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"I've been working on the railroad all the livelong day. I've been working on the railroad just to pass the time away."
Nursery Rhyme, "I've Been Working on the Railroad"

Most people make money via having a job, and some characters sing about their jobs (or jobs they're fantasising about having) or other people's, and this is when you get this trope.

If the person is singing about their own job, this song could be positive, about how they really like their job because it contributes something important/good to society or because they just find it fun. It could also be negative, about how they hate their job (whether due to finding it boring, having a Mean Boss, not getting paid enough, it taking too long, finding it gross, or any other reason). It could also be a mixture of positive and negative, talking about how the job has both upsides and downsides.

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Often Played for Laughs by having a character with a job that people tend to classify as boring (fast-food restaurant workers and office workers are common candidates for this) sing about how they enjoy their job. These people are often seen as boring sticks-in-the-mud, but not always.

If it's sung by other people, it usually means they admire the person's job and/or they wouldn't want to be stuck with it, but there are other reasons for singing about someone else's job.

If it's sung by the one with the job, it can overlap with "I Am" Song (if the character's job is a notable part of their role and/or personality), "I Want" Song (if the character doesn't want that job), "I Am Becoming" Song (if their job is a step towards a different one or they're singing about their future job), Musical Chores (if their job involves cleaning up), or "I Am Great!" Song (if they're bragging about their job). Examples for pirates go under Pirate Song and examples for singers/musicians usually go under Rock Star Song. If the job in question is the oldest one in the book, see Ballad of a Sex Worker. Compare Money Song. See Take This Job and Shove It for characters who hate their jobs enough to at least contemplate a Rage Quit.

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If used as a Theme Tune, it's usually an Expository Theme Tune and occasionally a Bragging Theme Tune, sometimes a Theme Tune Roll Call if the theme lists everyone's jobs. It may also overlap with "They've Come So Far" Song if their job was the result of a long process or Ode to Food if it's sung by a chef/waiter/waitress/etc. If the song is at the job's expense, than it's a Working Class Anthem.

Crops up a lot in all kinds of works, but is particularly common in blues and folk music.

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Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the Growing Up With Hello Kitty episode "Eating Nicely", the talking utensils sing about their job "delivering" food to people's mouths.
  • HuGtto! Pretty Cure's first ending theme describes various jobs that people can have, fitting with the show's "careers" theme.

    Fan Works 
  • At least two parodies of songs from Frozen:
    • "I Don't Know" is a parody of "Let it Go" about being a med student and not knowing the answers to questions.
    • "Are You Gonna Flush the Toilet?" is a parody of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" about being a janitor.

     Films — Animated 
  • "Better Life" from Arlo the Alligator Boy, sung by Ansel Beauregard about his life as a successful businessman.
  • "Song of the Roustabouts" from Dumbo is sung by the circus's labourers as they set up the big top. It's about how the work is back breaking and the pay is poor, but the children's happiness makes it worth it.
  • "Frozen Heart", the opening song of Frozen, is sung by ice harvesters and poetically describes their job.
  • The Jungle Book: "Colonel Hathi's March" is sung by the elephants about their job of marching around aimlessly "in the military style".
  • The Lion King 1½: "Diggah Tunnah" shows Timon's former meerkat tribe constantly digging tunnels so they can stay safe from predators.
  • The Little Mermaid:
    • "Poor Unfortunate Souls" is sung by Ursula about her job as a sorceress supposedly helping people.
    • "Les Poissons" is sung by a chef about how he likes to cook seafood.
  • A variant in The Princess and the Frog: The song "Almost There" is about Tiana's future job owning a restaurant.
  • "Heigh-Ho" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is sung by the Seven Dwarfs about their job digging in a mine all day.

