Need a few ideas for road trip songs? With many people eager to get away this summer, the safest way to travel is via the great road trip. However, for most travelers, no exploration on the open road is complete without a great music playlist. Furthermore, are songs that can keep you alert and your passengers entertained.
Not everyone will agree with this Top 10. Indeed, you may already have your own list of personal favorites. If this list isn’t enough, there are 50 more playlist options in the Honorable Mention section.
Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen 1975)
The Boss has recorded several road trip songs, like Pink Cadillac, Thunder Road, Open All Night and Ramrod. On the other hand, with lyrics like, “we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway dream”, Born to Run was Springsteen’s own inspiration towards his dream of success. Be sure to add this to your playlist! If anything, this song will kickstart your playlist. Of course, you can always add those aforementioned road trip songs. Either way, you can’t really go wrong with most any song from The Boss.
Drive My Car (The Beatles 1965)
The Beatles were already international stars when they released, Rubber Soul in December 1965. Opening the Beatles’ sixth studio album is this catchy tune with familiar lyrics like “baby you can drive my car, yes I’m gonna be a star”. Some may argue it’s outdated, but it’s definitely hard to sit still when listening to this instant classic. After all, it’ a classic road trip song. What’s more, you will probably find yourself singing “beep beep beep beep beep yeah!” This song was mostly written by Paul McCartney. However, like with most other Beatles compositions, it’s credited to Lennon and McCartney.
Freeway of Love (Aretha Franklin 1985)
The Queen of Soul is some of her earlier hits like Respect and Chain of Fools. Yet 20 years later, she was still in good form with yet another #1 hit single. Indeed, this was about a road trip in her own pink Cadillac. Her performance for Freeway of Love earned Ms. Franklin her 12th Grammy Award, for Best Female R&B Performance. There is nothing like listening to the Queen of Soul. So if you happen to ask, which Aretha Franklin song is about road tripping, this is the one for your playlist.
I Can’t Drive 55 (Sammy Hagar 1984)
The Red Rocker who hit the big time with mega-rock bands like Montrose and Van Halen, actually did pretty well as a solo artist. This rousing rocker is based upon a true road trip event the Cabo Wabo owner experienced when he was pulled over for driving 62 MPH in a 55 MPH zone with no other cars in sight. His response to the officer who stopped him, “I can’t drive 55”. Just before careful not to drive too fast if you add this to your playlist! In fact, you really have to be mindful of your speed if you’re driving a black Ferrari like the one in the music video.
Little Red Corvette (Prince 1983)
From the album 1999 which seemed futuristic at the time because it was years away, this single only made it to #6 on the Billboard Charts. But many of his fans will argue this is his finest work over a long, prolific career. What’s more, it’s one of the greatest road trip songs ever, even if it’s really not about a Corvette. As a matter of fact, the song is actually about a one night stand. Nevertheless, you’ll probably imagine yourself driving a red corvette instead of a one night stand.
Middle of the Road (The Pretenders 1983)
This single from The Pretenders’ Learning to Crawl was a minor hit on the Billboard Hot 100. But it did much better on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart reaching #2. The fast, pulsating beat and Chrissie Hynde’s solid vocals make this one of their most rousing efforts and the volume deserves to be turned up while out on listening to songs on your great American road trip. While listening to this song, this is another example to watch your speed while driving!
Radar Love (Golden Earring 1973)
For years, the Dutch rock band Golden Earring may have been considered as a “one hit wonder” with this song widely acclaimed as the quintessential road trip song from their 1973 album Moontan. With lyrics like “I’ve been driving all night, my hands wet on the wheel”, and a relentless beat, even Bart Simpson had this on his playlist when he embarked on Bart on the Road in 1996. Golden Earring effectively removed its “one hit” moniker after it released Twilight Zone (When the Bullet Hits the Bone) nearly 10 years later.
