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Story Behind the Song: Gretchen Wilson, ‘Work Hard, Play Harder’

In October of 2009, Gretchen Wilson released “Work Hard, Play Harder” as the lead single from her 2010 album, I Got Your Country Right Here. The tune reached the Top 20 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart (No. 18) in June of 2010, becoming her first Top 20 single since 2005. Below, Wilson tells The Boot about co-writing “Work Hard, Play Harder” with John Rich and Vickey McGehee.

It’s important to have writing partners who you’re comfortable with and who you can say something stupid in front of. When you’re writing, you can say a lot of stupid things! But you have to be uninhibited. We get together and write either at one of John’s places — he has a little bar in [Nashville] — or at my house. We’ll sit on the front porch.

This song all started with the tapping of a foot and John playing a riff on the acoustic [guitar]. We just started talking about what we feel makes a good American, a good role model. Then we started throwing ideas around. We all agreed we are in a funk in this country, and we don’t know if we, as a country, are a bad parent, or what has happened. We have lost that good feeling that comes from working hard and feeling proud that you earned something.

My grandpa was a veteran of World War II (as was John’s, who received six Purple Hearts). The way we see the world has to do with the memories of the way our grandparents lived. Then we all started thinking about the future and what we can do to ensure children have a better life. When we were young, we were taught how to work hard for a living and survive. Today, kids look for someone to just bail them out.

We as a country right now don’t let them drive until they’re 16, they can’t vote until they’re 18, and it’s no alcohol until they’re 21. Those are laws. But kids can have babies when they’re 12. What kind of parents are they going to be? You don’t want to get mad at a kid because something made him feel he deserved it. That’s what needs to change.

This story was originally written by Nancy Dunham, and revised by Angela Stefano.

NEXT: Top 10 Patriotic Country Songs

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