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10 Best Songs about Cars and Driving.

There’s hundreds of songs about cars and driving going back to the early days of rock and roll. One of the earliest road trip songs is credited to The King Cole Trio 1946 hit (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66. It is said this song arguably inspired more road trips in the decades that followed than any other. The lyrics of course to Route 66 are simple and innocent enough but as music and songwriting evolved many of the best car songs became a metaphor for life or something else. Musicians often used car-themed songs to explore ideas about the liberation that hitting the road represented or escaping a city or small town. Even subjects like romance and sex found there way into car-themed songs. Sometimes though the best car-themed songs are life affirming or existential like Sheryl Crow’s 1996 song Everyday is a Winding Road. Even Mustang Sally never gets old with Wilson Pickett’s raspy vocals and infectious backbeat driving it along at a leisurely pace. It finds the protagonist wailing about how after he bought his girlfriend, Sally, a 1965 Ford Mustang, all she ever wants to do is drive it all over town without him. We’ll find many songs like this and others along our journey with music. Here below is my attempt to present you what I believe are the ten best songs about cars and driving.


10. “Get Outta My Dream, Get Into My Car” by Billy Ocean.

In the early 80s Billy Ocean seemingly came out of nowhere with his breakout hit Carribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run). It would be the beginning of an amazing run of fortune for the British singer. Towards the end of the decade, he hit pay dirt again with his third US No.1 Billboard hit with Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car in 1988. With its chant and sexy sax solo, it’s no wonder why it’s an 80s music fan favourite. Though it’s fair to say “Get Outta My Dreams” has a very creepy stranger vibe to begin with. Interpretations about the lyrics range from the song being about sex in cars (“Smooth operator, touch my bumper!”) to a goofy Prince Charming story about saving a Cinderella type. Either way this song about cars is pure delight. 


9. “I Drove All Night” by Cyndi Lauper.

I Drove All Night was originally written for the late great Roy Orbison. He recorded it in1987 (Orbison died in late 1988) but it wouldn’t be released until after his death in 1992. In the meantime, Cyndi Lauper fortuitously got her hands on the song in 1988 and recorded her version of it. Lauper loved the idea “of a woman driving, of a woman in control” which suited Lauper’s feminist sensibilities. The strength of the song made sure it would feature as the lead single on Lauper’s third studio album A Night to Remember (1989). The song topped the charts peaking at number six in 1989. It also earned Lauper a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. 


8. “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” by Meat Loaf.

It probably goes without saying but a lot of car songs are a constant torrent of sexual innuendoes. Paradise By The Dashboard Light is no different. Midway through the song a baseball announcer uses his play by play call as a metaphor for sex in the song. Just when we think the young protagonist is going to go all the way home, he is thrown out at the plate when his girlfriend withhold sex. The hot blooded youth is left with two choices. Either love her forever or take a cold shower (so to speak). Overcome by passion, he relents and gives in to love and promises to stay with her forever. In the end they get married despite the fact that he doesn’t really like her. At 8 1/2 minutes this rollicking theatrical song is split into four distinct section, with each part ebbing and flowing with emotion and humour.     

7. “Drive My Car” by The Beatles.R-2293610-1316276780

Drive My Car taken from The Beatles 1966 album Rubber Soul seems innocent enough. However the underlining story of a girl and her chauffeur is far from it. Here is what Paul McCartney said about it in his book The Lyrics by Paul McCartney:“I know there’s a theory that rock and roll couldn’t have existed without the guitars of Leo Fender, but it probably couldn’t have existed without Henry Ford either. I’m thinking of the relationship between the motorcar and what happens in the back seat. We know that people shagged before the motorcar, but the motorcar gave the erotic a whole new lease on life…”

Beep beep, beep beep, yeah!