Running on Empty (Jackson Browne 1977)
Many Jackson Browne fans will say this title track from the Grammy Award nominated album is their favorite song and certainly the most recognized. What makes this road tripping song extra special is the fact it was recorded live, making it one of just a few live recordings on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. There is no question, it’s also one of the greatest road trip songs ever. Indeed, here is another tune that you will likely sing along to.
Take it Easy (Eagles 1972)
This Los Angeles-based rock band made a corner in Winslow, Arizona world famous while singing about a girl in a flatbed Ford. This was the Eagles’ first single of what would be a long, string of popular hits that catapulted them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001. This single, co-written by Eagles band member Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne, made it to #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 but more importantly, now listed as one of the Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.
Truckin’ (Grateful Dead 1970)
For Deadheads, it was a long strange trip listening to one of the most iconic bands to emerge from the San Francisco Sound era of the 1960s. One of the most popular songs ever from the Grateful Dead, this single from American Beauty was their top hit until Touch of Grey surpassed it, making it to the Top 10 in 1987. 10 years later, “Truckin” earned historic distinction, recognized as a national treasure by the U.S. Library of Congress. One of the most popular road trip songs ever to add to your playlist.
There are simply too many to list but here are more songs worthy of your road trip playlist – Here are 50 more songs to think about!
1-10 In Alphabetical Order
405 – Addal (ft. KiFi) (2007)
409 – The Beach Boys (1962)
Boomin’ in Your Jeep – Crystal Fighters (2018)
Born to Be Wild – Steppenwolf (1968)
Cars – Gary Numan (1998)
Crosstown Traffic – Jimi Hendrix (1968)
Cruisin’ – Smokey Robinson (1979) *(add this to your playlist of road trip songs!)
Drive – The Cars (1984)
Drive By – Train (2012)]
Everyday is a Winding Road – Sheryl Crow (1996)
Fast Car – Tracy Chapman (1988)
Fun, Fun, Fun – The Beach Boys (1964)
Getaway Car – Taylor Swift (2017)
Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car – Billy Ocean (1988)
Highway Star – Deep Purple (1972) * (add this to your playlist of road trip songs!)
Highway to Hell – AC/DC (1979)
Hot Rod Lincoln – Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (1971)
I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) The Proclaimers (1987)
Joy Ride – The Killers (2008)
Keep the Car Running – Arcade Fire (2007)
Key to the Highway – Derek and the Dominoes (1970)
King of the Road – Roger Miller (1965)
Life is a Highway – Tom Cochrane (2018)
Little Deuce Coupe – The Beach Boys (1963)
Low Rider – War (1975)
Maybelline – Chuck Berry (1955)
Mercedes Benz – Janis Joplin (1970)
Mustang Sally – Wilson Pickett (1966)
No Cars Go – Arcade Fire (2003)
Ocean Drive – Duality (2020)
Old Town Road – Lil Nas X (ft. Billy Ray Cyrus) (2019)
On the Road Again – Willie Nelson (1980)
On the Run – Pink Floyd (1973)
Pacific Coast Highway – Two Friends (ft. Max) (2017)
Party in the USA – Miley Cyrus (2009)
Paradise by the Dashboard Light – Meatloaf (1971)
Pink Cadillac – Bruce Springsteen (1984)
Ramblin’ Man – The Allman Brothers (1973)
Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads (1985)
Road Trippin’ – Red Hot Chili Peppers (1999)
Start Me Up – The Rolling Stones (1981)
Shut Up and Drive – Rihanna (2009)
Slow Ride – Foghat (1975)
Teenage Dream – Katy Perry (2010)
Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen (1975)
Travelin’ Shoes – Elvin Bishop (1974)
Vacation – The Go-Go’s (1981) * (Add this to your list of road trip songs!)
Wake Me Up – Avicii (2013)
White Walls – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (ft. Schoolboy Q & Hollis) (2013)
You Can Sleep While I Drive – Melissa Etheridge (1989)
About The Author
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS Local from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including CBS New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, Engadget, NBC.com, NJ.com, OWC.com and Radio.com.