Sunday, May 31
Shadow

The Chordettes – Early feminist heroines?

The Chordettes released many great songs over the course of their career. But to me, none of them is as interesting as 1959’s “A Girl’s Work Is Never Done.”

Seemingly written as a response “Yakety Yak,” which was a #1 hit for The Coasters in 1958, this song seems a lot more caustic in retrospect. “Yakety Yak” told the story of a precocious delinquent who just wanted to have fun and avoid his chores. “A Girl’s Work Is Never Done,” on the other hand, is clearly a tale of female domestic woe. No hanging out with friends (or anything social for that matter) for her; nope, she best get to cleanin’!

A girl’s work is never done
You boys think we are havin’ fun
One minute sweeping up the floor
Uh oh, the salesman’s at the door

Never done
Never done
A girl’s work is never done

Wash up the windows and the blinds
Aw heck the rain, a waste of time
And now the kids are home from school
They’re trackin’ mud from room to room

You think it’s fun
It’s never done
A girl’s work is never done

And now my father’s home from work
With 1500 dirty shirts
You think he’d help me clean the house
He’s says he’s tired and knocked out (yeah man, I’m beat)

While I cook
He reads a book
A girl’s work is never done

My baby brother’s now in bed (lullaby and goodnight)
I need an aspirin for my head
There in the living room, pop sleeps
That means the dog I’ve gotta feed

Never done
Never done
A girl’s work is never done
A girl’s work is never done
A girl’s work is never done
A girl’s work is never done
A girl’s work is never done

The song itself has the same upbeat and wacky sound as “Charlie Brown.” In fact, the Chordettes employed the same sax player, King Curtis, for their tune. More than anything else, the music itself robs the song of any of its bite. Had this been released 15 years later, there is no doubt that the arrangement would be altogether different. But without that sense of humor, there’s probably no way the song would’ve seen the light of day in 1959. After all, those were the days of Gunsmoke and Father Knows Best. As far as television (still a major shaper of public opinion back then) showed, if you were a man you were either dispensing justice with a rifle or dispensing benevolent wisdom at home.

But what does it really mean? Was the song really just a tongue-in-cheek take on drab domestic life, or an early salvo in the modern feminist movement? Or is this all just further proof that I have entirely too much time to spend thinking about stuff like this? The world may never know, although I am fairly certain that the last point is dead on.