     Films — Live-Action 
  • "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton from 9 to 5 is an upbeat complaint of an underpaid Working-Class Hero about her Mean Boss and the system's lack of respect for her and her job.
    Workin' 9 to 5
    What a way to make a livin'
    Barely gettin' by
    It's all takin' and no givin'
    They just use your mind
    And they never give you credit
    It's enough to drive you crazy
    If you let it
  • In Annie, the song "You're Gonna Like it Here" downplays this. It's about the inner workings of the Warbucks house, which includes, but is not limited to, the servants singing about what they do.
    When you wake, ring for Drake
    Drake will bring your tray
    When you're through, Mrs. Pew
    Comes to take it away
  • The Ghostbusters theme is about the protagonists' job hunting down ghosts and trapping them.
  • Little Shop of Horrors: "The Dentist Song" is sung by the dentist about how he's a dentist and therefore causes pain.
  • Mary Poppins: Bert sings two songs like this because he has several jobs. One song is about his chalk drawings and another, "Chim Chim Cher-ee", is about his job as a chimney sweep and how sweeps are good luck.
  • In Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter, Mr. Brown hires Herman's Hermits to work at his market and teaches them a song about selling fruit.
    Carrots and spuds
    Jaffas and bloods
    They're lovely, they're ripe and sweet
    Yell it out loud
    Pull a big crowd
    For value they can't be beat
  • The 2005 adaptation of The Producers has mousy accountant Leo Bloom sing a song that both bemoans the boring, dead-end job to which he's dedicated his life thus far, and exultantly voices his "secret desire" to become a glamorous and wealthy Broadway producer.
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory has "The Candyman", in which a candy store owner sings about the joy children are given by the candy he sells them.
  • The Wizard of Oz has the song "Merry Old Land of Oz", in which several workers in Oz, including the hairdressers, the repair workers, and a few people whose jobs seem to consist only of eating lunch, sing about their jobs.

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: The song "Don't Be A Lawyer", a New Jack Swing number where Jim vehemently insists to AJ that being a lawyer is a grueling, thankless job and Crusading Lawyers have it worse because there's no money in environmental, human rights, or immigration law.
  • Parodied in the Galavant song "If I Were a Jolly Blacksmith", where the incredibly out-of-touch Blue Blood/Manchild Richard tries to imagine working various common jobs instead of being King. The song he sings makes it clear that he has absolutely no idea what these jobs entail and is missing a lot of basic knowledge about the world.
    If I were a jolly blacksmith
    What a happy guy I'd be
    I would do all kinds of blacksmith stuff
    In my blacksmithery
    I would hit the thing
    With the other thing
    'Til I made a different thing
  • Art Carney's "Song of the Sewer" is sung from the perspective of his The Honeymooners character Norton, a sewer worker.
    We sing the song of the sewer
    Of the sewer we sing this song
    Together we stand
    With shovel in hand
    To keep things rolling along
  • Parodied with the notorious "Lumberjack Song" sketch in Monty Python's Flying Circus, in which a group of jolly lumberjacks singing a song like this are increasingly shocked when the lead singer changes the lyrics to come out about his transvestitism/transsexuality.
  • Sesame Street:
    • Exaggerated for "People in Your Neighbourhood", which talks about several different occupations that people you meet on the street might have.
    • "Do the Doctor" is a song by some doctors creating a dance based on their profession.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? had a recurring sketch called "Greatest Hits", where songs about unlikely subjects would be made up on the spot. Jobs picked for "Greatest Hits" subject include butcher, lawyer, flight attendant, accountant, and bus driver.
  • In Yo Gabba Gabba!, the song "Doctor Doctor" is about what doctors do.

    Music 
  • Sea shanties were originally intended to keep a rhythm going while you worked, and many of them are about being a sailor. The same principle applies to songs about working on the railways.
  • The nursery rhyme "I've Been Working on the Railroad" is about someone who, well, works on the railroad.
  • AC/DC: "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)" is about the starvation wages and generally poor working conditions encountered by neophyte rock bands.
  • "Truckers are the Blood" by AJJ is about working in various ways, and ends with praising truckers.
    Work a ten-hour grave
    From nine to seven
  • Several Amateur Transplants songs, most notably:
    • "Anaesthetist's Hymn", about how boring being an anesthetist is.
    • "Careless Surgeon", about an incompetent surgeon.
  • "Process Man" (AKA "The ICI Song") by Ron Angel is about the guys who use cyanide solvents to get useful minerals from ore. Their job sucks, as the chemical plant they work at is a Nightmarish Factory.
The work is rough, I seen enough
To make your stomach turn
And it's, "Go, boys, go!"
They time your every breath
And every day you're in this place
You're two days nearer death
But you go
  • "Paperback Writer" by The Beatles is about a man trying to make it as... well, a paperback writer.
  • The Harry Belafonte song "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" is about some workers who work all night stacking bananas onto a boat.
  • Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" is about a couple making ends meet. Tommy lost his job at the docks due to the union going on strike, while Gina becomes the breadwinner by working at the diner all day.
  • The Byrds' album track "B.B. Class Road" is in the voice of a roadie boasting about how cool his job is.
  • Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman" is about a county linemannote  lamenting how his job's long, lonely hours are keeping him from the one he loves.
  • "Rockabye" by Clean Bandit is about a Single Mom Stripper who works for her six-year-old son to have a better future.
  • "Workin' at the Car Wash Blues" from 1974, written and performed by Jim Croce, is the lament of a man with talent and ambition scrubbing the grunge off other people's vehicles. This from the days when very little of the process was mechanized, and was mostly manual labor.
  • Dead Kennedys' "At My Job":
    I'm working at my job
    I'm so happy
    More boring every day
    But they pay me
  • Dire Straits: "Money for Nothing" is a song about an ignorant blue collar worker Mark Knopfler encountered and includes several direct quotes from them.
  • "My Old Man's a Dustman" by Lonnie Donegan is sung from the perspective of a guy whose father is a garbage man, and the singer hails him as an "unsung hero".
  • The Flanders and Swann song "The Gasman Cometh" is a song about a whole series of tradesmen visiting the singer's house to repair the previous tradesman's damage:
    Twas on a Monday morning
    The gasman came to call
    The gas tap wouldn't turn - I wasn't getting gas at all
    He tore out all the skirting boards
    To try and find the main
    And I had to call a carpenter to put them back again
    Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do

