Work is a fundamental part of the human experience. Our earlier ancestors fed themselves through hunting and gathering. Later, they settled down as farmers, which led to the social institutions that made specialization possible. More recent centuries have seen explosive growth in agricultural productivity, thus enabling most people to switch from working as farmers to working in other jobs. There are countless songs about professions, which makes sense because they’re inextricably entwined with every other aspect of our lives.
Here are ten of the best songs about a profession ever released:
10. “The Writer” – Ellie Goulding
“The Writer” is about a romantic relationship destined to never get off the ground. After all, the narrator is so desperate for someone’s attention that she’s willing to change herself for them, so much so that she compares herself to an artist’s medium. Yes, people in a romantic relationship are supposed to compromise to some extent. Still, it seems safe to say that the narrator takes this willingness to an unhealthy extreme.
9. “Please Mr. Postman” – The Marvelettes
Mail carriers are older than interested individuals might expect. People can only shout so loudly. As a result, states needed people who could carry messages back and forth if the political center wanted to exercise control over anything further away. More powerful states meant more capable postal systems that made their services available to more people. Here, the Marvelettes sang about the desperate desire for communication from a lover separated by vast geographical distances.
8. “I Need a Doctor” – Dr. Dre Featuring Eminem and Skylar Grey
Mentors and mentees can have powerful bonds. In some cases, it’s outright familial. That isn’t quite the case in this song. However, there’s no mistaking that it sees Eminem offering support to someone who supported him when he needed it. This is compared and contrasted with a closing shot of Dr. Dre standing at the grave of Eazy-E, who had been dead of AIDS-related complications for years by the time the music video was released.
7. “The Butcher” – Leonard Cohen
Butchers have had an awkward reputation since ancient times. For instance, the Romans used it as an unflattering nickname, as we do now. Those sentiments come up in this Leonard Cohen song, but it isn’t 100 percent clear what message they’re conveying. Some people read a religious meaning into the lyrics. Others see them as depicting a more straightforward generational clash between a father and a son.
6. “Rhinestone Cowboy” – Glen Campbell
Many artists struggle while chasing their dreams. As a result, it isn’t hard to understand why Larry Weiss wrote “Rhinestone Cowboy” about a country singer trying to make it in the music industry. After all, it was based on his career to a considerable extent. Despite this, Glen Campbell made “Rhinestone Cowboy” famous, so much so that it’s considered one of his signature songs.
5. “The Tears of a Clown” – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
The idea of the sad clown is centuries old. That makes sense when one realizes that comedy is connected to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. There isn’t enough evidence to establish exactly what’s happening, but people have produced various lines of speculation. For example, it’s speculated that people might focus on comedy as a way of venting childhood tension. Similarly, there’s the notion that people might develop comedic skills to gain acceptance. Whatever the case, the idea of the sad clown is well-known. This is one of the better songs on the subject.
4. “The Scientist” – Coldplay
It’s no exaggeration to say that “The Scientist” is one of Coldplay’s most beloved songs. Generally, people interpret it as a love song. The narrator is the titular character whose relationship crumbles because he’s too focused on his work. Eventually, he regrets this, thus the line about wanting to return to the beginning. The result is surprisingly moving.
3. “The Boxer” – Simon & Garfunkel
Physical injuries have a way of building up over time. Unsurprisingly, that means long-time boxers can be highly recognizable. For instance, they might have cauliflower ears, referring to the permanent swelling that results from the cartilage dying after being separated from its nutrient supply. In any case, “The Boxer” is more about someone still in the process of being battered. It’s autobiographical to an extent. That is because Paul Simon wrote it when he felt he was being excessively criticized. This tidbit explains much about the song’s sense of frustration.
2. “Private Dancer” – Tina Turner
By the early 1980s, Tina Turner’s career had stalled. She was well-known, but she was seen as a has-been. Luckily, her cover of “Let’s Stay Together” became a hit in the United States and elsewhere. Thanks to that, she built enough credit to get the go-ahead for a new album. The result was the multi-platinum Private Dancer, which propelled her to new heights. “What’s Love Got to Do with It” tends to be the most famous single from the album because it was a chart-topper. However, “Private Dancer” also proved popular enough to break into the Top 10.
1. “Buffalo Soldier” – Bob Marley & The Wailers
“Buffalo Soldier” refers to black U.S. soldiers. Initially, the Native Americans used the term for the 10th Cavalry Regiment that fought in the American Indian Wars. Later, it encompassed other black U.S. Army regiments. The opinion of Buffalo Soldiers strongly reflects contemporary attitudes. This song was very much inspired by late 20th-century reappraisals that focused on how black people fought for the expansion of a country that mistreated them. As such, it’s more political than interested individuals might realize.
You can also read:
- The 20 Best Van Halen Songs of All-Time
- The 10 Best Coldplay Songs of All Time
- Alice Cooper Reflects on Glen Campbell
- The 10 Best Tina Turner Songs of All-Time
- The 20 Best Bob Marley Songs of All-Time