Take This Job And Shove It

Album: Take This Job And Shove It (1977)
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Songfacts®:

  • "Take This Job And Shove It" fulfills every worker's fantasy of telling their boss off and quitting in dramatic fashion.

    The character in the song works in a factory. He's recently lost the woman that was the only reason he worked to begin with, so he tells his boss to "shove" the job and walks away. Despite the narrative, the appeal of "Take This Job And Shove It" has always been the universal job-quitting dream we all entertain every now and then, especially when the boss gets on our nerves.
  • Released in August 1977, "Take This Job And Shove It" was the first #1 Country hit of 1978, staying at the top the first two weeks of January. It introduced the title phrase into the lexicon, which stuck around so long there are now people who say it that don't even know it's a song.
  • Johnny Paycheck recorded the original and definitive version of this song, but David Allan Coe wrote it. At the time, Coe was in a strange position in an all-around strange career. Along with Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings, he'd been one of the founding fathers of the outlaw country movement but had failed to break through to a general audience the way the other men had. He had some hits and was widely recognized as one of the best country performers and songwriters of his era, but his idiosyncratic personality and vulgar (some said racist) lyrics kept him an outsider to polite society and his peers.

    Coe also started a feud with fellow outlaw country stars by publicly questioning their street cred, claiming he was the only true outlaw in the bunch. The claim was offensive as it was untrue, according to Jennings, who wrote in his self-titled autobiography in 1996 that the biggest crime Coe ever committed was "double-parking on Music Row." Starting with an early, invalidated claim that he killed a man in prison, Coe had long been dealing with a reputation for being a liar. This all contributed to Coe taking a break from the music industry at the time he wrote the song.
  • "Take This Job And Shove It" is Johnny Paycheck's biggest hit, but he was already well established when he recorded it. His cover of "She's All I Got" hit #2 on the Country chart in 1971, and his own composition, "Mr. Lovemaker," hit #2 in 1973. He worked closely with producer Billy Sherrill, who was his connection to David Allan Coe.

    Paycheck continued to have some recording success through the '70s and '80s, but hard living and legal problems hurt him. He was more of an actual outlaw than Coe ever was, and often for indiscretions not easily romanticized, such as a 1982 arrest for the statutory rape of a 12-year-old girl (he pled down to misdemeanor sexual assault). He died February 19, 2003, of respiratory failure.
  • Since the song's release, variations of its title have been used for book titles, TV episodes, and the like. It's a versatile phrase. You can substitute for "job" and adapt it to any grievance:

    "Take this breakfast and shove it."
    "Take this marriage and shove it."

    The phrase will probably endure at least a few more generations.
  • In the 2003 documentary David Allan Coe: Live At Billy Bob's Texas, Coe says he wrote this song after saving several boats from burning. In his story, he'd been living on a boat in Nashville, Tennessee, with seven "wives" (polygamy laws cast some doubt on whether or not they were legal wives or not). One night, he and one of his wives were on their way from a movie theater to Johnny Cash's house when Coe saw fire on the waterfront. He drove down, found a dock in flames, cut the ropes of several boats and pushed them out into the water.

    The local news wrote a story about Coe saving the boats, and a short time later, as he was hanging out at the home of Country Music Hall of Famer Billy Sherrill and talking about the big fuss that had blown up around the event, someone joked that Coe should get a job with the fire department.

    Coe cracked, "Man, they can take that job and shove it."

    Sherrill told Coe he needed to write a song based on the phrase. He reminded him of the time Coe said, "Why me, lord," while hanging out with Kris Kristofferson. Coe let the phrase die while Kristofferson went home and wrote his hit "Why Me" around the phrase.

    Coe took Sherrill's advice. He went home and wrote "Take This Job And Shove It" in "about five minutes."

    At the time, Coe was taking a break from music. He spent his time gambling, treasure hunting, and traveling. Sherrill offered the song to George Jones, but Jones didn't show up, so Sherrill recorded it with Johnny Paycheck, who called Coe personally to get permission.

    Coe didn't know who Paycheck was, but he decided to sell him the song. After the tune became a massive success, Paycheck went on the The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. When Carson asked who wrote it, Paycheck said, "Some guy in Nashville." At another point, Coe claimed, Paycheck credited his grandfather for the song's inspiration.

    Coe was displeased. He went so far as to say it broke his heart, an uncharacteristically sensitive admission by the hardened, intergalactic-cowboy outlaw. His bad feelings resurfaced in "Take This Job And Shove It Too," which released in 1980 on his album I've Got Something To Say. The song includes an obvious dig at Paycheck:

    This ain't the first job I ever quit
    And I know it won't be my last Paycheck
    Who knows after today
    You may be a thing of the past
  • In 1978 Coe included his own version of the song, also produced by Billy Sherrill, on his 12th album, Family Album.
  • The B-side of Johnny Paycheck's single was "Colorado Kool-Aid," which peaked at #50 on the Country chart.
  • In 1981, Cinema Group Ventures released a film titled Take This Job And Shove It. The movie, about a group of buddies fighting to save a brewery from evil rich people, became a sleeper hit. It stars film icon Art Carney and Robert Hays, who was hot off the success of his starring role in the absurdist (and now cult-favorite) Airplane in 1981. Both Johnny Paycheck and Coe had small roles in the film.
  • The Dead Kennedys open their 1986 Bedtime for Democracy album with a short (1:25) version of this song.
  • Canibus and Biz Markie cover this song on the soundtrack for the 1999 film Office Space.

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