    'Twas on a Tuesday morning
    The Carpenter came round
    He hammered and he chiselled and he said: "Look what I've found!
    Your joists are full of dry-rot
    But I'll put it all to rights."
    Then he nailed right through a cable and out went all the lights
    Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do
    ...and so on, until a painter paints over the gas taps, which results in him having to call the gasman yet again.
  • "Sixteen Tons" — written by Merle Travis and popularized by Tennessee Ernie Ford — is one of the bleakest job songs in existence, as it's a man's lament that regardless of how hard he works, he'll never escape the Company Town.
  • The Two Ronnies as Jehosophat and Jones have their own song about someone who works on the railroad: "Railroad Man".
    They said "Lay tracks for the railroad
    'Cos steam means speed and power"
    So I'm doin' my best and I'm travellin' west
    About fifteen feet an hour, oh Lord, about fifteen feet an hour
  • Billy Joel:
    • "Piano Man" is about a piano player at a bar whose playing makes the patrons forget about their troubles.
    • "The Entertainer" is about a rock singer and the compromises he's had to make to stay on the charts.
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd: "Workin' for MCA" seems to be about working in the music industry in general.
  • Many of the songs of Stan Rogers are about different jobs:
    • "The White Collar Holler" is a work shanty about a computer programmer.
    • "Field Behind the Plow" is about a farmer.
    • "The Idiot" is about a refinery worker.
  • "Working Man" by Rush, a class complaint.
    I get up at seven, yeah
    And I go to work at nine
    I got no time for livin'
    Yes, I'm workin' all the time
  • Darrell Scott:
    • "Keep Your Dirty Lights On" by Scott and Tim O'Brien puts a twist on the omnipresent Coal Mining Song—it recounts the transition from underground to mountaintop mining, and argues that politicians and apathetic citizens are complicit in the destruction the industry causes.
    • Scott's best-known song, "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive"note , isn't about coal mining, in the way that "Keep Your Dirty Lights On" or "Sixteen Tons" are... but it's about coal mining.
  • The union song "Solidarity Forever", associated with Pete Seeger, describes all the way that workers create things.
  • "We Poor Labouring Men", a traditional English folk song popularised by Steeleye Span, describes various trades as being utterly helpless without labourers to do the actual work, concluding "There's never a trade in all England like we poor labouring men".
  • "She Works Hard for the Money" by Donna Summer is about a blue collar worker who has worked hard for 28 years and experienced the good and bad times, and the singer asks the listener to treat her right. Summer stated that the song was inspired by an encounter with a restroom attendant named Onetta Johnson. The music video is about a waitress who set aside her dreams of being a ballerina to raise her children. Summer, who is observing, helps her dance in the streets along with other women in various work uniforms.
  • Talking Heads:
    • "Don't Worry About the Government" directly references working, but delves more into the location at which the narrator works than the job itself.
    • "Found a Job" details the lives of a married couple who run their own production studio, making good-quality, well-regarded, and commercially successful TV shows in response to the constant trite on the airwaves that they used to argue over.
  • Tears for Fears:
    • In "The Way You Are", the narrator works at a factory and describes it as a Dangerous Workplace. The song's mechanized beats are the musical equivalent of the repetitive sounds generated by the machines that habitually maim (and even kill) the employees.
    • As Curt Smith explained in an interview, "The Working Hour" is about the stress of meeting the demands and deadlines of the band's pushy record company. He and Roland Orzabal resented being bossed around in this fashion because the final product ended up being a failure in the duo's eyes.
      Smith: "The Working Hour" was written at the time of "The Way You Are" because of all the work, the pressure of work. It was getting like a job all of a sudden. One line is "We are paid by those who learn by our mistakes", and that's about being used as guinea pigs, basically: "Get another record out, your career's going down the drain!" So you put out a record that's a flop...
  • They Might Be Giants:
    • "Snowball in Hell" is about a white-collar worker who feels ground down by his job and is stuck working there ("A jailer trapped in his cell") even though he can barely make ends meet.
    • "Employee of the Month" is about a guy bragging about his job at "the crumb factory".
    • "Dog Walker" is about a dog-walker who fancies himself an intellectual ("My mind is a wrecking ball / And someday my mind's gonna wreck all y'all") and dreams of a better life, one where he's as carefree as the dogs he walks ("I am a dog walker / But someday I'll be a dog").
  • "Long Hot Summer Day" by the Turnpike Troubadours is about, of all things, navigating freight barges on the Illinois River. (Like many of their songs, it also sketches a broader picture of working-class life in that region.)
  • Tom Waits: "I Can't Wait To Get Off Work (and See My Baby On Montgomery Avenue)" is sung from the perspective of a man who does odd jobs, while sweeping up and cleaning bathrooms on a night job, about how he wishes he was at home with the woman he misses.

