Today in labor history, Jan. 29, 1981, singer-songwriter Dolly Parton hits number one on the record charts with “9 to 5,” her anthem for working women (see video below). The song was written and originally performed by Parton for the 1980 film comedy Nine to Five, starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Parton in her film debut.
In addition to appearing on the film soundtrack, the song was the centerpiece of Parton’s 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs album, released in late 1980. The song was released as a single in November 1980 and reached number one on both the Billboard Country Chart and the Billboard Hot 100 in January and February 1981, respectively. For a time, the song became something of an anthem for office workers in the U.S., and in 2004, Parton’s song ranked number seventy-eight on American Film Institute‘s “100 years, 100 songs”.
The song-and film-are the same title as an organization, 9to5.org, founded in 1973 with the aim of bringing about better treatment for women in the workplace.
It is one of the few Billboard chart songs to feature the clacking of a typewriter. Parton has stated in a number of interviews through the years that when she wrote the song, she devised the clacking typewriter rhythm running her acrylic fingernails back and forth against one another.
With “9 to 5”, Parton became only the second woman to top both the U.S. country singles chart and Billboard’s Hot 100 with the same single (the first being Jeannie C. Riley, who had done so with “Harper Valley PTA” in 1968).
Also on Parton’s “9 to 5 and Odd Jobs” album was her cover of Woody Guthrie’s protest song “Deportee (Plan Wreck at Los Gatos).”
Also today in labor history in 2009, newly-elected President Barack Obama signs the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, making it easier for women and people of color to win pay discrimination suits.
Photo: Cover art for Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5.” (CC)