Some people are fortunate enough to work at their dream job, where every day feels more like play than work. From an early age, we’re asked to consider our dream professions. Our occupation takes up a significant portion of our lives, so naturally, many songs about professions have been made over the years.
We actually decided to put together a long list of songs with a profession in the title so you can scroll through and find some that resonate with you. We’ve been sure to include a wide range of songs from all genres of music.
Table of Contents
1. Please Mr. Postman by The Marvelettes
|Album||Please Mr. Postman|
In our current world of instant communication through email, text, and social media, it can be easy to forget the magic and anticipation of waiting for that important letter from someone special. Lead singer Gladys Horton’s throaty pleas to hear something from her love so far away is a window to a different era.
The postman was something of a hero in those times, bringing the news that fuelled love stories, relieved worried mothers, sealed business deals, and, far too often, broke hearts.
2. The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel
|Album||Bridge Over Troubled Water|
Like many of Simon & Garfunkel’s songs, The Boxer digs far deeper than a simple ballad about one thing. The song explores themes of fear, loneliness, and desperation and uses a boxer to symbolize perseverance. The lyrics portray the boxer as unapologetically who he is. Despite pain, defeat, and humiliation, he is a fighter and won’t turn away in shame.
Paul Simon’s lyrics present a difficult dilemma that we all face in various ways; whether glory and honor are worth suffering and anguish.
3. Floyd the Barber by Nirvana
Inspired by the character by the same name in the iconic small town of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show, this song veers down a much darker path. Kurt Cobain opens with a seemingly normal visit to a barbershop, ready for a shave. This very everyday activity quickly turns to abuse and murder, with other shop patrons (also characters from The Andy Griffith Show) eagerly participating.
This juxtaposition of the concept of the idyllic small town life with the idea that something evil or tragic lurks below the surface is perfectly represented by Cobain’s angst-ridden vocals.
4. If I Were a Carpenter by Bob Seger
First written and performed by Tim Hardin in 1966, this classic folk song has been covered countless times over the years. Among the over 100 musicians who have paid tribute to the song are huge names such as Bobby Darin, Four Tops, Johnny Cash, Robert Plant, Dolly Parton, and Sheryl Crow. I’ve chosen Bob Seger over so many other wonderful versions because he has a way of speaking to the blue-collar experience.
The song addresses the question of whether a carpenter is worthy of a loving partnership and family or if their chosen profession might be seen as not good enough. Seger’s passion-driven vocals empower listeners who identify with the sense that their occupation diminishes their self-worth.
5. Coal Miner’s Daughter by Loretta Lynn
|Album||Coal Miner’s Daughter|
One of eight children, Loretta Lynn was genuinely born to a coal miner. She witnessed firsthand the daily difficulties of her father’s job that ultimately led to his death from black lung disease at the young age of 52.
Lynn’s lyrics in this country classic do call on the hardships of growing up poor and how arduous her father’s life was, but the prevailing message is how loved she and her siblings felt. She doesn’t diminish the challenges her parents faced, but ultimately the song celebrates their efforts to live life to the fullest and pass that resilience on to their children.
6. Truck Driver Divorce by Frank Zappa
|Album||Them or Us|
The freedom of the open road, the glorious balance of solitude and brotherhood, experiencing the beauty of a stretch of countryside, just you and your truck. There’s no end to romantic takes on the life of a trucker.
Zappa starts this song recognizing how intoxicating the lifestyle can be, calling on the sense of power and community that runs through this profession. However, the lyrics soon take you to a lonelier place. Many truck drivers have found that stability and security in love and family can take a backseat when extended absences challenge their homelife.
7. Taxi by Harry Chapin
|Album||Heads & Tales|
Reality shows, such as Taxi Cab Confession and Cash Cab, have capitalized on the idea that untold drama and adventure can happen in a short cab ride from point A to point B. Harry Chapin took that idea to a touching place with his story of a taxi driver who picks up a fare, as usual, only to realize as they drive along that they, in fact, had a romantic history together. At the end of the ride, he’s left realizing that neither are living the life they had once dreamed of. Tragically, Chapin was killed in an automotive accident less than a decade later.
8. Construction Worker by The Golden Dogs
|Album||Big Eye, Little Eye|
One of the most common physical jobs, construction work is also one of the hardest. This song perfectly illustrates the endlessness of the back-breaking work and the frustration of working on a project day after day, only to feel like no progress is ever made. “When will it be done?” asks songwriter Dave Azzolini.
Not only does this express the sentiment of the construction crew hard at work, but is also a familiar refrain of drivers forced to endure road closures and unpleasant driving conditions for what seems like an eternity.
9. Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) by Harry Belafonte
This classic call and response work song tells the story of dock workers who have spent the night hard at work loading bananas onto a boat. Harry Belafonte, born in Harlem to poor Jamaican immigrants, was no stranger to hardship and struggle.
In this song, he sings of the drudgery and dangers of this low-paying menial work. When the relief of dawn indicates the shift is finally over, the laborers are longing for their work to be tallied up, so they can finally go home.
10. Paperback Writer by The Beatles
All writers dream of finding the right publisher who can see the beauty of their words and hard work and bring it to the eyes of the world. Songwriter Paul McCartney sings from the perspective of a hopeful author, begging for someone to take a look at the work he has slaved over for years.
McCartney says the song was composed after he read an article about an aspiring author in the Daily Mail and felt inspired by the time and effort put into a labor of love that may never be read by anyone.
11. Piano Man by Billy Joel
This plaintive song is chock full of regret over lost potential and unfulfilled hopes. It’s easy to envision a dingy bar full of people who have stalled in their careers, finding a moment of comfort in a few drinks and some camaraderie.
Billy Joel, as the titular Piano Man, laments the unachieved goals of his audience as he wistfully considers the secret lost dreams of each regular. Even he doesn’t escape this scrutiny, as his listeners wonder whether he, too, could have been something more.
12. Gravedigger by Dave Matthews
It’s not a glamorous job, but someone’s gotta do it. In this thoughtful song, Dave Matthews explores the lives and deaths of a number of fictional everyday people who have gone beyond. The song celebrates these lives and suggests that living life to the fullest is the way to have a continued presence in the world of the living even in death.
Matthews’ heartfelt request to the gravedigger to dig him a shallow grave so he can feel the rain speaks to that longing we all have to cling to this world.
13. John the Fisherman by Primus
|Album||Suck on This|
Some people follow a career path for the money or prestige, and some do it out of passion. Here, we follow a young boy who doesn’t do well in school or fit in with the other kids, but feels at home when he’s fishing. He goes against his mother’s wishes for a life she thinks is better for him, and it sadly doesn’t end well for him.
Yet, despite the unfortunate end, his dream was only to live and die as a fisherman, making him more successful in life than many.
14. Paparazzi by Lady Gaga
It’s easy to hate the paparazzi, who notoriously sink to unethical means to bring us the scoop on our favorite celebrities. In Lady Gaga’s song from her debut album, she deliberately weighs the ups and downs of potential stardom and whether the paparazzi can help take her to the level of fame she isn’t entirely sure she wants. She acknowledges that the lure of the camera for an aspiring star is appealing but that the ultimate loss of privacy may not be worth it in the long run.
15. Bell Boy by The Who
Featuring relatively rare vocals from drummer Keith Moon, on the surface, this song seems to imagine a beach vacation, noticing how hard a bell boy is working to keep visitors happy. The deeper meaning focuses on the main character encountering someone from his past who he once admired and the disappointment of seeing that person relegated to a subservient role.
16. Private Dancer by Tina Turner
As one of the strongest voices in pop music history, Tina Turner’s thoughtful take on how a woman working in the adult industry might feel is especially powerful. She sings about taking on this work as means to take her to the place she dreams of being. Her dehumanizing of the clients could be seen as empowering in a sense, but her wistful vocals make it clear that it is in fact less of a choice than a necessity.
17. Weird Science by Oingo Boingo
|Album||Dead Man’s Party|
Written for the John Hughes movie of the same name, this lighthearted hit by frontman Danny Elfman explores the power and intrigue of being a scientist. While the discovery of creating a human woman in this song is not overly realistic or ethical, the magic of chemistry, technology, and electricity is captured well.
18. Teacher I Need You by Elton John
|Album||Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player|
The power of a good teacher is undeniable. Teachers embody patience, intelligence, inspiration, and passion. However, this song may come down more to the power of hormones. Written by the classic team of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, it’s about how a young boy’s crush on his schoolteacher inspires him to do his best work and strive for further academic achievement. Whatever works, I guess?
19. Queen of the Supermarket by Bruce Springsteen
|Album||Working on a Dream|
King of the blue-collar worker, Bruce Springsteen captures here an unrequited crush on a supermarket cashier, whose beauty far surpasses her lowly job and unflattering uniform. It’s an everyday place full of people, but this song reminds us that beauty can be found in the most unassuming of places, where it’s often overlooked.
20. The Waitress by Tori Amos
|Album||Under the Pink|
We’ve all found ourselves in a toxic workplace from time to time whether a power-hungry supervisor, a rivalry between coworkers over perceived favoritism or just a clash of personalities, working in a hostile environment is the worst.
