Garth Brooks and Huey Lewis – “Workin’ for a Livin'”

Matt Clark | December 6th, 2007

garth.jpgIt’s getting harder to argue that Garth Brooks is “retired,” and recent concert appearances in Kansas City, future appearances in Los Angeles, a number one hit and numerous television and other media appearances have sufficiently fueled the Garth fire that it’s hard to bet against any of the upcoming releases from The Ultimate Hits. However, while I’m not in the business of prognosticating about the success of radio singles, “Workin’ For a Livin'” deviates more from the Garth formula than any Garth single that I can remember, and despite Garth’s momentum, I’m not sure that radio listeners will reward the risk.

Huey Lewis’s harmonica provides an alluring introduction to a song that quickly becomes entirely forgetful. Garth’s vocal is barely recognizable and I suspect that many radio listeners won’t be able to readily identify the singer. They certainly won’t recognize Garth’s duet partner; from both a marketing and an artistic standpoint, Garth would’ve been better off asking Huey to stay behind the harp.

This song is written like a workingman’s anthem, but something tells me that the choral “ah-ah’s” of the harmonizers will keep it from being slipped into the jukebox next to “Take This Job and Shove It.” The arrangement isn’t country enough to hook the traditionalists, there’s not enough attitude for the redneck crowd and the lyric is too predictable and uninspired to please the critics. If this single was released by a twenty-something instead of a country music legend I’d beseech radio listeners to dump it. Why does Garth deserve special treatment?

Thumbs Down

  1. Brady Vercher
    December 7, 2007 at 9:16 am

    I just bought the Ultimate Hits album yesterday and immediately skipped to all the new tracks to give them a listen. I was surprised at how lackluster they were, especially this one. I don’t think he can stage a successful comeback with music like this.

    Oh, and I must have missed the news somewhere, but all of Garth’s studio albums are only $5.50 at Walmart. I thought that was a pretty sweet deal for anyone interested.

  2. Brody Vercher
    December 7, 2007 at 10:04 am

    Snoozefest ’07

  3. Peter Kohan
    December 7, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    This track worked for Huey Lewis & the News… in 1982. It’s a decent little track, but there’s just no energy in this version. And if Garth wanted to do a “working man’s down on his luck” song I’ve gotta think there’s a few hundred of them out there at music publishers waiting to be cut that might be more impactful than this song.

  4. Double-L
    December 7, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    I agree. This song had the POTENTIAL of being somewhat re-worked, especially since Huey played Harmonica on the track… they could’ve spiced it up and bit… 2007’d it! But it’s just “eh” to my ears. “Midnight Sun” however is a well-written song by Jerrod Niemann, (Good Ride Cowboy) a great songwriter, singer and performer in his own right! Jerrod’s tunes have worked for the G-man in the past… why not now?

    Why release another cover? I say “another”, meaning, Mark Chesnutt’s “Rolling With The Flow” (great tune, btw – the steel guitar is what I LIVE for), “Suspicions” by Tim McGraw … have we just run out of material?

    That can’t be with the thousands of songwriters chomping at the bit to get a hit record on the radio and into the ears of our country audience. GARTH… why not release another brand new single?

    “Workin'” is a fun tune for a live show, sure, but for massive country radio airplay? I’m not looking forward to it, and I usually enjoy Garth.

    While I’m on this rant, btw, I should ask: Has anyone heard Lee Brice’s version of “More Than A Memory”? He’s the songwriter (one of them) and it’ll blow you away. If you get the chance to see him sing it, don’t miss your opportunity.

  5. Matt C.
    December 7, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    I didn’t know that this was originally recorded by Huey Lewis and the News. I’ve never listened to their stuff. That just makes it an even more vapid release. You get three tracks on your first album project in 6 years and this is one of them?

  6. Double-L
    December 7, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    I think that’s Garth, though… It’s not an “album” of new stuff per se, but he knows (marketing man) that he needed to release a couple/few new ones to get him back on radio in a big way. I don’t think stations would’ve played a cover every 99 minutes or once per hour like they embraced “More Than A Memory”.

