We’re going to get a little obscure with the latest EHSDA Song of the Week, but very industry-specific. Canadian folk-rock act Great Big Sea has always done well in their native land, but less so down here in the States. Nevertheless, in 1995 the band out of Newfoundland and Labrador released a cover of the English folk song “The Chemical Worker’s Song (Process Man),” which was written and sung in 1964 by Ron Angel. The powerful song details the dangerous working conditions found in a chemical plant in the early ’60s.
“And it’s go boys go/They’ll time your every breath/And every day you’re in this place/You’re two days nearer death/But you go…”
The band performs the song like a sea shanty and it’s catchy even as it details the horrible things the chemicals are doing to the workers. “Well a Process Man am I and I’m telling you no lie/I work and breathe among the fumes that trail across the sky/There’s thunder all around me and there’s poison in the air/There’s a lousy smell that smacks of hell and dust all in me hair.”
Great Big Sea put the song on their album Up, which went quadruple-platinum in Canada. It’s been covered by many artists over the years, but this version is especially stirring.