In this song, classically trained mezzo-soprano Amos calmly expresses an unsettling and unexplained hatred of a fellow waitress. While she takes it to a level most of us would never consider, there’s a satisfaction in commiserating with her. If you’re looking for songs about occupations, this is one we really like.
21. Waitress in the Sky by The Replacements
Being a flight attendant can seem like a dream come true for many. A job that allows you to travel the world, meet the rich and famous, and have one adventure after another sounds like the ideal life. However, as with any job, the reality comes with some not-so-wonderful side effects.
Songwriter Paul Westerberg gathered inspiration for this song from the decidedly unglamorous stories he heard from his flight attendant sister about entitled, demanding, and often creepy passengers.
22. Please Don’t Talk to the Lifeguard by Diane Ray
|Album||The Exciting Years|
Many beach-goer have found themselves swooning over a lifeguard from time to time. Between their excellent physique, dangerous job, and heroic nature, the appeal of a lifeguard is undeniable. However, the job requires focus, and a flirty fan can become a deadly distraction.
In this song, Diane Ray decides the way around a ban on talking to her crush is to swim into dangerous waters to force a rescue. That’s one way to get attention.
23. Artists Only by Talking Heads
|Genre||New Wave, Post Punk|
|Album||More Songs About Buildings and Food|
In some ways, this song could be interpreted as a singer and songwriter David Byrne light-heartedly mocking the pretentiousness and exclusiveness of some artist communities. Lines such as “I don’t have to prove… that I’m creative” and “You can’t see it ’til it’s finished” might seem to critique artsy arrogance.
However, the truth is likely quite the opposite. Those same lines also speak to the inherent insecurity of many artists who secretly worry about releasing their work for judgement.
24. Car Wash by Rose Royce
It might seem like a bland kind of job, but Rose Royce manages to make working at a car wash sound like a pretty decent gig. The lyrics acknowledge that it isn’t a glamorous career and is unlikely to make you a million dollars, but the focus is more on what is great about the job. It’s described as fairly easy work, with opportunities to meet cool people and the flexibility to fool around a little and have a good time. It doesn’t sound too bad at all!
25. A Man Needs a Maid by Neil Young
While this song has found itself subject to some controversy over interpretations of the lyrics being misogynistic, Neil Young has clarified that he absolutely meant no disrespect to women. The actual meaning, loosely based on the folklore heroine Maid Marian from Robin Hood, is actually about the insecurity of a man believing he isn’t worthy of a strong partner and instead telling himself that a shallow relationship with no emotional attachment is all he deserves.
26. Salesman by The Monkees
|Album||Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones Ltd.|
An age-old profession, the salesman has been dissected countless times in music, theater, and literature. This particular depiction starts off in a light, sunny way. The perpetually poppy Monkees describe a cheerful scene of a chipper salesman skipping along his way, pup by his side, greeting friends as he goes. It takes a darker turn as the salesman watches the world change around him as he is stuck in his day-to-day grind and starts to question how real that smile on his face may be.
27. Babysitter by The Ramones
Ah, babysitters. Angels of extra desserts, messy crafts, and actually letting you build a fort in the living room. Everyone has a fun memory of a time Mom and Dad were out for the night, and rules went out the window when the cool babysitter let you watch an R-rated movie and stay up late. As a kid, you may not have realized what that babysitter got up to once you finally fell asleep, but this song shows how much fun the babysitter sometimes had in that adult-free house, too!
28. Industry Baby by Lil Nas X
Being an entertainer sounds like it would be all fun all the time. In this song, relative newcomer Lil Nas X explores the pressures of taking on a life of fame and prestige. He talks about the need to constantly prove himself to the public, how he longs for formal recognition from his peers, his struggles with legal issues, and his desire for official accolades in the form of awards. As glitzy as the life of a superstar may seem, the stresses are very real.
29. The Unknown Soldier by The Doors
|Album||Waiting for the Sun|
Countless songs celebrate, lament, and criticize soldiers. Unsurprisingly, Jim Morrison’s lyrics are not in favor of war as a whole. In this song, he looks at a beloved soldier who doesn’t return from war. The life he left behind starts to lose meaning as the people he once loved continue on with their life without him. It’s a tragic commentary on the loss war brings on multiple levels.
30. New Model No. 15 by Marilyn Manson
In this song, Manson talks about his impressions of how not only human models but also the models of various objects go from being trendy to being discarded. A life that so often looks to young people like a world of glamor and adoration is sadly more often fraught with rejection and abuse. Sadly, Manson’s depiction of how disposable each new model is is the reality for many trying to make it in a fickle, cutthroat business.
