The Get a Job song

The year was 1986. Twenty year old me was very much attuned to the music of the day: from Heart to Huey Lewis and the News, Stevie Nicks to Little Stevie Windwood. I was down with Peter Gabriel, INXS, The Dire Straights, Van Halen, Human League, ZZ Top, Sade, Bon Jovi, Level 42, Madonna, Prince and yes–even Scritti Politti. I’ve always had a rather diverse taste in music. Still do.

Whenever someone would ask “Have you heard that new song by so-and-so?” Typically, I had. If it was on the radio, MTV or VH1, it was a pretty safe bet I’d heard it. (Remember when they actually played videos on MTV and VH1? Ah, good times…) Even if you didn’t know who the artist was or the name of the song, all I really needed was for you to sing a few bars, and I would know which song you were talking about and who sang it.

Which is why I was completely perplexed by my friend Kim one day. We were sitting in her apartment talking when she asked me if I’d heard this new song. “I know you’ve heard it”, she said. “They play it on the radio all the time.”

“How does it go?” I asked her.

Get a job…”, she sings.


“That’s all I can remember, but I KNOW you know this song. Get a job…”

At this point, I’ve move past being perplexed. I’m simply laughing at her.

“Are you sure those are the words? Get a job?” I ask her.

“Yes! You’ve heard it! I know you have! Get a job…”

“Um…yeah. Have you been drinking? I don’t know the Get a Job song.”

The funny thing is, I did know the Get a Job song. And when the Get a Job song came on my car radio while driving home from her place, I had to pull over because I was laughing so hard.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Get a Job Song:

Also known in some circles as “The Way It Is”, it was the first hit for Bruce Hornsby and the Range.

I found it funny that Kim would remember that one line in the song, because it only appears in the first verse. Not in the chorus, not in the bridge. Just the last line of the first verse. Had she sung, “That’s just the way it is”, I would have known what she was talking about immediately, because duh, that’s the name of the song and the first line of the chorus. It’s part of the central message of the song:

That’s just the way it is
Some things’ll never change
That’s just the way it is
Ha, but don’t you believe them

Why would she remember that one line? Who knows? Maybe she had been drinking. Maybe she remembered it because in the context of the song, the line was pretty outrageous: “The man in a silk suit hurries by, as he catches the poor old lady’s eye, just for fun he says Get a job.” I won’t argue that the line is a powerful one. It helps set up the central message of the song, even though when I heard it out of context it made absolutely no sense at all.

Is there a point to this walk down memory lane? Actually, yes.

If you’re going to argue what the central message of a song is, it’s probably best you know the song yourself in the first place, instead of hearing it second hand and assuming your source of information is correct.

And if you don’t know the entire song, you should at least know the chorus.

A final charge to Timothy from the Apostle Paul:

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:10-17

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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17 Responses to “The Get a Job song”

  1. Joanne Sher March 6, 2011 at 9:03 pm #

    Apparently, you’re but a year older than I am, and I knew all that music too. AND, of course, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what the “Get A Job” song was either – until I saw the title of the youtube clip. THEN I remembered.

    Enjoyed that memory lane walk.

  2. Jeanne Damoff March 6, 2011 at 9:47 pm #

    Love it! Very funny story. And, like I told you on Twitter, I especially like the way you finessed your links.

    So funny to watch old videos and check out the hair and fashions. It all looked so hip at the time. Was so hip, I suppose. But . . . wow. My favorite thing about this particular video was how often the camera zoomed in on his hands playing the piano. Fun to analyze his technique. Did you notice he plays almost exclusively with his right hand? It was particularly noticeable during one close up when the camera showed only his left hand (which was doing absolutely nothing) and even did a 360 over it, while the right hand went wild off camera. That camera man needs to get a job. Or is that just the way it is?

    • katdish March 6, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

      You know what’s funny? I took piano lessons as a kid. My teacher told my mom I wasn’t really cut out to play piano. Sad, but true. Because whatever one hand does, the other hand begins to mimic. It’s ridiculous. I did notice he played with mostly his right hand. Is that a big no-no for pianists? I wouldn’t know. But I do love that song.

      • Jeanne Damoff March 6, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

        I wouldn’t call it a big no-no in some absolute sense. A lot of pianists use their left hand more for base/rhythm and their right for melody and embellishment. That’s basically what he did, except the balance weighed heavily to the right, and the left took several coffee breaks. I tend to do a lot more with my right than my left, too, but not to the same extreme.

        It really all depends on the style, the composition, and what role the piano is playing (solo, lead, rhythm, accents, hiding that stain on the rug, etc.) Lots of factors involved. And I bet that’s way more answer than you wanted.

        To sum up: Q: Is that a big no-no? A: Not really.

  3. Jason March 6, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    I learned to play Bruce Hornsby songs as a kid because it was the only way my piano teacher could get me to practice. 🙂

  4. Louise March 6, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    You are quite brilliant.. and funny too!

  5. Helen March 7, 2011 at 1:34 am #

    I had a completely different song in my head. I was totally thinking of an OLDER song….. I figured she must’ve been listening to the oldies station at some point without clueing you in! I used to like to listen to the oldies sometimes. I still do… Except that now the music of my generation is considered oldies, and the oldies of my generation are considered… what?

    • Jim H March 7, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

      I immediately thought of the old Sha-Na-Na song “Get a Job” I guess that just make me way older than Kathy

  6. Jim F March 7, 2011 at 7:32 am #

    What is weird is I remember a friend of mine “back in the day” referring to it as the “get a job” song and later they referred to Hornsby as the guy who sung the “get a job and something rain” songs.

    Loved the tie in at the end.

  7. James Williams March 7, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    This is weird and kind of negative, but my memory of Hornsby is how disappointed I was when I heard his song “Jacob’s Ladder” which was recorded by Huey Lewis. I had some much respect for him for “The Way It Is”, then to hear his song about how he doesn’t need Christianity, it was a big letdown.

    • James Williams March 7, 2011 at 9:55 am #

      “some much respect” should be so much respect”. I should add that “Jacob’s Ladder” also came out in ’86, shortly after “The Way it Is”.

  8. okiewife March 7, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    If anyone has ever read my profile they know that I love 80’s music, all the artists you mentioned and more. But the Get A Job song I remembered was much older, from the 60’s, and the title really was Get A Job. Maybe classified as “do-wop.” Can’t remember who recorded it though. And now…Thanks for the Memories…one from the 40’s or one of those “way back” decades.

  9. Hazel Moon March 7, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    Interesting Post Kat! The words GET A JOB were told to me as a young person, by my dad, but he did not sing them. 🙂

  10. Melissa Brotherton March 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    When I was little I thought the song “Bad Moon Rising” was about directions:

    “There’s a bathroom on the right…”

    Funny how we hear different things from the same verses…

  11. Maureen March 7, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

    Interesting, uh, piano technique.

    So, you were 20 in 1986? I definitely could be your older sister.

  12. Larry Hehn March 10, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    I knew the song right away. It was playing the day that I left university after a year-and-a-half of study, feeling completely defeated. Somehow that song changed my mood and gave me a whole new outlook.

    A walk down memory lane and a valuable lesson about the importance of scripture – a double blessing! Thanks!

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