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Ever wondered how often singers and musicians sing about your job?
Since the dawn of music, songs have been written for a variety of different muses, from specific people or cities to abstract ideas like “love” or “happiness” or “the 1980s rom-com classic Working Girl.” In that time, thousands of songs have also been written about workers themselves, but it’s no secret that certain professions have gotten a lot more love from songwriters than others have.
We were curious about just which kinds of jobs tended to be mentioned in songs, so we did a little digging.
Using counts from the musiXmatch Dataset, an official collection of lyrics from the Million Song Dataset, we managed to put together a list of job titles mentioned in song lyrics. Due to the limitations of the data, we were only able to search for one-word job titles — for these titles, we used our own database of about 39,000 standardized job titles taken from over 6 million resumes and matched all of the single word job titles to the lyrics data.
The full list can be found farther down, but first, here’s a quick top ten.
Does your job make the full list? Read on below to find out.
Related Song The most commonly mentioned job in all of music lyrics is (perhaps unsurprisingly) “soldier,” which is the perfect excuse for us to kick off our list with the saddest song in the whole world: “Travelin’ Soldier” by the Dixie Chicks. If you don’t cry listening to it, that’s fine, but you’re a heartless monster.
Relevant Lyric “I cried / Never gonna hold the hand of another guy / Too young for him they told her / Waitin’ for the love of a travelin’ soldier”
Related Song Um, so as it turns out, a pretty significant amount of the songs that mention the word “cop” tend to put a few four-letter words around it, so instead let’s try something moderately more wholesome by Mr. Springsteen. He doesn’t say “cop” directly, but he does mention State Troopers a whole lot, so it’s cop-adjacent. Bruce doesn’t seem to have a high opinion of the police himself, but I’d like to reiterate that while it’s not hard to find a song about cops, it’s really hard to find a pro-cop song.
Relevant Lyric “License, registration, I ain’t got none / But I got a clear conscience ’bout the things that I done / Mister state trooper, please don’t stop me / Please don’t stop me, please don’t stop me”
Related Song Songwriters seem to really love doctors, or at least the cliched metaphor that love is a debilitating illness that requires literal medical attention. Anyway here’s a super weird 80s music video courtesy of the Thompson Twins.
Relevant Lyric “Oh doctor, doctor, is this love I’m feeling? / Fever breathe your love on me / Take away my name / Fever lay your hands on me”
Related Song Much like doctors, clowns tend to be used more as a metaphor than as an actual cause celebre. Here’s a great example from Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, as performed by Old Blue Eyes himself.
Relevant Lyric “Isn’t it rich? / Isn’t it queer? / Losing my timing this late in my career / And where are the clowns? / Quick, send in the clowns / Don’t bother / They’re here”
Related Song There are literally thousands of songs about cowboys, but every single one of them pales in comparison to “Life at the Outpost” by the Skatt Brothers. This is the best song in the whole entire world and the music video is just incredible.
Hup, shoot ’em up. Hup. Ride.
Relevant Lyric “Give your love to a cowboy man / He’s gonna love ya hard as he can can”
Related Song Surprisingly, unlike cops, most songs about teachers are actually pretty positive toward them. So here’s the only one that’s not. “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2,” by Pink Floyd.
Relevant Lyric “We don’t need no education / We don’t need no thought control / No dark sarcasm in the classroom / Teachers leave them kids alone / Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone”
Related Song Captains of ships strike a very romantic image, one that gets brought up over and over and over again in music. But perhaps the best distillation of music’s obsession with ship captains can be found here in Billy Joel’s “Downeaster Alexa,” an unintentionally hilarious song that somehow manages to combine the image of a doomed ship captain with the 1980s’ tendency to exploit the working class by romanticizing their lives in commercial art.
Relevant Lyric “So I could own my Downeaster Alexa / And I go where the ocean is deep / There are giants out there in the canyons / And a good captain can’t fall asleep”
Related Song As we all know, you can never have too many songs about cooks. Unfortunately, a lot of the songs that involve cooking are a little dated when it comes to issues like gender expectations, and tend to be mostly men singing about how they wish they had someone around to cook for them. But indie folk singer Scout Niblett’s “Big Bad Man” manages to bring up the idea of cooking a meal for another person in a way that calls a lot of these older songs to mind while subverting a few expectations about the meaning of this act.
