Why Donna Summer’s “She Worked Hard For The Money” Mattered For Women
3:15 pm, May 17th | by Amy Tennery
Today marked the passing of star songstress Donna Summer, who died at 63, after a battle with cancer. And while her whole collection was meaningful to many, her business lady anthem “She Works Hard For The Money” is particularly special to The Jane Dough.
But while the song is an ode to women’s empowerment of all colors and stripes, it turns out, in this case, there was a particular “She” who was “Work[ing] Hard For The Money.”
As legend has it, Summer was inspired to write the song after walking in on a sleeping bathroom attendant at a restaurant, Chasen’s, in West Hollywood. After waking up, the attendant explained that she worked two jobs. She was working hard. For the money. Summers was touched — and wrote the song in her honor.
The attendant, named Onetta, was later featured on the back cover of the album art for the record, yep, “She Works Hard For The Money.”
From this little tidbit, we can deduce that the woman on the left here is Onetta:
Another fun fact about Onetta’s place of business: The restaurant, Chasen’s, was so beloved by the Hollywood glitterati that, as a ’98 Observer article recounted, Jack Lemmon gave the place a tearful eulogy when it closed in 1995. Hollywood legends, everywhere.
Where were we. If it’s possible, we’d argue Summer’s song is even more important because it wasn’t just a song for all women — it was a anthem to one particular woman. And, if we’re to glean anything from the lyrics, it sounds like Onetta needed the boost.
With that, we’ll let Donna Summer play us out. RIP.
And lastly, Hank Azaria’s interpretation from The Birdcage. We just… had to:
(Also, see The Birdcage this weekend. Okay, now we’re done.)