For as long as automobiles have existed, so have the songs relating to it. Whether it’s a song about a specific four-wheeled machine or an incident of some kind associated to it, some of the best have been known to leave an everlasting impression. With so many songs of this nature to choose from, what can be classified as the best? As always, the answer to that question is subject to a person’s taste. However, sticking to subject, the songs included in this list strictly revolve around something to do with an automobile. Between car parts and specific events that took place while in an automobile, there is no shortage of best driving-related songs to choose from.
Some of the fondest memories people have come from an experience with an automobile. The same is true with some of the harshest memories that can haunt a human being for the rest of their days. This list covers both, as well as maybe a bit of humor as there’s no shortage of funny driver-related tales to be told as well.
Top 10 Driving Songs
#10 – Holiday Road
“Holiday Road” was written for the 1983 comedy film, National Lampoon’s Vacation. Written, composed, and recorded by Lindsey Buckingham, this song was also used in the three sequels that came after the original. However, in the 2015 sequel, Vacation, the song was covered by the country group, Zac Brown Band. Although the original song only peaked as high as number eighty-two on the US Billboard Hot 100, the overall popularity of the song has since strangely become a cult favorite that has been used in parodies, commercials, and as a song of inspiration.
In the original, the humor of a dog barking at the end of the song seemed to portray the image of a family on the road, taking their beloved pet with them as they go on some highway adventure. In 2013, a modified version of “Holiday Road” was used as the victory song for the National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks. There have also been a number of pop punk bands that seemed to have taken to “Holiday Road” as they cover their own versions.
#9 – No Particular Place to Go
The legendary Chuck Berry brought forth the hit single, “No Particular Place to Go” in May 1964 that became a comical cult classic as a driver taking his girlfriend out for a ride in his automobile. In a plan to romance his love interest at a scenic hangout, this is met with defeat when a malfunctioning seat belt refused to let the couple share anything more than a toned-down night out on the town. “No Particular Place to Go” became a number ten hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 and on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. In Canada, it was a number six hit. The popularity of this song peaked even higher overseas as it was a number two hit in New Zealand and a number three hit in the UK.
#8 – I Can’t Drive 55
“I Can’t Drive 55” by Sammy Hagar is that perfect high-speed adrenaline rush for motorists who love to put some speed into their road travel. While it may not be the ideal song to use to calm down while stuck in heavy traffic that isn’t going anywhere, it’s definitely a great tune to listen to. “I Can’t Drive 55” also makes a good tune to keep awake while behind the wheel on a lengthy road trip that needs you to stay awake at least for another five minutes or so. It was the lead single from Sammy Hagar’s eighth studio album, VOA, which was released in 1984.
The direct reference it made to the American nation’s maximum speed law of fifty-miles per hour and the frustration Sammy Hagar felt when he received a speeding ticket for driving at seven miles-per-hour faster than the designated speed limit. On the US Billboard Hot 100 it became a number twenty-six hit.
#7 – (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66
Originally, “Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” was an R&B song that was composed in 1946 by Bobby Troup. The lyrics focused on U.S. Route 66, which traveled from the western two-thirds of the United States from California, Illinois to Los Angeles, California. Since its first release, it has become a standard that has seen several renditions of this song appearing on many different record charts. The inspiration behind the song came from the cross-country drive Troup experienced when he drove from Pennsylvania to California in an attempt to make it big in Hollywood as a songwriter.
He, along with his wife, jumped into their 1941 and ventured west. For them, the trip began on U.S. Highway 40 before jumping on “Route 66” as they close in on the California coast. The song’s composition came from the ten-day journey that made reference to the trip as they followed the maps in their travels. This song was first recorded by Nat King Cole in 1946 and it became a number three hit on what is now referred to as the US Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and a number eleven hit on what is now associated with the US Billboard Hot 100. Since his original recording, Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters released their version the same year as Cole, which peaked at number fourteen on the US Billboard Hot 100.
The best-known rock version of this song came from The Rolling Stones and the group’s self-titled debut album. That was in 1964 and remains as one of the cult favorites among fans of rock and roll that love “Route 66.” For the Stones, they learned of this song from Chuck Berry’s 1961 version, which many fans will argue is their personal favorite. In 1982, the Manhattan Transfer performed a jazzier version that charted won a Grammy Award in 1983 for Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo or Group.
#6 – Life Is a Highway
From Tom Cochrane’s Mad Mad World, the 1991 hit “Life Is a Highway” was a number one hit in his home nation of Canada shortly after it was released. It also peaked at number six on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1992 and was a top three hit in Australia and New Zealand. It also became certified gold among the nations of Australia, Canada and the U.S.
The concept behind “Life Is a Highway” came from the 1980s when Cochrane was still a member of Red Rider. Originally titled as “Love is a Highway,” it was shelved as he felt the unfinished song wasn’t usable. That changed after visiting East Africa with his family with the World Vision famine relief organization. The focus of treating life as a highway became the focal point of the song. Just like driving, the twists and turns the highway of life gives a person is an adventure unto itself.
“Life Is a Highway” continues to serve as an inspirational song, especially among professional drives that spend so much time on the road. For them, life really is a highway.
