She Works Hard For The Money

Album: She Works Hard For The Money (1983)
Charted: 25 3


  • This song was based on a true-to-life experience. After the Grammy Awards in 1983, Donna Summer was at an afterparty at Chasen's restaurant, a Hollywood hotspot (it closed in 1995). She went to the bathroom and saw the attendant, Onetta Johnson, taking a nap with a small TV on. Summer startled her from her nap, and Onetta told Donna she worked two jobs and was really tired. Summer thought to herself, Wow, she really works hard for her money.

    Knowing she had the makings of a hit, she grabbed some toilet paper and started writing her ideas. Later that night while at home thinking about Onetta, Summer wrote the song in about 20 minutes. The song became a tribute to hard-working women everywhere.
  • Onetta Johnson, the bathroom attendant from Chasen's, appears on the back cover of the album. The first line of the song says her name: "Onetta there in the corner stands..." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Greg - Arlington, TX
  • Summer wrote this with Michael Omartian, who also produced the album and played many of the instruments. Omartian also co-wrote "Sailing" with Christopher Cross and produced "We Are The World" with Quincy Jones.
  • The music video was directed by Brian Grant, who was one of the first directors in the medium, having done clips for Queen and The Human League the predated MTV. The video for "She Works Hard For The Money" shows various women working difficult jobs - nurse, housekeeper, waitress - and then joining together in the end for a group dance. According to Summer, this was to show they have overcome their challenges and succeeded.

    The video was very popular on MTV, airing a few months after Michael Jackson broke the MTV color barrier with "Billie Jean." Summer became the first black female singer to land a video in hot rotation on the network.
  • Summer performed this song to open the Grammy Awards in 1984, where it was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (it lost to "Flashdance... What a Feeling" by Irene Cara). The performance incorporated the dancers from the video.
  • Lois Blaisch, who wrote the #1 Tiffany hit "Could've Been," sang the version used in the 1984 movie Splash, starring Daryl Hannah as a mermaid and Tom Hanks as the man who loves her.

Comments: 12

  • Alyssa from California You mean it’s not about prostitution?
  • Brenda from California I thought the song was about a prostitution
  • Zunelander from DallasDonna Summer was a game changer, just like Mary J. Blige said of her, after Summer passed.
  • Patrick from Wahiawa, HiBut it wasn't good enough for Grammy? Oh well, so much for this "working woman's anthem.":(
  • Dennis from TorntoDonna Summer was the first black female played on MTV and SWHFTM was the first video played in heavy rotation by a black female (1983). She was also the first to have her videos played in consistent heavy rotation, as she had the stations support. Tina Turner and the Pointer Sister followed her in having their videos played in consistent heavy rotation. As Summer did not release an album after 1984's Cats Without Claws until 1987. Unfortunately on the net much of this trailblazing Summer did, has be attributed incorrectly to WH or JJ. She was the first female artist to really dominate the pop charts. Billboard's top musical act between 1976-82, with 12 top ten hits. She had 9 consecutive top 5 hits, between July 1978 and November 1980. In one 12 month period November 25, 1978 to November 24, 1979; she scored 6 top 4 singles, 4 of them going to number one. She was the first female of the modern rock era to have the number one single and album, on the charts at the same time (she did that 3 times in 8 months). She took 3 double albums sets to the top of the charts in a 14 month period. Named the first true diva of the modern pop era by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 20th 1983, a video of "She Works Hard for the Money" by Donna Summer was aired on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    Three months earlier on May 22nd, 1983 it entered Billboard's Hot Top chart at position #67; and on July 31st, 1983 it peaked at #3 {for 3 weeks} and spent 21 weeks on the Top 100...
    The week before it peaked on the Top 100, on July 24th, 1983 it reached #1 {for 3 weeks} on Billboard's R&B Singles chart…
    The three weeks it was at #3 on the Top 100, the #1 record was "Every Breath You Take" by the Police and at #2 was "Sweet Dreams" by the Eurythmics for all three weeks...
    R.I.P. Ms. Summer, born LaDonna Adrian Gaines, {1948 - 2012}.
  • Bubblesk from Memphis, TnThis Donna Summer hit from '83 made it to #1 in my area (SW Missouri/NE Oklahoma/NW Arkansas) on various radio charts. What a great song that many people connected with, especially women. Moreover, it emphasized Summer's versatility and talents after disco. I lived and worked in the metro Joplin, Missouri area in the Seventies & Eighties and there were many Donna Summer fans in the area. She was a very talented songwriter too. Thanks for this website.
  • John from Nashville, TnThe video for this song received heavy rotation on MTV. Summer became the first African American female to have a video on MTV in heavy rotation.
  • Jordan from Haddam, CtI love this song. the vieo roxx my soxx too!!!!
  • Jesse from Haddam, Ct This song is in my opinion the best anthem for women. I mean really, how much plainer can you put it than saying 'She wroks hard for her money, so treat her right!'
  • Sum Sum from New Delhi, IndiaShe Works Hard For The Money ... She worked damn hard for her money, but did her
    spoiled little brat of a daughter appreciate it?
  • Enrique from Lima, PeruThe song belongs to the Album of the same name and it was the best known song of that album.

    Michael Omartian was the producer and responsible for the success of the album, that in a way redefined Donna as a postdisco rock singer with a breadth of talent and style.
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