    Something that I did like was the Komen tie in. One of my listeners bought me a copy of THE PINK EDITION in support of finding a cure for Breast Cancer. I’m proud of Garth for continuously supporting various charities and putting the word out there. Plus, it’s pink!

    Yeah, Matt C., check out Huey Lewis & The News’ version… it’s super fun 80s music!

  7. Peter Kohan
    December 7, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    Here’s a link to the Huey Lewis & the News review for 1982’s “Picture This” by All Music Guide…

  8. Pat
    December 9, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    All you people don’t know what you are talking about. As a Huey Lewis and the news fan before I was a Garth fan, that was a great cover of that song.

  9. Peter Kohan
    December 10, 2007 at 9:21 am

    And as someone who also enjoyed the original version… I think this new cover was a big ole mess.

  10. Garthmanfan
    December 11, 2007 at 9:27 am

    You nay-sayers can’t be serious! To ask the question why does Garth deserve treatment any different that that of a new comer, begs the question to you: Have you been living under a rock for the last 20 years? Well, if so, let me remind you why Garth deserving of treatment beyond that of the new guys…

    * 2 Grammy Awards (total of 7 nominations)
    * 16 American Music Awards
    * 11 Country Music Association Awards
    * 18 Academy of Country Music Awards
    * 5 World Music Awards
    * 10 People’s Choice Awards
    * 24 Billboard Music Awards
    * 2 ASCAP Awards
    * 2 Blockbuster Awards
    * American Music Awards, Artist of the Decade (1990s)
    * Academy of Country Music Awards, Artist of the Decade (1990s)
    * Recording Industry Association of America, Artist of the Century (1900s)
    * 1 Radio Music Award
    * 7 Primetime Emmy Award nominations (Outstanding in a Variety of Music Program)
    * 1 Golden Globe nomination (Best Original Song)
    * Songwriters Hall of Fame: 2002
    * GLAAD Media Award for “We Shall Be Free”-1993
    Not to mention being named the best selling solo artist in US history.

    This man has done more for country music, and the music industry as a whole than anyone ever has. Not to mention his focus on charitable giving. And… if that isn’t enough, the man keeps giving us new music, even while retired. Besides, this song is a blast!

  11. Kelly
    December 11, 2007 at 9:44 am

    Garth Brooks Concert Ticket…$50

    Garth Brooks Ultimate Hits CD…$20

    Watching the cheesy,overly-melodramatic videos for “Standing Outside the Fire & “The Red Strokes”….PRICELESS

  12. Garthmanfan
    December 11, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Garth Brooks Concert Ticket…$20

    Garth Brooks Ultimate Hits CD…$15

    Watching people use words such as “overly-melodramatic’ to describe videos they’ve probably never seen… ANNOYING

  13. Kelly aka GARTHMANFAN-FAN
    December 11, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Hey, I like Garth. “Beaches of Cheyenne”, “Much Too Young” and “That Summer” (among others) will always have a spot on my playlist. Also, seeing him live was a fatastic experience, but I can call those videos cheesy and overly-melodramatic (yeah, i said it) because I HAVE seen them. I like you though, I am going to change my “name” to GARTHMANFAN-FAN.

  14. Garthmanfan
    December 11, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    Nice name, I like it! I know you’ve seen them. Any self-respecting country music fan has (and with a name like Garthmanfan-fan I am certain you are self- respecting!) Though today some of the videos of the past may seem dated, I think for the period in which they were produced, they were forward thinking and way ahead of their time. Of course, we see this amongst every format and fashion of media. Hell, someday soon people will read this blog criticize cheesy, overly-melodramatic bloggers such as Garthmanfan and Garthmanfan-fan! Probably sooner than we’d both like…

  15. Garthmanfan
    December 11, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Hmmm… was it something I said???

  16. antonio
    December 11, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    from now on, artistic merit will be gauged by the number of awards you have been given. thus spoken, so shall it be done.–people who refer to garth brooks as ‘garth’. including garth brooks.

    it’s all about the points, people!! numbers!! breaking records!! sellouts!! musi–um, no, not really.