#5 – Highway to Hell
AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” was epic when it came out as a single in 1979 and it still remains as one of the all-time favorites among fans of heavier-sounding rock music. For many, AC/DC is more than just some band that came from Australia. They are the closest thing to rock gods, thanks to the energetic performances that were consistently brought forth by Bon Scott, Angus Young, and Malcolm Young.
The classic guitar riff in “Highway to Hell” is considered legendary, continuing to inspire rock musicians of all age groups to at least try and measure up to Young and his guitaring genius. The double-guitar sound was the key element that made “Highway to Hell” an insane favorite but this wasn’t the case at the timing it was first released. At first, some radio stations were reluctant to play it, so it reached as high as number forty-seven on the US Billboard when it first came out.
Worldwide, it charted at is best in Belgium at number fourteen and in the Netherlands at number seventeen. However, this highway-rocking tune was not about to rollover and play dead as it became a number one hit on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart in 1992. In 2012, “Highway to Hell” became a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Digital Songs chart. To this day, it remains as a huge fan favorite that seem to be agreement “Highway to Hell” is one of AC/DC’s signature songs. For the driver behind the wheel, “Highway to Hell” continues to serve up the need to rev up the ride and go for broke.
#4 – I Love This Road
Emerson Drive’s “I Love This Road” was a single released in 2009 from the album, Believe. This inspirational country song peaked at number six on the Canadian Billboard Country charts and was used as a metaphor to lyrically discuss the thrills of living life to the fullest. Among drivers, “I Love This Road” revs up the love of travel, whether it’s actually on the road or as a lifestyle choice in general. Although this song was not a chart-topper, it was geared as an appreciation piece that used road travel as a metaphor to describe life’s wild ride of trials and triumphs, and how we respond to them. As a song, “I Love this Road” could pass as a defensive driving course how to deal with life and its struggles with the eyes focused on the road and love every minute of it.
#3 – Take Me Home, Country Roads
Perhaps Dorothy from 1939’s cult classic The Wizard of Oz said it best when she repeatedly stated “there’s no place like home” as an agreement that there really is no place like home. As for John Denver’s 1971 performance of “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” this is a beautiful driving home song that continues to sell copies of its recording to this day. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked at number two and was a number three hit the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart and on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
There was enough country in the single to peak at number fifty on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. One doesn’t have to live in West Virginia, the target of John Denver’s lyrics, to relate to what really is more than just a song. The popularity of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” became certified gold with the nations of Denmark and Italy, while becoming platinum with the United Kingdom’s British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
As to be expected, the people of West Virginia saw “Take Me Home, Country Roads” as iconic. In 1972, it became the theme song of West Virginia University and has been faithfully performed each time the home football team has a pregame. As of 2014, it became the state’s official anthem. Since John Denver’s release of this all-time cult favorite, it has inspired several artists to recover their own version over the years.
#2 – Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are
Written by Jim Steinman, then recorded by Meat Loaf, “Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are” was a 1994 hit that came from the album, Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked at number thirty-eight and was a number twenty-six hit on the UK Top 40. The inspiration behind the long title to this dong was derived from the safety warning that’s featured on the side mirrors of automobiles.
This three-part narrative of “Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are” revolved around the seasonal driving conditions of summer, winter, and spring. The sharing of a man’s memories of personal tragedies performed by Meat Loaf was a dramatically powerful ballad that described a close friendship he had with a friend that died in a crash. The song was based on real-life events Meat Loaf, personally went through that served as a sobering experience that not only left an eternal impression on the singer but on the fans as well.
#1 – Paradise by the Dashboard Light (featuring Ellen Foley)
“Paradise by the Dashboard Light” was another musical masterpiece written by Jim Steinman and performed by Meat Loaf as his ability to tell a full story through a song remains unmatched. While telling a story in a song is a talent many of the best artists in the music business are known for, none can quite measure up to the dramatics laid out by Meat Loaf. The brilliance of 1977’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” started with a teenage couple sitting in a car that’s about to kick the relationship they have between each other another notch.
The subject matter of teen sex in a car brought into the song as the bridge between youthful innocence and the couple’s mid-life crisis was beautifully highlighted with the baseball broadcast, painting the picture of the male in the story about to make a move on his girl. Then, abruptly, Ellen Foley’s powerfully slams the brakes on the interlude as she voiced out her insecurities. The battle between the sexes ultimately saw an agreement to commitment between the two they’d later regret as they got older together as a couple. From wanting to spend as much time together as possible to hating each other’s sight was radio opera at its finest.
Due to the length of the song, not every radio station was willing to play it until the popularity of it grew. “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” charted as high as number thirty-nine on the US Billboard Hot 100 on September 23, 1978 and remained in the chart for ten weeks. This single was most popular in the Netherlands and in Belgium as it peaked at number one and at number two, respectfully. On the RPM Canada Top Singles chart, it peaked at number eleven. In sales, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” became certified platinum in Australia, Canada, and the U.S. In the UK, it became gold. To this day, many critics still regard “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” as one of the greatest duets of all time.
Top 10 Songs About Driving article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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Need to add “Driver’s Seat” by Sniff ‘n’ the Tears and “Boys of Summer” by Don Henley.
Well, Fred you just did. Thanks.