Hit the Road: 14 songs about driving

Certified hit “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf got screen time in the film Easy Rider. Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

We dedicated the May/June 2023 issue of Hagerty Drivers Club magazine to the deep connections between music and cars, including several fun lists featuring your favorite car songs. Come back often or click the Music & Cars tag to stay up to date on these stories as they roll out online. You can also jam with our custom Music & Cars playlist on Spotify, available here.

Countless songs address the freedom of driving. Among thousands of candidates, we’ll start by nominating two seemingly disparate numbers, both of which illustrate a great through line of American song—the liberating spirit of adventure and exploration that hitting the highway represented. “See the U.S.A. In Your Chevrolet” was made famous by Dinah Shore in 1950, though the jingle—written by Leo Corday and Leon Carr—was originally sung for the TV show Inside U.S.A. with Chevrolet by Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy. Later covered by Pat Boone and even the cast of Glee, after decades of service as a recurring Chevrolet jingle, its luster has by now largely worn off. Conversely, the status of the once-obscure garage rock classic “Roadrunner”—by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers—continues its ascent to musical standard-dom, its popularity growing like the sprawling suburbia that its narrator simultaneously celebrates and seeks to escape.

And, of course, no discussion of the freedom that cars offer would be complete without “Born to Be Wild,” made famous by Steppenwolf and its appearance in the 1969 film Easy Rider, which is about two meaning-seeking, drug-dealing Californian rebels on an impromptu trip across the American Southwest and South on old Harley choppers. Amusingly, this all-American standard was written by a Canadian sessions musician, Mars Bonfire (real name Dennis Eugene McCrohan). He was broke and out of work and planted in Los Angeles when he penned the timeless anthem, a ditty that turned out—in the way these things do—to be just as useful for breathless corporate marketers as for nonconformists quitting their jobs and hitting the road.

Here are 14 more songs that celebrate the freedom of driving…


Bruce Springsteen

There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road
In the skeleton frames of burned out Chevrolets

Somewhere in Maine, Stephen King is listening.



Cover me, cause I’m changing lanes

That’s not the purpose of driver aids and you know it, M.I.A! They’re meant to complement proper use of mirrors, not replace them completely.


Sonic Youth

Can I have the car keys? I wanna go for a ride
Can I have the car please? I’m going out for a while
Can I have the car now? I wanna drive all around
Can I have the car, dear? I’m gonna leave this town

This feels like the lyrical equivalent of Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom?


Iggy Pop

He sees the sight of hollow sky
He sees the stars come out tonight
He sees the city’s ripped backsides
He sees the winding ocean drive
And everything was made for you and me
All of it was made for you and me
‘Cause it just belongs to you and me
So let’s take a ride and see what’s mine

Someone sure is selfish.


The Allman Brothers Band

Leaving out of Nashville, Tennessee
They’re always having a good time down on the bayou, Lord
And Delta women think the world of me

Yes, but the JetBlue women can’t stand you.



Hey, wake up, your eyes weren’t open wide
For the last couple of miles you’ve been swerving from side to side
You’re gonna make me spill my beer
If you don’t learn how to steer

Team Wilco lasted exactly one stage before the FIA banned them from ever competing in the WRC again.



Slow ride
Take it easy
Slow ride
Take it easy
Slow ride
Take it easy
Slow ride
Take it easy
Slow ride
Take it easy

I hear you, man. Now tell it to all the bozos over on r/idiotsincars.

Pearl Harbor and the Explosions

Back on the streets when it feels so right
(Drivin’) Drivin’
It’s just tonight, I feel the only cure is drivin’
(Drivin’) Drivin’
I’ve got no time to think of how you feel
(Drivin’) Drivin’
Behind the wheel, so now I gotta drive it, drive it
(Drivin’) Drivin’

Contrary to popular belief, this is not a song about golf.

The Modern Lovers

With the radio on
I’m in love with Massachusetts

With the radio off, however, I prefer South Dakota.

The Cars

Who’s gonna hold you down when you shake?
Who’s gonna come around when you break?

Such a subtle nod to the Plymouth K-car.

Chuck Berry

Ridin’ along in my calaboose
Still tryin’ to get her belt aloose
All the way home I held a grudge
But the safety belt it wouldn’t budge
Cruisin’ and playin’ the radio
With no particular place to go

And that, friends, is why we heed recall notices.


All my friends know the low rider

Yeah, but so does Karen from the neighborhood watch, and you just know she’s got 911 on speed dial.

Gary Numan

Here in my car
I feel safest of all
I can lock all my doors
It’s the only way to live
In cars

Is it, though?

The Breeders
“DRIVIN’ ON 9” (Ed’s Redeeming Qualities cover)

Drivin’ on 9
Drivin’ on 9
Drivin’ on 9

Also not a song about golf!




This article first appeared in Hagerty Drivers Club magazine. Click here to subscribe and join the club.

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    Ah Slow Ride really not about a car or a bike if you know what I mean. Wink!

    But songs like Roll Me away, Westbound and East Bound Down are about real rides.

    So is BTO Let roll, In my car Joe Walsh, Rev on the Red Line Foreigner, Hillbilly Highway, Haul in Ass, Mud, Wheels and Road Hammer by the Road Hammers.