  17. Garthmanfan
    December 11, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    Oh the beauty of free speech…

  18. Matt C.
    December 11, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    Garthmanfan, the things you listed are among the reasons why I won’t question Garth’s ability like I might question that of a new artist who released this song. However, unless all those awards you listed are for “Workin’ for a Livin,'” this release is not beyond reproach. It reminds me of the big-name songwriters who come to the site and act like because they have X number of top ten hits, they’ve never written a bad song.

  19. Garthmanfan
    December 12, 2007 at 6:18 am

    Matt C,
    I agree. Artists do that all the time. However, this is not the case. As you know, GB did not write the song (I know you said it just reminds you of big-name song writers), and the song and collaboration will be more widely accepted than is being predicted (on this forum anyway).

    Kudos to all the great well-known and not so well-known singers and song writers out there. It usually takes more than one swing of the bat to hit a home run. I say keep swinging!

  20. Garthmanfan
    December 12, 2007 at 6:29 am


    How is people, or Garth Brooks himself referring to his band’s music as ‘Garth’, any different than that of say, Van Halen, Elvis, Madonna, or the countless other self-named artists out there? Every one of them are referring to the music and performances put together by the efforts of all the people behind the name that the public relates to. When Garth refers to his music as “Garth stuff” or whatever, he’s not referring to himself in the third person, he’s simply saying the music that the public knows as “Garth stuff”.

  21. antonio
    December 13, 2007 at 10:03 am

    van halen is a band. not a person.

    elvis is dead.

    madonna is also a pretentious entity. insert ‘garth’ here.

  22. Garthmanfan
    December 13, 2007 at 10:42 am

    Funny, last I checked, isn’t there an Eddie Van Halen? (granted his real name is Edward Lodewijk). Also funny is how you argue for the sake of arguing. Even more funny is you calling Garth pretentious. Even more funny yet is considering your apparent likeness and support of Garth and country music anything less than pretentious.

  23. antonio
    December 14, 2007 at 9:11 am

    van halen is a band. i’ll repeat that and let it sink in.

    elvis is dead. dead, i say.

    garth pretentious? yes, just like sting and madonna and various singer-songwriter types who gaze at their navels and cry on cue.

    i’m not saying i dislike him intensely. i like a lot of his music. but when you can’t even criticize a celebrity without the sycophants coming out of the woodwork with pitchforks, things are in a perilous condition.

    and that last sentence of yours? i have no idea what that means. it’s vaguely english.

  24. Lucas
    December 14, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Garth wipes the floor with just about anybody out there. Most of the singers on radio these days don’t deserve to clean mud off his boots!

    Garth wasn’t doing this song for popularity, he has that. He was doing it to work with somebody he admires.

  25. Garthmanfan
    December 17, 2007 at 8:19 am

    Read it again and let it sink in. Not surprising you don’t understand it…

  26. antonio
    December 17, 2007 at 8:33 am

    see if you understand that. :)

  27. Garthmanfan
    December 17, 2007 at 9:21 am

    Is that where you get yours?? :-D

  28. jinxster
    December 17, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    I think it was a link from Just sayin’. :)

  29. Robert
    December 20, 2007 at 1:08 am

    P.S. Merry Christmas, everyone!

  30. Brett Dale
    January 26, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    I love the Duet with Huey, it is what it is, a fun song, sung brilliantly by two great artists.

    Garth’s Ultimate Hits is well worth the money, its lovely to see him grow old from video to video.

    After these LA concerts, Garth is going slip back into retirement and go back to doing his greatest joy, that is raising his kids.

  31. ccf
    January 26, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    I use to be a Garth fan but not anymore. I’ve lost respect for him over the years to the point I despise him intensely now.

  32. Laurel
    March 10, 2008 at 12:56 am

    This is a good song. Yes it is different from his norm, but it also doesn’t reuse the very common themes in country music.

  33. vicky
    March 11, 2008 at 11:29 am

    aw man i love garth brooks he’s so ausome,sept he used to be smexy and now he’s lost almost all his hair, he just should wear that cowboy hat all the time. :)

  34. garthmanfan
    March 11, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    Bottom line – Garth is the man!

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