31. Hangman by Peter, Paul and Mary
|Album||See What Tomorrow Brings|
Few, if any, jobs are darker than that of an executioner. Throughout history, many have made their living taking the lives of others, ostensibly in the name of justice. The singer pleads for mercy in this version of a centuries-old folk song. He hopes that a loved one will come to free him from his fate, but one after one, his family arrives only to see him hang. At long last, his brother arrives and advocates to set him free.
32. Secret Agent Man by Johnny Rivers
|Album||…And I Know You Wanna Dance|
There is no job cooler than this one. The drama! The treachery! The suave yet dangerous demeanor! This song is the utter epitome of everything we imagine being a spy would be like. Traveling the world, surrounded by amorous admirers, and pulling off heroic, impossible tasks all sound the equator for a dream job. Before you submit your resume, though, there’s a downside. As this song wants to clarify, “odds are you won’t live to see tomorrow.”
33. Nursie by Jethro Tull
One of the most important and underappreciated professions of our time is nursing. Every day, nurses deal with long shifts, a lack of respect, bodily fluids you didn’t even know existed, paperwork through the roof, and the heartbreak of not always being able to help everyone. While this short song doesn’t address those challenges, it does beautifully capture the enormity of the comfort a nurse brings.
34. Army Corps of Architects by Death Cab for Cutie
|Album||You Can Play These Songs with Chords|
While this song is heavily symbolic, the idea of building something new is the core of the job of an architect. Taking a blank canvas and putting a useful, meaningful structure where there was once nothing is an act of bravery, creativity, and vision that is the crux of an architect’s work. Those of us who built epic castles and cityscapes with our Legos may have missed our calling.
35. Astronaut in the Ocean by Masked Wolf
|Genre||Hip Hop, Rap|
|Album||Astronaut in the Ocean|
So many kids dream of going into space. Eventually, the crazy amount of science and math involved in becoming an astronaut scares many of those dreamers back down to earth. The ones who remain, though, literally have astronomical goals. In this song, Australian rapper Masked Wolf expresses dreams as big as outer space that ultimately end up in the ocean, as far from space as possible. This song is about the pain of unattainable goals.
36. Better Get a Lawyer by The Cruel Sea
|Album||Three Legged Dog|
Lawyers have a bad reputation for being unethical, sleazy, and money hungry. This song by the Australian indie rock band tends to suggest that lead singer Tex Perkins has found himself in a world of trouble and will need the help of someone willing to defend his innocence. We don’t know exactly what he has (or hasn’t) done, but the arresting officer reminds him of the horrors that may await him in jail if he doesn’t clean himself up and find a very good attorney to extricate him from the mess he has gotten himself into.
37. Single Handed Sailor by Dire Straits
The call of the open sea, where adventure awaits! This song honors the first sailor to make a true single-handed circumnavigation of the world, Sir Francis Chichester. At around 80 years old, this man skippered the Gypsy Moth IV around the world, despite vocal doubts from the public as to whether it could be done. This is truly an epic song with a profession in the title.
38. The Hitman by Queen
This was Freddie Mercury’s last album before his death, and the speculation on the meaning of many songs on this album leans heavily to assuming that everything was laden with metaphors about his illness. However, if we take this song at face value and imagine that Mercury was just having fun with the idea of being a hitman, the lyrics do paint a picture of a man who enjoys killing for a living.
39. Driver 8 by REM
|Album||Fables of the Reconstruction|
Lead singer Michael Stipe has said that he feels trains are part of “mythological America”. Whether the idea of coming home to a train station in an idyllic small town, or the call to adventure of hopping on a train to a big city, or traveling the countryside, it’s true that the railway has a certain magic in our hearts. In this song, we hear the story of an overworked conductor who needs a break, and we realize that the enchantment of trains in our hearts comes at a cost.
40. Hairdresser by ZZ Top
There’s no symbolism here. If you’ve seen these guys, you know their salon workers should probably get hazard pay. This song is a cheers to everyone out there who works to make us all look our best.
Whether these songs have made you feel better or worse about your own occupation, hopefully, you’ve enjoyed exploring the good, the bad, and the ugly of some different jobs held throughout the ages. If we missed any great songs, let us know in the comments section below.
Hi, my name is Kevin and I’m from Butler, Pennsylvania. I’ve been obsessed with music and audio gear for as long as I can remember. I started this website to help people find professional advice related to a wide range of audio topics. We have a number of Audio Engineers on our team who have been designing and fixing audio gear for decades.