    Lynyrd Skynyrd. Smoke Stack Lightning, Born to Run [no not that one], Travlin’ Man.

    Outlaws Rippin Through Kentucky, Color Em Gone

    Sammy Hagar I can’t drive 55 or 65, Trans Am and Boozin’ and Crusin’.

    We in auto shop never listen to Bruce. Someone destroyed a tape that made it in once and that was all she wrote.

    I would suggest checking out the Road Hammers. They love truck and car songs and are one of the best groups in Canada.

    I agree 100%, and imo Foreigner’s “Rev on the Red Line” is an underrated classic, kinda describes the shenanigans my friends and I got up to on the Raymond Street Expressway, Southside Indianapolis, late ’60s to about ’81. And hyperv6, all those GREAT old car songs, and you left out Deep Purple’s “Highway Star”!? Tsk. Garage cleanup for you, my friend.

    He goes to local shows around Rochester NY. Very nice, unassuming guy. He’ll talk to you like he’s known you forever.

    How about Them Ballad of Thunder Road from the 1958 movie Thunder Road and sung by Robert Mitchum. I loved the movie and always remember it.

    Radar Love is the first one I thought of! How about Goin Up The Country by Canned Heat, Truckin’ by Grateful Dead. And of course, all the timeless Beach Boys and Jan and Dean songs.

    Radar Love was the first song I thought of when reading the article title. I was *sure* it would be in the list. Certainly before “Drive,” by The Cars, which although a popular song when released, really isn’t about driving.

    Absolutely right on a great one hit wonder. I bought the Golden Earring album and Radar Love was the only really good song on it. But it was always on my driving list. The songs I needed to stay awake. 😋

    I went to an outdoor concert they played at when Radar Love was on the radio all the time, and they were halfway through the song before I realized that’s what they were playing. They were terrible live.

    Actually they were a two hit wonder, “when the bullet hit’s the bone” was a huge hit for Golden earring released 10yrs after the classic “Radar Love” 😉

    Another big missed road song: RESTLESS, by Alabama! “Let’s Roll the windows down, turn the radio up, let the wind blow through our hair……”

    Jackwaffles have some nerve choosing video with, “Kill the Pigs,” sign. I will contact my agent today and find another company to deal with….. I have had it if Hagerty can’t do better than that. Just plain stupid on their part. Come on Hagerty is that really how you want your company to show.

    Exactly!! Listen to the music as it builds to the finish. Just some stationary driven’ goin on here! LOL!!

    As he splits the road in two
    Underdrive we never knew
    Outrun ’em you know we can
    So put the keys in my hand

    -“Hell on Wheels” Fu Manchu

    I’m packing today for an early morning departure on a 1500 mile road trip. Going solo, so I don’t have to worry about tunes to placate any passengers – it’s all me, me, ME! You’d better believe that in addition to some tools and snacks, I’ve loaded up my very best highway playlist. If you park about 1/2 mile away down the road from my driveway at 5:00 a.m. tomorrow, I guarantee you’ll hear me coming before you see me! 😎

    DUB6 – would love to see your Playlist. As a pro truck driver spending most of my time driving I have my own but am always open to new ideas and songs.

    Ramblin’ Man…absolutely the worst, over played on pop radio, Allman Brothers song of all time!

    I have to agree. I’m an Allman Brothers fan and that is not their best traveling song. “Jessica” is a superior choice for driving and would be a great opening song for a show about cars and driving.

    You forgot BTO’s Rollin On Down The Highway, and the song that uses driving as a metaphor for life choices: Molly Hatchet’s Flirtin With Disaster.

    What, no Red Barchetta?

    In my hair
    Shifting and drifting
    Mechanical music
    Adrenaline surge

    Well weathered leather
    Metal and oil
    The scented country air
    Sunlight on chrome
    The blur of the landscape
    Every nerve aware

    Although, I will admit, Radar Love is a great driving song, too.

    Agree, the live version of Highway Star is the greatest of all time! Radar Love is second. Another great one, more obscure is, Mark Knopfler’s Border Reiver, the tale of a truck driver in the UK driving an Albion Reveir.

    Also – “Running on Empty” by Jackson Browne.

    Next contest – best chase scene songs – I nominate “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” from Bonnie and Clyde by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs

    We all wear shame for forgetting that absolute classic! I’m sure that with both of them in heaven now, the saints are puttin’ the pedal down to that one…and so many other great ones!

    +1 on Rush’s Red Barchetta. aIt is hard to think a a song that betters captures the senses and joys of driving.

    Well, it was never played on the radio, plus I just listened to less than half of it and that was more than enough.

    How about Big Log by Robert Plant?

    My love is in league with the freeway
    Its passion will rise as the cities fly by
    And the tail lights dissolve in the coming of night
    And the questions and thousands take flight

    You know, I’ll bet I heard that song on the radio for ten years before I realized the title was “Big Log,” which sounds like the song is about taking a big dump! Never saw the video, either, so I just watched it and no clue where the title came from. Love the ’55 with the weird GM two tone paint of the time, set off with a primered fender.

    I can’t believe Hot Rod Lincoln is not in the list! That’s been done by a few artists. And what about Transfusion by Nervous Norvus?!

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