10 Great Road Trip Songs

No road trip is complete without a solid playlist of songs that embody the spirit of travelling the open road with your sunglasses on, the windows down and wind in your hair. Good road trip songs not only enhance the journey; they also help get you through those never-ending stretches of unchanging road. (I’m looking at you, North Dakota.) I’ve been listening to some great music on my travels around the US. Here are some songs that make me push the pedal to the metal:

1. Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads (every time I hear this song I reach for the car keys)

2. The Road to Hell – Chris Rea (the full version is genius, it really kicks in about 2.50)

3. Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash (this song screams Wanderlust)

4. The Passenger – Iggy Pop  (best enjoyed when you’re on your 14th cup of coffee)

5. Freeway of Love – Aretha Franklin (Girl power in a pink cadillac)

6. Peter Gunn Theme – The Blues Brothers version (I’ve always wanted an excuse to quote the movie. “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses. Hit it.”)

7. Life is a Highway – Tom Cochrane (I am willing to forgive Tom’s disastrous haircut because the song is just that good. The video also features stunning shots of badlands)

8. Route 66 – Depeche Mode (Beatmasters Mix. This is hands down the best version of Route 66 ever. You can try to convince me otherwise, but it will be in vain)

9. Life in the Fast Lane – The Eagles (Don’t even think of doing a road trip without The Eagles)

10. N17 – The Saw Doctors (The ultimate Irish road trip song – actually, the only Irish road trip song)

I had a really hard time limiting myself to just ten – I’ve got, oh, another 4,000 or so candidates for best road trip song. What about you? What are your favourite road trip songs?

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xxx Ailsa


About ailsapm

Hi there! I’m Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney. I’ve lived in many places, and travelled to many more. I had a lot of fun getting there and being there, wherever there happened to be at the time. I climbed a castle wall in Czesky Krumlov, abseiled down cliffs to go caving in the west of Ireland, slept on the beach in Paros, got chased by a swarm of bees in Vourvourou (ok that wasn’t fun, but it was exciting), learned flower arranging in Tokyo, found myself in the middle of a riot in Seoul, learned to snowboard in Salzburg, got lost in a labyrinth in Budapest and had my ice cream stolen by a gull in Cornwall. And I’m just getting started. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, I’d love you to follow my travelogue - wheresmybackpack.com - and remember, anyone who tries to tell you it’s a small world hasn’t tried to see it all.
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193 Responses to 10 Great Road Trip Songs

  1. Right now, I like Diana Krall and Sigur Ros very much! I know that it has nothing to do with the concept of being on the road, but their music is simply fantastic!

  2. Great list, Ailsa, especially Talking Heads and Depeche Mode. These days, I’m very much into Grateful Dead’s “Goin’ Down The Road, Feeling Bad/Not Fade Away” medley (or any Grateful Dead, for that matter).

  3. Madhu says:

    Wonderful selection, Chris Rhea and Cash particularly.
    I like Chuck Berry’s ‘No particular place to go’ as well. And Aerosmith’s ‘Fly away from here’ 🙂

  4. You’re so right about The Road To Hell – great song to wrap around your senses w/a good sound system! Same for the Eagles. Norah always makes a good start of the day warmup with her smooth velvety voice!

    When I read the title to the post, I quickly thought, ‘(get ready!) Eddie Rabbit’s Drivin’ My Life Away.. (Those wind shield wip-ers slam-ming out a tem-po, keep-ing perfect rhythm with the song on the radio…..)

  5. mostlymonochrome says:

    Folsom is an interesting choice cos its about being stuck.

  6. Great List – here are a few more I would like to suggest (and yes there are hundreds or others)
    On the Road Again – Willie
    Drivin’ – Pearl Harbor and the Explosions
    Going Up the Country – Canned Heat
    America – Simon and Garfunkel
    Long White Cadillac – Dwight Yoakam
    Ramblin Man – the Allmans
    Fast Car – Tracy Chapman
    Embryonic Journey – Jefferson Airplane
    Truckin’ – The Dead
    Me and Bobby McGee – Janis
    Start me Up – the Stones

    • ailsapm says:

      Brilliant, Robert – I hadn’t even thought about Janis, busted flat in Baton Rouge. Oh, I’m going to have to listen to that one now. Great list, I’m stealing it!

  7. lautal says:

    Everything is absolutely personally. But anyway, your list is good.

  8. Gerry Rafferty: A Dangerous Age (my traditional song when I’m leaving the city for the weekend)
    Eagles: Take It Easy

    They have to be songs that I can sing to. Singing definitely helps to pass the driving time.

  9. LubbyGirl says:

    We always have stuff like Keith Green, Don Francisco, Brent Lamb, and other great Christian artists in the car, but usually we just drive in peace and quiet. We may go miles without saying a word, and then just start a long involved conversation out of the blue. I love it!!!

