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The 50 best road trip songs of all time

These road trip songs will make your next excursion a memorable one, whether you’re driving for few hours or a few days

Don’t get us wrong—we love the city. But sometimes daytripping to Randall’s Island for the season’s best summer music festivals doesn’t quite satiate your need for liberatory escape. Time to embark on that classic American tradition: the road trip. Of course, you can’t drive in complete silence—well, you can, but the very thought is giving us a flat tire—so we’ve compiled our list of the best road trip songs to get your motors running and kick your highway journey into high gear. Whether you’re absconding on a weekend getaway or braving an outdoor adventure near NYC, we have the tunes to keep your engines purring. Crank up classics from the Boss, the Dead and Prince, and blasts from your ’90s past courtesy of Sheryl Crow, and of course, songs about America. So grab your keys, call up a few of your favorite travel buddies, roll down the windows, and crank up the dial. Road trip!

Written by Michael Chen, Brent DiCrescenzo, Adam Feldman, Sophie Harris, Nick Leftley, Tim Lowery, Marley Lynch, Hank Shteamer, Carla Sosenko and Kate Wertheimer.

Best road trip songs of all time

1

“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen

Like Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” “Born to Run” is darker than it may seem. Embedded in the scuffed poetry of the lyrics is a potent combination of rebellion, sex, disgust and determination—brought to life by the throaty passion of Springsteen’s voice, the liberating wail of Clarence Clemons’s sax and the sheer propulsive force of the E Street Band’s backup. “Someday girl, I don't know when/We’re gonna get to that place where we really wanna go,” Springsteen promises. “Born to Run,” for all its spikes, takes you there. It’s a love song, an urban-jungle cry and a perfect anthem of pedal-to-the-metal escape.—Adam Feldman

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2

“Little Red Corvette” by Prince

It doesn’t take a B.A. in poetry to figure this ditty’s got nothing to do with cars. In the world of Prince, coupés are women, horsepower is a pack of Trojan condoms, and gas is stamina in the sheets. The beat takes its time, synthetic drums echoing into the distance, just as the Purple One implores his one-night stand to take it slow, to make it two, three or more nights. Dez Dickerson peels out in the guitar solo, but she’s the one driving here. Perfect choice of car model—elusive, American, curvy, risky. It wouldn’t work as a Ferrari or Rolls.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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3

“Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake

Been dumped recently? You need to go for a drive (preferably in a Jaguar XJ). You’ve made up your mind. You ain’t wasting no more time. So tease your hair, don your pleather, and crank up the volume on this 1982 hit—just try not to get stuck in traffic. This power ballad works better on the open road (with no adjacent drivers to judge your Coverdale cover moves).—Kate Wertheimer

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4

“Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2

This anthemic opening track from U2’s landmark 1987 LP, The Joshua Tree, is an ideal kick starter for any road trip (particularly if you're wandering about the California desert where the titular yucca plant is commonly found). From a whisper, the sound of an organ builds up like a spiritual beacon being unveiled. It’s well over a minute before the Edge’s churning guitar and Adam Clayton’s propulsive bassline kick in, and another 40 seconds before Bono’s vocals touch down. By then, you’re ready to hit top gear and wail along: “I want to run/I want to hide/I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside.” Though the song is about Bono’s vision of an Ireland free from class boundaries, it has inspired countless highway warriors to venture out to those places where the streets truly have no name. Or where they at least have weird names like “Zzyzx Road.”—Michael Chen

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5

“Keep the Car Running” by Arcade Fire

If there’s one quality that characterizes Arcade Fire’s sound, it’s urgency—and nowhere is that more evident than on “Keep the Car Running” from the band’s super noire, grandiose 2007 Neon Bible album. Based on singer Win Butler’s childhood nightmares (“Men are coming to take me away!” he pines), “Keep the Car Running” expands these fears into a sense of global anxiety, and the certainty that there must be something better down the road (“Don’t know why, but I know I can’t stay”). On its release, the song was likened to prime-era Bruce Springsteen; imagine fans’ joy when Butler and Régine Chassagne made a surprise showing at the Boss’s stadium gig to bust out the song with him. Warning: You will break the speed limit if you play this song while driving.—Sophie Harris