Relevant Lyric “Big bad man / Big bad man / I’m gonna cook you some real food / I’m gonna cook you some real food”
Related Song Preachers were pretty much ubiquitous in any song about young lovers in the midwest that was written between the late 70s and early 90s. Something about the whole “forbidden love” aspect of the relationship must have seemed romantic for some reason. You can find the apotheosis of the ‘doomed summer love’ song here in “What It’s Like,” by the criminally underappreciated Arthur Russell.
Relevant Lyric “In Iowa, in the tall grass, there’s a couple / She’s very young and he’s a young preacher / And every day they would go out / To the fields where nothing is planted / And lie in the tall grass”
Related Song Songs about critics are seldom kind — as it turns out, musicians aren’t always wild about the people who get paid to point out all the things wrong with their work. But it’s not all negative: “Little Lines” by Guided by Voices just uses the idea of a critic to highlight how closely the singer is paying attention to the words being said to him.
Relevant Lyric “Philosophers and critics of the play / We listen hard to every word we say / Especially when it makes us laugh”
Related Song This is another one where there are too many good songs about this job to have any definitive pick, but “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest is just too good to sleep on.
Relevant Lyric “Everybody here is out of sight / They don’t bark, and they don’t bite / They keep things loose, they keep things light / Everybody was dancin’ in the moonlight”
Related Song Truck drivers have a big connection to the American country music scene, no doubt due partly to how much of American culture focuses on the idea of driving and road-tripping. While it technically leaves out the word “driving” itself, the song “Eastbound and Down” by Jerry Reed is synonymous with the trucking industry, and was written for the movie Smokey and the Bandit.
Relevant Lyric “East bound and down, loaded up and truckin’, / We’re gonna do what they say can’t be done. / We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there. / I’m east bound, just watch ol’ “Bandit” run.”
Related Song Artists mentioned in music aren’t always literal ones, but in the case of Don McLean’s “Starry Starry Night,” they definitely are. Another unintentionally hilarious song, mostly due to the sheer 70s goofiness of writing a folk tribute all about Vincent van Gogh.
Relevant Lyric “Weathered faces lined in pain / Are soothed beneath the artist’s / Loving hand. / And now I understand what you tried to say to me”
Related Song Even funnier than songs written in tribute to painters are those written directly to other musicians — even when you’re writing about bands as cool as the Velvet Underground, it’s just difficult to make one that doesn’t sound at least a little bit lame. Stephen Malkmus of the band Pavement is probably one of the ‘coolest’ people in the indie rock scene, but the song “Unseen Power of the Picket Fence” still manages to make him seem like basically just a weird fanboy for R.E.M.
Relevant Lyric “The singer, he had long hair / And the drummer he knew restraint. / And the bass man he had all the right moves / And the guitar player was no saint.”
Related Song Much like captains, it makes sense that the romantic associations that we have with those who live by or on the sea would extend to sailors themselves. And whatever your opinion of him, you have to admit that the person who has most popularized the image of the modern sailor is none other than Mr. Margaritaville himself.
Relevant Lyric “Cause I got a school boy heart, a novelist eye / Stout sailor’s legs and a license to fly / I got a bartender’s ear and beachcomber’s style / Piratical nerve and a Vaudevillian style”
Related Song Another popular job for songwriters to use as a lyrical muse, this entry is an excellent excuse to include some classic punk on this list. Here’s “Punishment Fits the Crime” by the Ramones.
Relevant Lyric “Let the punishment fit the crime / The footprints on the sand of time / The philosophy of the poet’s rhyme / Makes a man humble in his prime”
Related Song On a related note to the previous entry, singer/songwriters in the indie or DIY music scenes often have a special fascination with authors and poets, as seen in Frankie Cosmos’ love of poet Frank O’Hara or in Mitski’s song Texas Reznikoff,” where part of the lyrics are taken from the writer Charles Reznikoff. Here’s an example that actually uses the word “author”: “Vegan in Furs,” by the band Of Montreal.
Relevant Lyric “Yeah and we both despise all of the academic swine / Who made the author of “Discus Ulysses” benign”
Related Song Given country and folk music’s fascination with outlaws and criminals, it’s only natural that there’d be lots of songs out there dealing with lawyers. Here’s Warren Zevon’s classic “Lawyers Guns and Money,” which has been covered by music stars like the Wallflowers, Hank Williams Jr., and even Meatloaf.
Relevant Lyric “I was gambling in Havana / I took a little risk / Send lawyers, guns and money / Dad, get me out of this”
That’s almost all for this one, but there’s more to see here at Zippia.
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Below you’ll find the full list of the 100 Most Mentioned Jobs in Song Lyrics.
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