  10. LubbyGirl says:

    Uh…we don’t actually have the Christian artists in the car – just their music. Just thought I’d better clarify that y’know…jes sayin…. 🙂

  11. Allan G. Smorra says:

    I like your list, a lot. If it went to 11, I would add The Doors’ “L.A. Woman”, roll down the windows and crank up the volume (keeping one eye in the rear-view mirror…)!

  12. Love the list, my addition would be AC/DC Highway to Hell, especially when driving thru Kansas.

    • ailsapm says:

      Too funny, frontrangescribbles, I shall make sure to include it on my playlist next time I’m in the Kansas area! We’ve actually listened to quite a bit of AC/DC on the road, guaranteed to wake you up and get you rocking. 🙂

  13. ledrakenoir says:

    All good choices… 😉


    • ailsapm says:

      Kudos, ledrakenoir, not only an Irish singer, but a car stuck in a river. Brilliant. I’ve never actually seen the video for this song, I started laughing when I saw it, it’s perfect 🙂

  14. pommepal says:

    G’day Ailsa, great post, yes music and roadtrips are like bread and jam, you can’t have one without the other. I’m looking forward to working through your list, some I know , some I don’t, all look good. I think you can guess one of mine “Hit the road Jack” Ray Charles and LOVE “King of the road” Roger Miller. Great to sing along with at the top of your voice…
    All the legendary Australian country and western singer Slim Dusty’s, especially “Looking foreward, looking back” All his songs tell stories of Aussie life from drovers to truckies etc. When travelling the good bits, soaring, glowing red escarpments, endless golden plains, sea as blue as Paul Newmanns eyes I play classical guitar and my all time favourite the theme from Godfather…

    • ailsapm says:

      Ooh, love your Ray Charles and Roger Miller picks, pommepal. I’ve never head Slim Dusty’s music, I’ll check him out online. I love that you play the theme from the Godfather, excellent! 🙂

      • pommepal says:

        Slim Dusty recently died but he was a true Aussie legend. All his songs tell stories of how it was in the Aussie outback and his more recent ones lament the changes

  15. Life is a highway is a classic! For me, I love On the Road to Find Out, Cat Stevens and Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound, Nanci Griffith. Great question!!!

  16. travtrails says:

    great list…will check out the ones i have not heard

  17. Susie C. says:

    Great stuff! How about:

    Born To Run and Thunder Road — Bruce Springsteen
    Roll Me Away and Get Out Of Denver — Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
    Drivin’ With Your Eyes Closed — Don Henley (to add to your Eagles choice)
    I Get Around, Little Deuce Coupe, any summery road/car Beach Boys stuff
    Born To Be Wild — Steppenwolf
    Little Red Corvette — Prince (of course it’s not really about cars or road but who cares?)
    Roadrunner — Jr. Walker and the Allstars

    Road trips call for oldies! 🙂 Or maybe it’s just me…

  18. viveka says:

    Wonderful and fun post … brilliant job. – Road to Hell .. has been one of my many favorites for years. Peter Gunn Theme – I totally forgotten about. Route 66 – is a real highway track … Thanks for this. What I listen too … everything really – need a mixture of everything … from powerful classic pieces to …. the latest hits.

    • ailsapm says:

      I’ve got Maroon 5 stuck in my head right now, viveka – ‘Moves Like Jagger’ – also great for the road. 🙂

      • viveka says:

        Funny, just now watching an old episode of CSI NY and it started with a concert with Maroon 5 in Central Park – young female fan found dead. Never heard about them before – what they sang on my TV was quite okay. *smile

  19. Sas says:

    As we were driving into Las Vegas I made our guide play The Black Eyed Peas ‘I Gotta Feeling’. It seemed appropriate as we had a big night out planned 🙂

  20. birgitlikes says:

    Great list.
    I´ll suggest:
    500 Miles – The proclaimers (not just since “How I met your mother)
    A little less conversation – the modern Elvis Remix, because it just gets me energized. 😉

  21. Raymond says:

    I humbly recommend Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic”. At less than 2:20, you can slot it into any mix for an instant shot of adrenalin.

    Thanks for the “like” over at rmbarch.wordpress.com!

  22. Mike says:

    Great choices! I once had an ice cream from Chris Rea’s parent’s cafe – my brief encounter with fame 🙂

  23. stephglaser says:

    I think I’ll make a mixed tape…rather CD of this soundtrack — Love it! Thanks for stopping by Travel Oops!

  24. seakist says:

    I love Iggy and Johnny Cash! And I love road trips. My favorite trip was visiting 22 states in three weeks. Great blog. You take exquisite photos and I especially love all the close ups of the animals. And your dog! When my husband and I are on the road we always wave to the dogs that have their heads sticking out the window 🙂

  25. nightfly27 says:

    Wow… this is quite a can of worms…

    I would make sure I had Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55”, Midnight Oil’s “Beds are Burning”, INXS “The One Thing” and Blitzkreig Bop” from the Ramones.

