She Works Hard for the Money

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"She Works Hard for the Money"
Single by Donna Summer
from the album She Works Hard for the Money
B-side"I Do Believe (I Fell in Love)"
ReleasedMay 10, 1983
  • 5:19 (album version)
  • 4:09 (single edit)
Producer(s)Michael Omartian
Donna Summer singles chronology
"Love to Love You Baby (re-issue)"
"She Works Hard for the Money"
"Unconditional Love"

"She Works Hard for the Money" is a song by American singer Donna Summer and the title track from her eleventh studio album of the same name (1983). The song was written by Michael Omartian and Summer, and produced by the former. It was released as the lead single on May 10, 1983 from the album by Mercury Records. It became a hit for Summer, reaching number one for a three-week stay atop the Billboard R&B singles chart (her first since 1979), number three on the Billboard Hot 100, and number three on the Billboard Dance Club Play chart. The single ended up as Billboard's 15th-best performing song of 1983.[4] In addition, Summer earned a nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 1984 Grammy Awards, where she performed the song live as the opening for the ceremony.

Background and composition[edit]

Co-written with Omartian, the song tells a story of a hard-working blue-collar woman. It was based on Summer's inspiration she had on the night of February 23–24, 1983, after the 25th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony when she attended an after-party at the West Hollywood restaurant Chasen's.[5] Summer encountered a restroom attendant named Onetta Johnson who was exhausted from working long hours. Summer herself described the scene in December 1986 on the television program You Write the Songs:

I was at Chasen's at a party for Julio Iglesias and I went to the ladies' room with my manager [Susan Muneo] and there was a little woman... First of all we walk in the room and we heard a TV set going, and I thought to myself "what kind of restaurant is this, that they would have a television in the ladies' room? This must be pretty posh." And so we peeked around the corner, and there was a little lady sitting there with her head tilted to the side and she was just gone—she was asleep. And the TV was just blasting loud. And I looked at her and my heart just filled up with compassion for this lady, and I thought to myself, "God, she works hard for the money, cooped up in this stinky little room all night." Then I thought about it, and I said, "She works hard for the money... She works hard for the money... Susan! She works hard for the money! This is it! This is it! I know this is it!"[6]

Summer quickly wrote down the title and presented it the next day at the house of her producer Omartian; he helped her flesh out the words and music, to become the final song written for the album. Johnson agreed to be photographed for the album's rear cover, standing in a diner with Summer, the two wearing matching waitress outfits. The first verse of the song starts "Onetta there in the corner stand".[7]

The song is performed in the key of G minor in common time with a tempo of 136 beats per minute. Summer's vocals span from G3 to D5.[8]


Cash Box said that the song has a "pumping bass line and steady rhythmic clip" and praised Summer's vocal performance.[9]

Music video[edit]

The accompanying music video for the song, directed by Brian Grant, debuted on MTV and became the first video by an African American female artist to be placed in "heavy rotation" (a term used by MTV at the time to indicate a frequently-aired video).[10] The video shows a woman, working as a waitress in a diner, who is burdened with many situations in her life such as work and raising two unruly children. It is also seen that she has abandoned her hopes of being a ballerina. Summer appears as an observer through a kitchen window, a woman who assists the fallen-down protagonist of the video, and, at the end, a leader of a troupe of women, in various work uniforms, who have taken to the streets to signify their independence and gain recognition for their "hard work". The protagonist is also seen dancing in the street with them.

In a parody of the image created by this song, and its cover art picture, Summer herself appears in the Frank Sinatra video for "L.A. Is My Lady", released in 1984, as a waitress who serves a patron and then wipes her brow.

There are two versions of the music video. One is the single edit; the other remains faithful to the original length of the album version of the song.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jones, Nate (September 29, 2010). "Rock and Roll Hall Nominations Announced: Who Has the Best Chances?". Time. Retrieved May 10, 2015. With a career spanning funk ("Love to Love You Baby"), disco ("Last Dance") and New Wave ("She Works Hard for the Money"), Summer is probably the most accomplished female artist up for induction this year.
  2. ^ Masley, Ed (April 22, 2009). "Confessions of an 'Idol' virgin: Disco week". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved July 11, 2014. Donna Summer's big post-disco hit "She Works Hard For the Money"
  3. ^ Billboard Staff (October 19, 2023). "The 500 Best Pop Songs: Staff List". Billboard. Retrieved February 10, 2024. A spiritual sequel to "Bad Girls" — but sonically updated for the post-disco years — 1983's "She Works Hard for the Money" was nearly as great...
  4. ^ a b "Top 100 Hits for 1983". The Longbored Surfer. Archived from the original on November 29, 2013. Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  5. ^ Shales, Tom (September 9, 1998). "One Savory Last Taste of Chasen's". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 1, 2021.
  6. ^ "Donna Summer interview". You Write the Songs (Interview). December 1986.
  7. ^ Smith, Steven (May 11, 1998). "Catering to the Stars". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 1, 2021.
  8. ^ "She Works Hard for the Money By Donna Summer – Digital Sheet Music". Universal Music Publishing Group. May 28, 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2017 – via Musicnotes.
  9. ^ "Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. May 28, 1983. p. 8. Retrieved July 19, 2022.
  10. ^ "Donna Summer - "She Works Hard for the Money"". Songfacts. Retrieved January 1, 2024.
  11. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". Hung Medien. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  12. ^ "Donna Summer – She Works Hard For The Money" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  13. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 4325." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  14. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin - levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
  15. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Titres par Artiste" (in French). InfoDisc. Select "Donna Summer" from the artist drop-down menu. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  16. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – She Works Hard". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  17. ^ "Classifiche". Musica e dischi (in Italian). Retrieved June 7, 2022. Set "Tipo" on "Singoli". Then, in the "Artista" field, search "Donna Summer".
  18. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 25, 1983" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  19. ^ "Donna Summer – She Works Hard For The Money" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
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  21. ^ "Donna Summer – She Works Hard For The Money". VG-lista. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  22. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website SA Charts 1969 – 1989 Acts (S)". Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  23. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  24. ^ "Donna Summer – She Works Hard For The Money". Singles Top 100. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  25. ^ "Donna Summer – She Works Hard For The Money". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  26. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  27. ^ "Donna Summer Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  28. ^ "Donna Summer Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard.
  29. ^ "Donna Summer Chart History (Dance Club Songs)". Billboard.
  30. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending AUGUST 13, 1983". Cash Box. Archived from the original on September 11, 2012.
  31. ^ " – Donna Summer – She Works Hard For The Money" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  32. ^ "Donna Summer – She Works Hard For The Money" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
  33. ^ "Kent Music Report – National Top 100 Singles for 1983". Kent Music Report. Retrieved January 22, 2023 – via
  34. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Hung Medien. Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  35. ^ "The Top Singles of 1983". RPM. Vol. 39, no. 17. Library and Archives Canada. December 24, 1983. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  36. ^ "TOP – 1983". (in French). Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  37. ^ "The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1983". Cash Box. Archived from the original on December 25, 2012.
  38. ^ "Top 100 Single-Jahrecharts: 1983". (in German). Retrieved May 16, 2022.