What do you do for a living? Doctor? Teacher? Spy? No matter your profession or occupation, there is likely a song written about it.
So many artists across music genres find inspiration from various jobs, professions, and previous employment experiences. Song titles that reference an occupation appear in country, hip-hop, heavy metal, folk, punk, R&B music, you name it.
We’ve compiled a list of songs with a profession in the title to guide your playlist for your commute to work or career inspiration.
“Secret Agent Man” by Johnny Rivers
Song Year: 1966
He is living a life of danger in exotic locations, not knowing if he will see tomorrow– just another day in the life of a secret agent. Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man” kicks off our list of songs with a profession in the title and gives us a James Bond feel of just how dangerous being a spy can be.
Written as the opening theme for Secret Agent, a U.S. version of a British spy series of the early 60s, the track was rewritten and became one of Rivers’ signature songs. It reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel
Song Year: 1969
Simon & Garfunkel paint a vivid picture of a struggle with poverty in New York City in the song “The Boxer.” The image of the boxer having been cut and laid out many times suggests a fighter in it just to make a living. It is also a strong metaphor for anyone who has been knocked down but does not give up.
“The Boxer” appeared on the duo’s 1970 album Bridge Over Troubled Water, which topped the charts in 10 countries and became the best-selling album of all time.
“Hot For Teacher” by Van Halen
Song Year: 1984
It may be every schoolboy’s fantasy to have a supermodel as a teacher. Yet it only seems to happen in Van Halen videos.
“Hot For Teacher” sees the members of Van Halen cast as their younger selves, little rockers creating havoc in class. When the teacher strips out of her clothes and dances on the desk, it is no wonder the boys in the class are hot for teacher.
“The Scientist” by Coldplay
Song Year: 2002
“The Scientist” by Coldplay is sung from the perspective of a man who has lost his love and would do anything to go back in time and fix it. The ‘scientist’ realizes that numbers and puzzles mean little when it comes to matters of the heart.
It is a song that so many of us can relate to—being apart from someone we love, wishing we could go back in time and start over. The ballad is so relatable that the video has over 1 billion views on Youtube.
“The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers
Song Year: 1978
If you want to be a gambler in the wild west, you better know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. That‘s the lesson Kenny Rogers teaches us in “The Gambler.” There are specific rules in terms of gambling, and not knowing them might get you killed.
Rogers won a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for the song. The album of the same name reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
“Piano Man” by Billy Joel
Song Year: 1973
Billy Joel sings about a profession that he held himself: “Piano Man.” The song takes us into a cocktail lounge where the piano player knows the bartender and the regular patrons and has heard their life stories.
Joel used to play cocktail lounges himself and based the characters on actual people. The song was a major commercial success and helped the album The Stranger achieve platinum status many times over.
“Paperback Writer” by The Beatles
Song Year: 1966
Paul McCartney wrote The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” to write a song about something other than love. The lyrics tell of an aspiring writer who sends a letter to the publisher asking if he can submit his book because he needs a job.
The song was another international hit for The Beatles, topping charts in 10 countries, including #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Son of a Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield
Song Year: 1968
Dusty Springfield’s smoky vocals accentuate the sexual tension between young lovers in “Son of a Preacher Man.” Caught between being a nice girl and her desire for Billy Ray, she learns that being good isn’t always the easy choice.
The song peaked at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969 and then enjoyed a resurgence in 1994 as part of the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino’s movie Pulp Fiction.
“If I Were a Carpenter” by Johnny Cash
Song Year: 1970
“If I Were a Carpenter” is a folk song recorded by both Bobby Darin and The Four Tops. But it is Johnny Cash’s duet with his wife June Carter that earned them a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group in 1971.
The working man asks his lady if she would marry him and have a family if he was only a carpenter. She answers that she would marry him and have his baby, her love stronger than any struggle they may have in a life together.
“I Shot the Sheriff” by Bob Marley and the Wailers
Song Year: 1973
A signature song by Bob Marley and the Wailers, “I Shot the Sheriff,” tells the story of a man falsely accused of shooting the deputy even though he admits to shooting the sheriff in self-defense.
Eric Clapton covered the song in 1974 for his album, 461 Ocean Boulevard. His version reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Take Me to the Pilot” by Elton John
Song Year: 1970
Of all the poignant songs that Elton John and his writing partner Bernie Taupin created over their decades-long collaboration, “Take Me to the Pilot” is a track they admit does not make a lot of sense; it just sounded good.
The pilot is in control, so the singer wants to become the pilot of his lover’s soul. Beyond that, a whole lot of ‘na, na, na’s’ throughout the chorus make the song catchy and upbeat. Who cares if it doesn’t make sense?