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6

“Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Football possibly killed off Southern boogie rock. Hear us out. Because of college pigskin rivalries, this song could not be made today. College football is a matter of life and death down there, literally. Iconic trees and people have been murdered over games. Skynyrd was born deep in SEC country: The boogie-rock brothers were from Jacksonville, not Alabama, and cut the track in Georgia. Could you imagine a bunch of Gators fans cutting a tune that could in any way be construed as “Roll Tide"? Yankees and rivals love to mock and loathe the Crimson Tide, but when this ditty plays, every human in the room, no matter the allegiance, becomes a temporary, gen-u-wine Mobile redneck.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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7

“Truckin’” by Grateful Dead

Let us pause, and acknowledge the fact that this song has been recognized by the U.S. Library of Congress as a national treasure. Mmmm. Written and performed communally by Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and lyricist Robert Hunter, the catchy, bluesy shuffle—off 1970’s American Beauty—turns the band’s misfortunes on the road into a metaphor for getting through life’s constant changes. And really, what’s a good trip—or a good life—if you can’t exclaim at the end, “What a long, strange trip it’s been"?—Kate Wertheimer

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8

“Road to Nowhere” by Talking Heads

The gospel-choir intro to this upbeat single, off 1985’s Little Creatures, makes for a great start to any road-trip mix. The song celebrates the journey over the destination—as Byrne puts it, “I wanted to write a song that presented a resigned, even joyful look at doom.” (Typical.) Not every end point is a good one, but we’ll be damned if this march doesn’t have us enjoying the ride.—Kate Wertheimer

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9

“Graceland” by Paul Simon

Road trips are a time for contemplation, whether we expect it (or like it) or not. Paul Simon’s 1986 single is a perfect, toe-tapping example—we’re treated to what’s basically his stream of consciousness on a drive to Graceland with his son after the failure of his marriage to Carrie Fisher. At turns both nostalgic and hopeful, it runs the gamut of emotions we always seem to experience a little more profoundly on the road.—Kate Wertheimer

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10

“Take It Easy” by the Eagles

The Eagles took flight in 1972 with their debut single: a quick but mellow paean to the romance of the road, where a world of troubles—romantic and otherwise—can be shucked at the mere sight of a girl (my lord!) in a flatbed Ford. Cowritten by frontman Glenn Frey and his friend Jackson Browne, the song’s flirtation with worry and release into insouciant adventure is perfect for relieving tension on a drive. As the lyrics gently urge: “Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.”—Adam Feldman

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Show more

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By: David A. Lytle

Comments

11 comments
Mike M
Mike M

Are these people jokes or what... Jessica by the Allman Bothers hands down is best road trip song of all time. Rap songs, give me a break!!!

Brent C
Brent C

@Mike M its true...your like a thousand years old. our generation listens to the allman brothers..maybe step outside your box gangsta.


Buggs B
Buggs B

Yeah, I know music is subjective but objectively speaking, this list sucks.

Buggs B
Buggs B

Eagles in the top 10?....Hmmmmm "I had a rough night and I hate the fuckin' Eagles man"

Thomas D
Thomas D

Hollywood Nights by Bob Seeger didn't make the list?  Come on.  You can't listen to that song in the car and not be hitting 100 mph before it's over.

Virginia K
Virginia K

Ok. So there are some good songs on this list, even a few great ones, but no Creedence or John Fogerty? Not even Hot Rod Heart?  What is wrong with you people?

Aegina B
Aegina B

Did I miss The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues"?

Barca
Barca

I agree with many of the songs, but "Fun, Fun, Fun" by the Beach Boys would have been my number 1.  In fact the list looks devoid of any songs from the 'Car Song' era.

While driving, I like to listen to "American Band" (Grand Funk Railroad), "Smoke on the Water" (Deep Purple), "Sweet Home Chicago" (Blues Brothers), "Let it Roll" (BTO), and "Convoy" (CW McCall).

Ms. K
Ms. K

Great list!  2 that I didn't see that are some go-tos:  "This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)" by the Talking Heads (yes, I know they made the top 10) and my favorite night driving anthem "How Soon Is Now" by The Smiths.  The latter is my "are we there yet...maybe I don't care because this song is epic"...

Meneer J
Meneer J

Highway Star of Deep Purple!?!?

Ozan B
Ozan B

where is the road to "fuckin" hell!