I ain’t gonna work here no more!

We’ve all had moments where we want to tell someone to take this job and shove it. The day sucked, your co-workers are all morons, or you’re way better than this. When I was in high school, a friend of mine inspired us all. He set the bar high for going out in style.

His short-lived employer was the national restaurant chain Chili’s. Just about everything they did and offered was sub-par except for their ability to police their employee’s choice in dress. My friend was a busboy, and per Chili’s dress code, he was required to wear black Levi’s 501 Regular Fit jeans. He’s young, an aspiring busboy, and broke. He chose to wear what he had in his drawer: black Wrangler jeans. After a few shifts, he’s been warned about his attire. A ridiculous expectation, and my friend had had enough. After his boss reprimanded him again about his lack of Levi’s during a dinner rush, my friend instinctively ripped off his Chili’s t-shirt, chucked it at the wall, and paraded through the dining room heckling and ridiculing as he stomped out the front door bare chested.

Back in ’65, the exemplary songwriting folk-king Bob Dylan was tired of being taken advantage of by his record label. He penned “Maggie’s Farm” to voice his frustrations. Dylan wrote “Maggie’s Farm” through the lens of a slave to the record label. It was his protest song against the commodification of artists. The music industry had, and still continues to have, one objective: squeezing every cent out of their artists. Instead of directly attacking the suits, Dylan places himself on Maggie’s Farm, a place of dirty floors, menial compensation, unapproachable bosses, and pressure to fit in even if you’re not like the rest.

I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more/No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more/Well, he hands you a nickel, he hands you a dime/He asks you with a grin if you’re havin’ a good time/Then he fines you every time you slam the door/I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more

The same year, the King of Rock N Soul, Solomon Burke made an immediate connection to Dylan’s stomper: blacks are not inferior citizens. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is still fresh. A groundbreaking law takes time for people to acclimate to. Most would argue today the nation continues to adjust.

My guess is Burke hears Dylan’s rallying cries and viscerally senses connection after connection to the original. Are the dirty floors the equivalent of most people of color not having equal job opportunities? Are the nickels and dimes the scraps he sees people like himself receiving in place of quarters and half-dollars? Is Maggie’s Pa the White Man? Are the pressures to be like the masses a form of conforming to who and what society says you are? Or maybe it’s not a rallying cry against social injustice, Burke saw the potential to put his unique sonic signature on recording history. And that he does: the track smokes with its jazzy horn stabs, a relentless groove, scratchy rockabilly guitar all complemented by Burke’s formidably frustrated-sounding vocals. When I throw my shirt off and go out with a ruckus, a soundtrack is a must.

1 Response to “I ain’t gonna work here no more!”

  1. March 16, 2021 at 7:16 pm

    On the Beastie Boy’s “Paul’s Boutique,” Mike D sings a line, “We ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s Farm no more.” That’s the first time I ever heard that lyric in a song. It took me a couple of years to figure out it was a Dillion nod!
    Another great write up, D!

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