S y d n e y T r a d s

Weblog of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum

Thinking Right About Pop Culture: Alan Jackson, “Hard Hat and a Hammer”

What follows are programme notes for the “Conservative Song” segment of Radio Carpe Diem compiled by Dominic Giemza. The notes were produced for a broadcast of Monday, 17 January 2011, and form the basis of a live on-air discussion about conservative and traditionalist themes that can be inferred from items of popular music. Radio Carpe Diem is Australia’s only paleoconservative and traditionalist radio programme and can be accessed online or free to air at 88.9FM at 8:00pm to 10:00pm Mondays (Sydney, Australia). Readers’ comments are welcome here at SydneyTrads. Listeners are encouraged to tune in and engage in the discussion.

God Bless the Working Man

alanjacksonhardhatandahammer

Introduction

Some say finding conservative nuggets in Country Music is no different to shooting fish in a barrel. Indeed it’s much harder to find Country songs that aren’t riddled with conservative themes and messages. Tonight’s song is only a year old and it’s from a contemporary great of the Nashville scene Mr Alan Jackson. Listeners note that this is the man who wrote “Small Town Southern Man” a few years back (a future Conservative Song and potential top twenty of all time conservative songs) and today’s piece “Hard Hat and a Hammer” shows that the conservative fire still burns in his belly and the songs just keep coming.

Background

“Hard Hat and a Hammer” is the second single to Alan Jackson’s his sixteenth studio album, “Freight Train” which was released on 30 March 2010.

Alan Eugene Jackson was born 17 October 1958, in Newnan, Georgia and has four older siblings. Jackson attended the local Elm Street Elementary and Newnan High School, starting a band after high school. He sang in church as a child.

As a youth, Jackson listened primarily to gospel music. Otherwise he was not a major music fan. However, a friend of his introduced him to the music of Gene Watson, John Anderson and Hank Williams Jr. He, his father, mother, and four sisters lived in a small home. At one point, his bed was in the hallway for lack of room. His mother lives in the home to this day. His first job, at 12, was in a shoe store. He wrote his first song in 1983. He worked as a car salesman in his 20s. He also worked in the mailroom of the Nashville Network, a Country music cable TV station.

Jackson married his high school sweetheart, Denise Jackson, on December 15, 1979. They are the parents of three daughters:. Although the couple separated for several months in 1998 due to the strains of Jackson’s careerthey have since reconciled. Their story is referenced in several of Jackson’s songs, including “She Likes It Too” and “Remember When”. Denise Jackson wrote a book that topped The New York Times Best Seller list that covered her life with Jackson, their relationship, separation, and recommitment to each other, and her commitment to Christianity, the book was titled It’s All About Him: Finding the Love of My Life, which was published in 2007.

When he was starting out it was Denise that connected him with Glenn Campbell who helped jumpstart his career.

Notes for the Discussion

One great thing about Country music songwriting is the way the lyrics can put some things so beautifully and so simply. The chorus to this song is one such example:

But there’s nothing wrong with a hard hat and a hammer,
Kind of glue that sticks this world together,
Hands of steel and cradle of the Promised Land,
God bless the working man.

It strikes a Conservative quadrella weaving virtue, family, patriotism and God into four lines. We have a reference to the virtue in hard work (and the masculine strength of which it is an expression), to the notion of nurturing the young and ones young Nation (i.e. cradle), to the Promised Land (being a patriotic reference to the USA) and lastly to God’s blessing. How can you go wrong with that.

Another great line is the reference to this man as being part of a forgotten majority “hardly noticed but part of everything. Yes working men are what holds the country and our lives together and they are often unappreciated and their voices are not heard but Mr Jackson speaks on their behalf. In the last verse you can see that Jackson also has the perspective across generations, he sees that workers are part of a succession of old and young, an age old cycle.

Of interest is the very last line, which is the only part of the song that adds to the references to working man… and woman. The way that this has been done is very specific – it’s not some sop to the feminists – as otherwise the whole song would have been called something quite anodyne like working person or God forbid the toiling worker. No, I think this line is quite deliberate and not an afterthought. Jackson is saluting the physical laborers that hold his Country together and he acknowledges that they are not exclusively men but (more importantly) acknowledges that they are overwhelmingly men by leaving this as a last reference. It’s a sign of respect to the minority of hard hat wearing females without distorting the reality that the burden of most physical jobs falls on men.

I hope that the silent majority, the glue that holds Australia as well as our brother nations together find some joy in this song and in its celebration of simple virtuous working lives, people who we pray – all receive God’s blessing.

Lyrics

Lace-up boots and faded jeans,
A homemade sandwich, a half jug of tea,
Average Joe, average pay,
Same ol’ end the same ol’ day.

But there’s nothing wrong with a hard hat and a hammer,
Kind of glue that sticks this world together,
Hands of steel and cradle of the Promised Land,
God bless the working man.

All week long making a living,
Life keeps takin’, he keeps giving,
Behind the scene, below the grade,
Hardly noticed but part of everything.

But there’s nothing wrong with a hard hat and a hammer,
Kind of glue that sticks this world together,
Hands of steel and cradle of the Promised Land,
God bless the working man.

He gives his life then fades away,
Another young man takes his place,
Average Joe, average pay,
Same ol’ end, the same ol’ day.

But there’s nothing wrong with a hard hat and a hammer,
Kind of glue that sticks this world together,
Hands of steel and cradle of the Promised Land.

No, there’s nothing wrong with a hard hat and a hammer,
Kind of glue that sticks this world together,
Hands of steel and cradle of the Promised Land,
God bless the working man.

The working man,
Oh, the working man and woman.

– Dominic Giemza

The writer is a legal practitioner and the co-host of Carpe Diem Radio’s regular segment: the “Conservative Song” . The above notes were drafted for a live and on air debate about conservative and traditionalist themes which can be found in popular music. Listeners can access Radio Carpe Diem either on air at 2RSR 88.9FM in the greater Sydney region, each Monday between 8:00pm and 10:00pm, or streaming live via TuneIn.com. Feedback is welcome.

SydneyTrads is the internet portal and communication page of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum: an association of young professionals who form part of the Australian paleoconservative, traditionalist conservative, and independent right.
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