Get a Job

The Silhouettes, 1957

Who is singing this song? Who is he addressing? What is he trying to say? What is his mood? What was the economy like in 1958 when this song was a number-one hit? Why hasn't he gotten a job?

Why might someone not be able to find a good job in the middle of prosperity? Not qualified, no jobs in his area, discrimination. Share the statistic that even ten years after this song was written, 29% of Blacks still lived below the poverty level versus 8% of whites.

What other choices would he have if none of the want ads listed jobs he was qualified for? More education, going into the service, taking low-paying unskilled jobs, etc. How much career choice would a young man have in 1958 compared to one or two generations before?

How is the mood of the music different from that of the words? Why might a songwriter send a "mixed message" like this? What other songs purposely combine music and words of opposite tone? "Fixin' to Die Rag," "Ballad of the MTA."

The style of this song is called "doo-wop." Groups would sing on street corners a capella in tight harmony, improvising with syllables. What modern musical style had a similar start? Rap. How are rap and doo-wop similar? How are they different?

"Get a Job" performed by the Silhouettes on Get a Job. Collectables, © 1996. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.


For more information on The Silhouettes, visit their official fan page.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source:

"Get a Job" is an outgrowth of the sidewalk "doo-wop" style of singing and the Black urban sound. The Silhouettes, who wrote and recorded this song, were from Philadelphia and originally started as a gospel group.

African American boys working as shoe shine boys in 1950s New York.

"Get a Job" became the number-one hit in January 1958, popular with both Black and white audiences. It was written by a new member of the group who had the idea while in the Army. The rest of the band came up with the catchy lyric lines: "sha na na na, sha na na na na," and "yip yip yip yip yip." (Later, these lyrics were inspiration for the name of the group who later performed at Woodstock: Sha Na Na.)

Look at want ads from 1958 to see what jobs were being listed.

Imagine that this song is in a musical. What might have happened right before this song was performed? Write and perform a skit based on the incident you imagine.




Creative Commons License
Voices Across Time is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at