A crisp autumn breeze blows against your neck to remind you that among other things summer has come and gone, school’s back in session for the boys and girls and that football season is upon us. Just because the beach may no longer be an option doesn’t mean that the great vacations are completely behind you for the year. When you’re hitting the open road to go to that remote cabin, national park or campsite you’re gonna need some solid tunes to carry you through a long drive. Here’s a list of songs classic and modern that will keep you rolling along the road until you hit your destination.
I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – The Proclaimers
This classic ‘80s hit is probably referred to by many as “I would walk 500 miles.” Written and performed by Scottish performers The Proclaimers, “I’m Gonna Be” didn’t break the top ten in the UK but has become their most recognizable song in the years since. If you’re going 500 miles on your trip however, we recommend driving over walking.
Shut Up and Dance – Walk the Moon
Here’s a more recent entry for the playlist. If you tell us that you’ve never heard this hit song before then we are just gonna have to go ahead and call you a liar. Rule of thumb when choosing songs for your playlist: know the words to the song – singing along with the song playing is one of the best parts of a road trip!
Drive My Car – The Beatles
The Beatles are arguably the most influential artists in the history of popular music, so really any of their songs is a welcome addition to your playlist. To stick with the road trip theme however, we picked the 1965 song “Drive My Car.” While not as psychedelic as some of The Beatles’ later work, “Drive My Car” is the kind of upbeat, fun song that moves the road along under your feet.
Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
Come November this song will be a year old, but it is still one of the longest-running top-10 singles in the Billboard Hot 100 Top 5. Mark Ronson’s most famous song from his album Uptown Special has a sound that takes you back to the soul music of the ‘80s. So even if you’re sick of it by now, there’s no denying how “Uptown Funk” has a unique sound that grabs your attention. Come on, you know you want that on your playlist.
Ashes to Ashes – David Bowie
“Uptown Funk” was Mark Ronson’s tribute to ‘80s music, but David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” IS ‘80s music – with inverted chords, guitar synthesizers and funky bass. Bowie revisits/reimagines his Major Tom character from 1969’s “Space Oddity” as a strung-out junkie. If symbolism and deep meaning is not your bag however, “Ashes to Ashes” can simply be an addition to your playlist for replay value alone.
Bittersweet Symphony – The Verve
If you were a teenager in the ‘90s then this song might dredge up memories of the 1999 film Cruel Intentions, as it was featured in the final scene. “Bittersweet Symphony” is The Verve’s most famous song and samples its main theme from The Rolling Stones song “The Last Time.” “Bittersweet Symphony” is one of those songs that makes you feel like your life is a movie; which is the perfect kind of track for an epic road trip with your friends.
Ramblin’ Man – The Allman Brothers Band
The Allman Brothers Band’s “Ramblin’ Man” is the type of song you can wail through your speakers and pretend that you’re a beatnik nomad running from lover to lover. The traditionally blues rock group was initially skeptical that the song was “too country” for their style. Luckily they put their hesitations aside and made a song that at one point was the #2 song on the Billboard Hot 100.
American Pie – Don McLean
Don McLean’s “American Pie” is an ode to rock & roll legends and the culture it inspired. While many have tried to discern the true meaning of the song and its lyrics, McLean once joked that “It means I don’t ever have to work again if I don’t want to.” “American Pie” is a timeless classic that has also probably been played at most weddings you’ve attended.
Mary Jane’s Last Dance – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ hit “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” is another rock classic, which like “American Pie” fans also contemplate the precise meaning of. The lyrics about escaping from a small town and letting loose are universal to Americans of all generations. I’d say that it’s the best song to play on your way to your destination – maybe not on the way back to your small town life.
Ignition (Remix) – R. Kelly
Many songs have gotten the remix treatment over the years but most remixes aren’t as memorable as the original. R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” is probably one of the few exceptions to that rule. This is just one of those songs that have stood the test of time because even if you don’t know what any of the lyrics mean, it’s a catchy tune. And catchy tunes are crucial to facilitating a successful road trip.
Life Is a Highway – Tom Cochrane
To cap off the playlist we are going to get a little cliché, because why not? Tom Cochrane’s “Life Is a Highway” isn’t full of dense meaning like a David Bowie or Beatles song, nor does it have the cultural nostalgia of “American Pie” or “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” But what it does have is a honky-tonk, self-indulgent anthem that is best enjoyed with the windows down as you roll down the highway that is life.
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