    Theatre 
  • A Chorus Line has a number of songs dealing with dance as a profession, but "Dance Ten, Looks Three" is most directly about it, being a monologue about a character's attempts to get a job as a dancer.
  • Fly by Night:
    • "Breakfast All Day" is about how much Miriam loves her job at Greasy Spoon Café, and how intrigued she is by the idea of eating breakfast at night.
    • "Eternity" is partly about Harold sinking into depression while spending every day working in a tedious sandwich shop.
  • The Gondoliers has two of these for nobility:
    • Marco and Giuseppe's song "Rising early in the morning" is about their everyday lives in their joint reign as King of Barataria.
    • The Duke and Duchess, for their part, have a List Song about the many dubious things they do to maintain their social position.
  • Being set in a Mega-Corp, most of the songs in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying could count as this.
  • Several songs in Hadestown feature the Workers toiling in Hades's factories:
    • Their portions of "Chant" introduce them and the mantra they chant to keep out of trouble.
    • "Why We Build the Wall" has Hades holding a rally to explain how "vital" their jobs are.
    • "Way Down Hadestown (Reprise)" has Eurydice being inducted into the fold of Workers and the mines, mills and machinery.
    • Later songs such as "If It's True" and "Chant (Reprise)" subvert the trope by starting out with the Workers at work like normal, but deciding to stop and stand with Orpheus.
  • "Beat and Broken Spirits" from Jasper In Deadland is about the slaves in Mr. Lethe's factory endlessly toiling away.
  • The song "Dentist!" from Little Shop of Horrors is sung by Audrey's abusive boyfriend Orin, whose career choice is depicted as a perfect fit for someone with his sadistic tendencies.
    I am your dentist
    I enjoy the career that I picked
    I am your dentist
    And I get off on the pain I inflict
  • In Man of La Mancha, The Barber has a song about what he does as a barber, a number which gets taken over by Don Quixote after a few verses under the misapprehension that the barber's washing basin is the legendary Golden Helmet of Mambrino.
  • Les Misérables has a number of these:
    • "Work Song" is sung by Jean Valjean and his fellow convicts as they engage in backbreaking manual labor (in the film version and some stagings, they are shown as galley slaves, as convicts in Toulon did in real life, although not as late as 1815 when the scene is set).
    • "At the End of the Day" is mostly about the drudgery of factory work and how it's still better than the alternatives (begging or prostitution).
    • "Lovely Ladies" is sung from the perspective of prostitutes as they go about their business and attempt to attract clients.
    • Thénardier's "I Am" Song "Master of the House" is about being a crooked innkeeper.
  • Orpheus: A Poetic Drama has Hades extol the virtues of mindless labor in verse, and Underworld residents like Sisyphus, the Danaides, and Tantalus are eager to praise his wisdom.
  • "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General" from The Pirates of Penzance has the eponymous Major-General boasting about his education, most of which is inapplicable to warfare and/or just not very impressive in the first place.
  • "Hard to be the Bard" from Something Rotten! has William Shakespeare bemoan the hard work that comes with being a celebrity playwright.
  • In "Somebody's Gotta Do It" from Spies Are Forever, Sergio, (a bomb maker) and The Deadliest Man Alive (an assassin) sing about their respective professions ("Somebody's gotta do it; so it might as well be me"), the former claiming that he only does it for the money and to support his family, whereas the latter actively enjoys torturing his targets and even remarks that he'd kill them for free.
  • Urinetown:
    • In "It's a Privilege to Pee", Penelope Pennywise sings about her job, which is making sure people pay to use the pay toilet.
    • "The Cop Song" is sung by the cops about how they catch people violating the toilet-related laws.
  • "All the Livelong Day" from Working is an ensemble number about the daily grind.
    All the livelong day
    Everybody done know that song
    Working for a living the whole day long
    All the livelong day
  • In The Yeomen of the Guard, Jack Point's Patter Song "A private buffoon" presents a rather cynical view of his occupation as jester.

