An avid music fan all her life, Donna enjoys sharing her love of indie rock singers and songwriters with other music fans.
Recently, one of my favorite radio stations, WYEP in Pittsburgh, asked its listeners to submit their list of the 20 best road trip songs. The radio station was compiling a countdown of the top 500 songs for summer.
This task got me searching through my memory and my CDs to put together my top 20 list. To select my choices, I came up with three categories that each song had to fit.
My Song Criteria
- Mention traveling, driving, escape, or the open road
- Fill you with energy and make you feel like you could let loose and drive forever
- Be a song that everyone knows and loves to sing along with, adding fun and entertainment to any long drive
Triple-A Radio Station
WYEP is a Triple-A radio station, and most of my choices fit that format. I wanted to choose some songs that everyone knows and will agree with, and then have some unexpected additions. My songs are not in any particular order, and if I were to do it again, I might make some substitutions or different choices. But I'm happy with my list as is, and I hope you enjoy the selections.
What Is Triple-A Format Radio?
"Triple-A" refers to adult album alternative, a radio format that is targeted towards adult listeners, as opposed to teenagers, and offers a mix of indie rock, alternative rock, folk, jazz, blues, and alt-country. According to Wikipedia, some of the musical acts that are commonly played on Triple-A radio include U2, Ryan Adams, Coldplay, Patty Griffin, and many others.
1. "Where the Streets Have No Name" by U2
An obvious choice—it seems like everyone loves this song, and everyone loves U2. The ultimate song about the open road and the search for personal freedom, I had to include it on my list.
2. "Her Own Kinda Woman" by Big Head Todd and the Monsters
Big Head Todd might not be a household name, but they have some great songs. "Her Own Kinda Woman" is a classic blues/rock song with a classic theme—don't try to change your lover or she'll "spread her wings and she'll fly."
3. "Hollywood Nights" by Bob Seger
I'm not sure that Bog Seger fits the Triple-A format, but this is definitely a true road trip song. Bob Seger's music seems to be synonymous with the open road, and he is a great (and often underrated) songwriter. This song will definitely keep you energized while driving.
4. "Doo Wop (That Thing)" by Lauryn Hill
This song is a wonderful blend of contemporary rock and soul that mixes in a generous dose of classic doo-wop. A fun song to sing along with, it always reminds me of summer.
5. "Let It Ride" by Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams is a great songwriter, and his songs often conjure up the image of dusty back roads and lonely meanderings, looking for hope and love—or at least a warm place to rest your head.
This version is from one of Ryan's many appearances on the David Letterman Show.
6. "Fisherman's Blues" by the Waterboys
This song might not be about the road, but it mentions the sea, and trains, and longing to be somewhere else. With Irish fiddle and Mike Scot's honest voice, this song has kept me company on many, many trips.
7. "Little Red Corvette" by Prince
I love Prince and I had it get him on this list. He has written so many great songs, but this is the one that got him widespread radio airplay, and it's the most obvious choice that fits my criteria. If you're riding in a red corvette, how can you not love it?
8. "Memory Motel" by the Rolling Stones
Mick Jagger has always struck me as a guy who has a replacement girlfriend picked out even before his current girl knows she's done. But in this song, he sounds genuinely heartbroken, and "10,000 miles" and 15 states can't help him forget his Hannah.
9. "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" by Lucinda Williams
This is, in my opinion, possibly the best song ever written. It tells the complex story of a mysterious road trip from a child's point of view (I think). Eerie and beautiful and mixed with a funky, jangling guitar, Lucinda Williams shows why she is an alt-country favorite.
10. "Beautiful Day" by U2
The lyrics of this song are a beautiful collage of travel images. Just roll down the windows, turn up this song, sit back, and enjoy the ride.
11. "Gravel" by Ani Difranco
Possibly my favorite Ani Difranco song, it tells the story of a motorcycle trip from the perspective of the girl on the back of the bike. As the lyrics go, "All I need is my leather, a t-shirt, and two socks. I'll keep my hands warm in your pockets. You can use the engine block."
12. "Young Americans" by David Bowie
I'm not really sure why this song is on my list, but so many of my high school years were spent listening to David Bowie. My friends and I knew all his songs, and they were part of the soundtrack of my life at the age. This song brings back memories of riding around with my friends, singing along with the radio, and looking for something to do.
13. "The Passenger" by Siouxsie and the Banshees
Originally recorded by Iggy Pop, this song might be another obvious choice. The opening lyrics say it all, "I am the passenger, and I ride, and I ride."
I love the cover of this song by Souxsie and the Banshees. I think Souxsie's voice and the horns add some high energy and fun that make this a great road trip song.
14. "Cashbox" by Big Head Todd and the Monsters
Another power blues/rock song from Big Head Todd and the Monsters. It keeps you going, feeling great, and makes the miles feel like minutes.
15. "Chin Up, Cheer Up" by Ryan Adams
Perhaps one of Ryan Adams lesser-known songs, it's a fun little ditty that everyone will want to sing along with.
16. "Slide" by Ani DiFranco
Ani DiFranco is such a talented songwriter and musician, I had to include more than one of her songs. Here, the mode of travel is a bicycle, and the protagonist is trying to escape her feelings with a ride in the rain. As the lyrics go, "The pouring rain is no place for a bicycle ride. You hit the brakes and you slide, slide, slide."
17. "Glory Bound" by Martin Sexton
I'm never really sure what this song is about, but there's mention of freedom, "taking a chance on the wind" and living in a VW bus—enough to make my list. Martin Sexton's voice makes it all work, and he performs his songs with such power and passion, I could listen to this song over and over again.
18. "Burning House of Love" by X
Rockabilly meets stalking in this song of love gone wrong. "I think I might take a ride and burn your love house down." That pretty much says it all.
