On This Day: Alabama Releases ‘Forty Hour Week (For a Livin’)’ in 1985

by Katie Maloney
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Thirty-six years ago, iconic country band, Alabama released their 17th number-one hit song, “Forty Hour Week (For a Livin’).”

The song was the second single and title track from Alabama’s ninth studio album 40-Hour Week. During the song they sing, “This is for the one who swings the hammer driving home the nail. Or the one behind the counter ringing up the sale. Or the one who fights the fires. And the one who brings the mail. For everyone who works behind the scenes…Let me thank you for your time. You work a 40 hour week for a livin’ just to send it on down the line.” The end of the song includes a snippet from “America the Beautiful.”

Alabama’s song quickly became an anthem for people all across America. Country music historian Bill Malone, wrote about the song in his liner notes for Classic Country Music: A Smithsonian Collection. He wrote, “40 Hour Week (For a Livin’)” “…is a rare country music tribute to American workers…almost no one in country music has spoken for the industrial laborer. This straightforward homage gives the contemporary worker the respect that the Reagan years denied him.”

Additionally, NBC Sports used the song over the closing credits during its broadcast of Super Bowl XX on January 26, 1986. During the song, they showed highlights of the Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Kansas City Chiefs when the refrains mentioned those cities.

Alabama’s “40-Hour Week”

Alabama’s Randy Owen Said the Band Lost Their ‘Soul’ When They Became Famous

Today, Alabama is a common name in the country music world. However, when they first rose to fame, they were pretty different. During an interview in 2008, founding member Randy Owen talked about what made the band different.

“You’ve got to remember, we were so different, just totally different,” said Owen. “We looked like rough guys. It was the way we were. We grew up that way.” 

The Alabama band member also shared that staying true to their identity and message was important to the band. In fact, their identity was so important to them, that they reassessed their music when they started becoming famous.

“We became more of a commercial band than southern soul gospel country, the people who we really are. And we started coming to the point where I got tired of those songs,” said Owen. “We were losing our soul. And we were losing the reason we got in the music business.”

Luckily, Alabama reconnected to their roots and continued producing number one hit songs, 40 to be exact.

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