?" In addition, he says that when the weekend rolls around, he's too exhausted to have any fun. In the instrumental section, as in the song's fade, he says: "Lord, I'm so tired/How long can this go on?"

It was a hit for Lee Dorsey, released on Amy Records (catalog no. 958), and entered the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 on July 23, 1966, eventually peaking at #8, while reaching #5 on the Billboard R&B chart.[2] Dorsey's version was used in a Blaupunkt car stereo commercial. The song features the sound of a pick axe clinking, as if they were working in the mineshaft. The song also made an appearance in the 1995 crime-drama Casino, directed by Martin Scorsese.

In 1981, a Devo cover version was included as a bonus 7 inch single packaged with their album New Traditionalists. This version was later included in the sound tracks for the films Heavy Metal[3] and Employee of the Month.[4] It peaked on the Hot 100 at #43 and was a top 10 single in New Zealand.

In 1993, it was featured in "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" when Will and Carlton were attempting to join a college fraternity.

In 2006 it was performed by the cast of The Wedding Weekend and included on the movie's soundtrack.[5]

The Devo cover was also used as the theme song for the NBC sitcom Working.

The song has been adapted for Walmart TV commercials, changing the lyrics to "Working on the rollbacks, prices going down down."

In the fiction film Muppets Most Wanted it was performed at a talent show by prisoners in a gulag in Siberia, Russia.

Recorded by[edit]

Chart positions[edit]

Lee Dorsey version[edit]

Chart (1966) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 8

Devo version[edit]

Chart (1981) Peak
Australian ARIA Singles Chart 20
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 43
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play 30 [6]
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 53


  1. ^ Allen Toussaint
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 169. 
  3. ^ IMDB Soundtrack for Heavy Metal
  4. ^ IMDB Soundtrack for Employee of the Month
  5. ^ IMDB Soundtrack for The Wedding Weekend
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974-2003. Record Research. p. 77. 

External links[edit]