19. "Caravan" by Van Morrison
I only have a vague understanding of what's going on in this song: it seems there's some type of party, and the radio is playing. But Van Morrison has the most amazing voice, and when this song is playing, I wish I was at this party.
20. "Dancing in the Streets" by Martha and the Vandellas
"Classic" songs are sometimes thought of as being out-of-date and old-fashioned. But a great song is always a great song, and that's what makes it a classic. This song is a true celebration of summer and feeling good. How can you not join in and sing along?
The Top 500 List
In early May, WYEP compiled the submissions and played the Top 500 Road Songs as chosen by their listeners. As you can see from the complete list, only nine of my choices made it on to the Top 500 (10 if you count Iggy Pop's version of The Passenger). I'm a little surprised at the final list. A lot of these songs would not fit into the Triple-A format, but then there are some wonderful songs on the list that I wish I had included on mine.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on October 22, 2017:
Thanks, Tony! Glad to introduce you to some new tunes for your road trips. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
Tony Mead from Yorkshire on October 22, 2017:
Nice selection, we all have our own favourites. There are a few on your list I'm not familiar with, soI'll look them up.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on September 12, 2013:
Hi btrbell! I agree - no great road trip is complete without some Bob Marley songs, and it would be hard to choose just one to put on the list :) There are some many great songs and artists that shoulda/coulda/woulda been put on the list. Thanks for stopping by, commenting, and pinning! I appreciate your suggestions!
Randi Benlulu from Mesa, AZ on September 11, 2013:
Interesting list. I have to admit to not being familiar with all of them but that makes me curious to go and listen. My daughter and I would have to add a little Cat Stevens and Bob Marley to the list, just to rock out to! Thank you for this list. I will check them all out! Up+ and pinned!
Donna Herron (author) from USA on September 11, 2013:
Thanks, Spartucusjones! That's exactly what I set out to do :) Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for your comments!!
CJ Baker from Parts Unknown on September 10, 2013:
Great list of driving tunes! I love the mix of predictable and curveballs, it made for a well balance list and for an enjoyable read.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on July 22, 2013:
Hi LeslieOutlaw - I'm so glad that you enjoyed this hub. Thanks for reading and commenting!
Leslie from South Carolina on July 21, 2013:
Great tunes for the road. You brought back some memories at the mention of a few of these hits. I enjoyed reading the hub :)
Donna Herron (author) from USA on July 11, 2013:
Sounds like a great concert! You were lucky to see Big Head Todd on their "home turf" at Red Rocks. I'm jealous :)
theframjak from East Coast on July 11, 2013:
I saw BHTM at Red Rocks back in '06. Todd was on fire that night. The weather was awesome. Best show ever!
Donna Herron (author) from USA on July 10, 2013:
Hi theframjak - Big Head Todd has a lot of great songs! Glad to meet another fan :) Thanks for commenting!
theframjak from East Coast on July 10, 2013:
Glad to see Big Head Todd & the Monsters made the list. My favorite part of "Cashbox" is when Todd goes "huuuughhhh" at the end of the song.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on July 07, 2013:
Thanks, FlourishAnyway! I hope you have a great summer!!
FlourishAnyway from USA on July 07, 2013:
Great list of music, purl3agony, and perfect timing!
Donna Herron (author) from USA on June 26, 2013:
Hi djt5036 - Glad to give you some new suggestions for road trip songs! Hope you have a wonderful trip! Thanks for adding your comments.
Daniel J. Taylor from Eddystone, PA on June 26, 2013:
Your picks are different from some of mine, but at the very least I have some new tunes to consider for my upcoming trip to the Grand Canyon!
Donna Herron (author) from USA on May 07, 2013:
Hi Tony - I agree that everyone would have their own favorites. I think that's why it's fun to share. Everyone I talk to comes up with another great suggestion that I wish I had included :) Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate it.
Tony Mead from Yorkshire on May 07, 2013:
I enjoyed your selection, of course I think most people have their own; I like anything by ZZTop or meatloaf, apart from summer when I enjoy any Puccini opera.
Donna Herron (author) from USA on May 06, 2013:
"Roam" is another great choice - I wish I had thought of that song ! Once I finished my list, I could think of a dozen other songs that I could have put on it :) I'll have to check out the Brazilian version of "The Passenger". Thanks for you comments!!
John C Thomas from Chicago, Illinois, USA on May 05, 2013:
"Roam" by The B-52s and Cracker's "Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now) are two that might be on my list.... I like that "The Passenger" is on your list-- I have three versions of that song on my iPod, including one by a Brazilian band in Portuguese!
Donna Herron (author) from USA on May 02, 2013:
Hi theframjak - I'm glad you like this list and hope you enjoy listening to WYEP. They stream their station online and even have a mobile phone app. Thanks, as always, for stopping by!!
Donna Herron (author) from USA on May 02, 2013:
Hi kidscrafts - Thanks for your comments! My husband and I don't always agree on music either, and we've sent in separate lists to WYEP for this countdown. The radio station will start playing to top 500 songs on May 2 and will post the list as they countdown at www.wyep.org. Meanwhile, back to knitting :)
theframjak from East Coast on May 02, 2013:
Marvelous list purl3agony. It's a good mix of classics and lesser known songs. I'll have to give WYEP a listen.
kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on May 01, 2013:
Great list of music Purl3agony. It's funny because at the beginning I was always expecting hubs about knitting or other art projects and you are developping other subjects! Good for you!
There are some names in your list that I am not familiar with. My husband and I don't always like the same kind of music so when we travel on long trip... the one who drives can choose the music :-)
I like "Dancing in the Streets - Martha and the Vandellas" a lot!
Thank you for sharing your top 20!
Did you send your list to the WYEP in Pittsburgh radio stations?
Enjoy the rest of the week!