6. Highway To Hell” by AC/DC.

Australia’s favourite sons of hard rock AC/DC truly exploded internationally in 1979, especially in the US with their sixth studio album Highway To Hell. It was an important time when the band experienced some great highs in terms of record sales and popularity but it was also one of their lowest points when frontman Bon Scott drank himself to death shortly after its release. The title track of the album is often lauded as one of hard rock’s all-time great songs. The specific car references are subtle, “No stop signs… speed limits… nobody gonna slow me down”, which makes reference to a section of the Canning Highway in Perth, Western Australia known as the “Highway to Hell”. The song lyrics as a whole according to Angus Young act as a metaphor for the rigours of touring and the lifestyle they led. There is arguably no better driving song which makes you want to sing out loud its anthemic chorus. 


5. “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson.

As a song about driving, On The Road Again, gives Willie Nelson a chance to sing and celebrates life as a touring musician in this deliriously uplighting 1980 hit. It was written for the romantic drama film Honeysuckle Rose, in which Nelson starred as a struggling country musician. The song’s quickened pace really makes this a toe tapper which almost anyone can enjoy. I love how Nelson can barely contain his excitement as he sings “On the road again/ Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway/ We’re the best of friends/ Insisting the world keep turning  our way/ And our way”.


4. “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones.

Rock history tells us that Start Me Up started life as a reggae song called Never Stop in 1976. Later in its development it transformed into a rock track with a new distinguishable riff played by Keith Richards but was shelved again until importantly in 1981, it morphed into the recognisable track Rolling Stone fans adore today. Its iconic riff, Bill Wyman’s thumping bass line and Jagger’s suggestive lyrics elevated this song into arguably some critics say the last great Rolling Stones song. For me personally Start Me Up was the first Rolling Stones song that made me look back at their discography with a different mindset having largely ignored them in favour of The Beatles. Moving on, it’s debatable whether Start Me Up is a car song or sex song or both. It’s probably naive to suggest Jagger was referring to a race car to get off. That said, the specific car references are subtle at best. “Spread out the oil, the gasoline/ I walk smooth, ride in a mean, mean machine.”


3. “Life Is A Highway” by Tom Cochrane.

Life is A Highway acts as a metaphor for life twists and turns in Tom Cochrane’s signature song. It’s a wonderful uplifting song that asks us to make sure we make the most of life. The song’s racing pace never lets up with Cochrane’s fast talking. The harmonica is one of the most surprising elements to the song which feels worldweary and appropriate for a road song. Overall there is a really funky feel to this song which brings a smile to my face even on my worst day.


2. “Shut Up and Drive” by Rihanna.

Rihanna was discovered in 2005 by American record producer Evan Rogers in Barbados. Her demos were sent to Def Jam recordings CEO Jay-Z. He liked Rihanna so much that she signed a six album record deal. From Pon de Replay through to her first number one single SOS, Rihanna was a breath of fresh air on our airwaves. In short she was sweet, but all that was about to change with her third album Good Girl Gone Bad. It was a game changer for Rihanna, who would take her music into a new direction. Overnight Rihanna would become a sex symbol with her single Shut Up And Drive charting her on an unstoppable course. Shut Up and Drive follows the car-song road map to a T declaring that Rihanna’s “got class like a ‘57 Cadillac/And overdrive with a whole lot of boom in the back.” The look and driving energy of Shut Up and Drive is replicated in Rihanna’s accompanying music video. It helped cement Rihanna’s transformation as a good girl gone bad.

MV5BZTRmZDE5YTQtZWZiNy00OTBkLTllYmQtN2M3N2U0NmU1NGIyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTk1NTMyNzM@._V1_1. “Little Red Corvette” by Prince.

Prince always had an aura of mystery around him. Moreover he oozed sex appeal from every pore of his body. Such was his charisma and charm that we let Prince aka Love Symbol get away with almost everything, musically speaking. That said, there really is no better way to talk about sex and disguising it as a car song than Prince’s first top ten hit Little Red Corvette. Taken from his 1982 album 1999, Prince cheekily uses the metaphor of a stylish red corvette to describe a one-night stand with a woman who likes to “Love ‘em and leave ‘em fast.” Surprising Prince’s  great sense of humour shines through here too, with lyrics like “I felt a little ill when I saw all the pictures of the jockeys that were there before me.” Tongue in cheek, Prince is telling us that he has met his match even if it’s just a song. It is said Prince broke boundaries in how he often depicted woman as equals in his songs. Moreover confronting taboo subjects like sex in his songs was something he felt was liberating even if it made the censors or radio stations cringe from time to time. On a final note, the guitar virtuoso trades his six string for a dreamy synthesiser feel which still sounds sexy and sensual as the day it was released. 