    • ailsapm says:

      Beds are Burning, I love it, I had almost forgotten about that song, but it would be perfect for a road trip, good one, nightfly27. xxx

  26. I love the Peter Gun theme inclusion!

  27. LB says:

    I’m not sure I could narrow it down to 10 without a LOT of thought … anything that makes me tap my hand and move my head while driving (and I love Beds are Burning, too, nightfly27!). How’s that for a cop out?

    • ailsapm says:

      So not a cop out, LB, Beds are Burning is a great choice! Yes, it took me quite a while to come up with a shortlist of 10, there are so many good ones out there. xxx

  28. I thought of the Eagles and Hotel California, although that is more an ‘end of the road’ song I guess…

  29. burnettfreelanceimagery says:

    What a great list! Especially Blues Brothers and Depeche Mode! Thanks for sharing!

  30. Mazigrace says:

    Great list. I can see it would be a tough decision to come up with a top 10. A little Billy Joel – New York State of Mind – would be on my list and some Bob Seiger’s Old Time Rock and Roll even though it doesn’t speak of “road” travel. That song just makes me wanna get up and dance whenever I hear it.

    • ailsapm says:

      Ooh, Mazigrace, I’m with you on the Old Time Rock and Roll, it’s such an upbeat song, perfect for a road trip. Adding it to my playlist for the future! 🙂

  31. Nikki says:

    My music depends on the time of day …… I think I am making a new CD for my next road trip with all of these new suggestions! Thxs!

    • ailsapm says:

      Nice one, Nikki, are you going anywhere fun? xxx

      • Nikki says:

        Road trip to California over Spring Break! Planning on stopping in panhandle of Florida, Louisiana (have been waiting to go there for a LONG time!), Texas, Arizona, then Cali. I wanted to stop at the point where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meets, however, there will not be enough time for that adventure. Some day I will have to go back just to get a picture of being at that spot!

  32. Awesome list! One of my faves would have to be – Take Me With U by Prince and The Revolution.

  33. zooeyibz says:

    Love this post! Music is (at least) half the fun of road trips.

  34. jonasm says:

    alright, as i am 23 and from germany, im just gonna suggest one of my favorite roadtrip songs, i think there are gonna be some new songs, you might never have heard of 🙂

  35. jonasm says:

    Kings of Leon – Use Somebody and Sex on fire

    or MGMT – Time to pretend

    Foo Fighters – Walk

  36. Love this list(Especially Talking Heads & Iggy Pop)! We like driving with pretty much anything we can sing along to. Songs that require drumming on the steering will are also the best!

  37. photobycraig says:

    Fantastic list! Route 66 and Life is highway are my 2 faves!

    I think sometimes people in other cars look at me very oddly when I am listening to a great tune and my whole body is rocking!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! Much appreciated!

    • ailsapm says:

      Yaay Craig, glad you enjoyed my road trip picks. I always forget that other people can see me when I’m rocking out to a really good sound track. 🙂

  38. Born to be wild by steppenwolf. Thx for the list, the road beckons.

  39. nice blog you have here and thanks for the visit.

  40. Great topic, lively discussion. I love the picks and here’s my two cents: “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” by timbuk3. A one hit wonder, but it was the soundtrack to a roadtrip around the Southwest years ago and now no roadtrip is complete without it!

  41. what about row row your boat. From Star Trek 5

  42. aj vosse says:

    Your number 1 is my lawnmower song… however you look at it… you’re always on the road to nowhere when you’re pushing the darned thing around the garden! 😉

    Radar Love, Bat out of Hell and Wish You Were Here and countless others jump out at me… 😛

  43. kiravae says:

    Driving Blind by Chris and Cosey

    The Creatures – Speeding

  44. Dejan says:

    I like to drive to the sounds of Ry Cooder, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and similar Americana. I live in Australia, the roads are endless and drives go on forever. I suppose that’s somewhat similar to the North American situation.

    Of the newer stuff, I’d recommend Neil Young’s “Driftin’ Back” (from the 2012 album Psychedelic Pill). I swear the car drives itself when that song’s on (and it goes on and on… 27 minutes).

    • ailsapm says:

      Brilliant, Dejan, I never thought of including Neil Young but now you mention it, he has about half a dozen songs worthy of inclusion on the great open road!

  45. thekarin says:

    I always liked Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” There’s just something in the sound of it that makes me imagine myself in a car driving across the desert.

    • ailsapm says:

      I love that song, thekarin, and it would be perfect for driving through the desert. I think I need to go on another road trip very soon to try it out! 🙂

  46. I love this post, will now have to listen to all the songs!! Thank you !

  47. Ailsa I love your list especially the Saw doctors (who I didn’t know) , took me right back to my childhood holidays in Ireland. You are a gem!

  48. Great post! Love the list and completely agree that a great song is sometimes the best companion on the road!

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