    Video Games 
  • Moshi Monsters:
    • "Super Moshi March" is about the Super Moshis' job as superheroes.
    • "The Doctor Will See You Now" is sung by Dr. Strangeglove about how he works as an evil scientist.
    • In "The Missy Kix Dance", Missy Kix sings about how she's a singer and also a secret agent.
  • Warframe has "We All Lift Together", a work song sung by the Solaris underneath the Corpus's thumb. It sings about their legacy and the constant work they do to escape the yoke of their debts, working together until they're free or die trying to earn their freedom.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Alphablocks, X sings about how he's a superhero.
  • The Backyardigans has the characters pretending to be all sorts of occupations, and they always sing a song about whatever occupation they are.
  • Central Park:
    • Owen, Paige, and Helen's verses in "Own It" each discuss their job situations — Owen, the caretaker of Central Park, wants to be more confident in his role; journalist Paige wants to move out of writing fluff pieces for her small-scale paper; and maid Helen dreams of inheriting her Bad Boss's millions after years of demeaning labor.
    • "If There's a Will" dives more into Helen's perspective working under Bitsy, believing that if she does everything just right she will make it into the childless Bitsy's will.
    • In "Spoiler Alert", Birdie discusses his job as narrator and how important it is not to give his knowledge of future events away to the audience or the characters in the story.
  • The Doc McStuffins theme is about the titular character's job as a toy repair girl.
  • An episode of Futurama has "The Bureaucrat Song" about how bureaucrats get a bad rap, but it's best to do what you like anyway.
  • The Koala Brothers: The theme song is about the titular Koala Brothers' job helping people.
  • Beaver from My Friends Tigger & Pooh sings a song about how "work, work, work, work is all [he seems] to do."
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "Art of the Dress" from "Suited for Success" is about Rarity's job as a fashion designer and seamstress, sung as she's making gala dresses for her friends. After they don't like the end result, it gets a Dark Reprise where she has to make new ones while dealing with their various demands.
      Dressmaking's easy, every customer's call
      Brings a whole new revision
      Have to pick up the pace, still hold to my vision
    • Downplayed for "The Flim Flam Cider Song" from "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000". It's mainly just Flim and Flam advertising their cider maker, but it's also about how they're travelling salesponies.
    • In "What My Cutie Mark is Telling Me" from "Magical Mystery Cure", the protagonists' (sans Twilight's) cutie marks (symbols on their rear thighs that convey their destinies) have been swapped, so they are singing about having to do one another's jobs and not being very good at them.
  • The Numberjacks theme is about the Numberjacks' job solving problems.
  • Postman Pat:
    • The theme song is about Pat's job as a postman.
    • One episode features a song about Ted Glenn's job fixing things.
  • The Simpsons episode "Trash of the Titans" has Homer singing "The Garbage Man Can" about all the things his new job as Springfield's Sanitation Inspector will allow him to do for its citizens. The song is a parody of "The Candyman" from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, mentioned above in the "Film" folder.
  • South Park: In "Butt Out", a chorus of cigarette factory workers sing a jolly song about the joys of their job.
  • Thomas & Friends:
    • "Jobs-A-Plenty" from The Great Discovery is about what the engines are doing to help restore Great Waterton.
    • "The Work Song" is about the characters' different jobs, such as Jack and the Pack constructing buildings.

 
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Orin Scrivello, DDS

Orin Scrivello, a sadistic dentist who loves the suffering he causes so much he sings a whole song about it. He's strictly a medical mess!

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