Robert Horvat is a Melbourne based blogger. He believes that the world is round and that art is one of our most important treasures. He has seen far too many classic films and believes coffee runs through his veins. As a student of history, he favours ancient and medieval history. Music pretty much rules his life and inspires his moods. Favourite artists include The Beatles, Pearl Jam, Garbage and Lana Del Rey.

13 comments on “10 Best Songs about Cars and Driving.

  1. Fun list! I would have a bunch of those on my list. You definitely mixed it up which makes it quite an entertaining listen. I would add “I Can’t Drive 55” by Sammy Hagar

  2. Lots of great songs on your list, and I wholeheartedly agree with “Little Red Corvette” in the top spot. Two other car and driving songs I love are “Drive” by The Cars and a totally different “Drive” by Incubus.

    • “Drive” by The Cars is a beautiful ballad. It’s probably my favourite The Cars song, though I do like “Good Times Roll” and “Magic” just as much. But maybe in a songwriting sense or how it tells a story, “Drive” is a knockout.

  3. I love this idea for a post Robert very cool. I think you’ve just created the ultimate road trip Playlist 🙂😀

  4. Fun list! As you said, there are so many car songs. In July 2017, I compiled a list calling it “Great Songs for the Road” (in no particular order):

    – Chuck Berry: Route 66
    – The Beach Boys: 409
    – Steppenwolf: Born to be Wild – admittedly, more of a biker song, but it also works well in the car! 🙂
    – The Doors: Roadhouse Blues
    – Deep Purple: Highway Star
    – Golden Earring: Radar Love
    – Thunderhead: Busted in Georgia
    – Jackson Browne: Running On Empty
    – AC/DC: Highway to Hell
    – Tom Cochrane: Live Is a Highway


    • Great list. I love Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty. Geez, I wish I had room to have sneaked it into my top ten. I should have given it an honourable mention. Thrilled also to see Highway To Hell on your list.

  5. Wow – what a topic, there are so many contenders here (it’s also good to see Billy Ocean appear). It’d be hard to put together such a list for me and not include either at least one Springsteen song – undoubtedly Racing in the Street – and, appropriately, Pearl Jam’s Rearviewmirror (or Gone, or Go…) Little Red Corvette would definitely be on mine too and, shooting from the top of my head, I’d also include:
    Johnny Cash – One Piece at a Time (mainly because it always makes me chuckle)
    Neil Young – Long May You Run
    Tom Petty – Driving Down to Georgia
    Chuck Berry – Maybellene
    The Cars – Drive
    Incubus – Drive
    Car – Built to Spill

    • We are kindred spirits and our love for Pearl Jam. Honestly, the first song I considered for this top ten was PJ’s “Gone” (and next “Rearviewmirror”). Something about Eddie Vedder’s lyrics gives me goosebumps, especially its premise about leaving everything behind. “For the lights of this city/ They only look good when I’m speeding/ I wanna leave ’em all behind me/ ‘Cause this time I’m gone”. There are definitely plenty of car-themed references “In the far off distance/ As my tail-lights fade” and “For the lights of this city/ They only look good when I’m speeding”, but I resisted the urge to include it. I felt my deep affection (and biased) for PJ was reason enough not to include it. Sounds absurd, right?

      • Not to mention “When the gas in my tank / feels like money in the bank”… I now wonder, given his recent vocal affinity and covering of the song, if the ‘as my tail-lights fade’ line is a very deliberate nod to the Buffalo Tom song.
        But yeah, I get what you mean about not including them – should your affinity be seen as currying favour.

  6. Some absolute belters of tunes!

  7. A good selection there. Cyndi Lauper’s cover of I Drove All Night is great, but these days I prefer Roy Orbison’s original. The way his voice soars up into the sky toward the end sends shivers up my spine.

  8. Good choices, but lots are following the line. Try “Ford Mustang” by Serge Gainsbourg. 😉

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