100 Greatest Road Songs Part 2
Compiling a list of the 100 all great roads songs is both a daunting task and a relatively simple one at the same time.
Many of the songs here are no-brainers, tunes that most of us grew up with and we can happily mumble a few lines and the chorus to many by heart. Standards like Willie's 'On the Road Again', Dave Dudley's 'Six days on the Road' or Berry's classic -'Promised Land' all have a place in our collective consciousness and are instantly recognizable as indicative of the genre.
Other tunes have become semi-anthemic, such as Don Mclean's 'American Pie' which partly describes a fated plane trip while recalling times past, - and while it really doesn't have a lot to do with the road and road culture it still manages to evoke a feeling of movement and the journey of discovery. Songs like 'American Pie' are often identified with the idea of packing up and hitting the highway, regardless of the lyrical message.
The basic theme of the road song is about travel, journey and discovery, usually self-discovery and this feeling is as much generated by a particular guitar riff, drum beat or a vocal emphasis as it is about the words.
So without further ado and in no particular order -
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51. Marrakesh Express
– Crosby, Stills and Nash.
A rollicking kaleidoscope of people, colour, animals, smells and rhythms all board a 1960's Moroccan train, along with this tunes author - Graeme Nash, who describes the pure joy of travel and discovery.
52. No Particular Place To Go
– Chuck Berry.
It's a Berry standard about cars, girls and music - traditional road song fare, and with a rockabilly feel Chuck launched into this much loved shanty about a date that goes sour.
53. Silver Stallion
When these four pillars of country music formed a band there wasn't a thing they touched that didn't smell like gold and this illustrative gem is just another rhyme that inspires imagery of the road theme.
54. Sloop John B
– Beach Boys.
Sloop John B hails from Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys ground breaking album but the ditties origins hail farther back in time and record the drunken shenanigans of an actual ship in the Bahamas.
55. Carefree Highway
– Gordon Lightfoot.
Lightfoot manages to infuse a melancholy into his tunes that combines an easygoing beat with wonderful storytelling and Carefree Highway remains a great example of his work.
56. Old Man River
– Paul Robeson.
Old Man River you may ask? It covers the whole concept of the essential road trip from the emancipation from a tedious life full of backbreaking work to the longing for "rollin along"- much like a river.
57. Drift Away
– Dobie Gray.
Dobie Gray was not the original singer, that honour goes to John Henry Kurtz, however in 1973 Gray stamped his signature on the song with an easy going, bluesy take that still gets radio airtime.
58. Rockin' Down The Highway
– The Doobie Brothers.
A talented, ever changing ensemble who began their musical career as part of the biker scene and eventually settled into more main steam rock with a string of seventies hits including this one.
59. Into the Great Wide Open
(Country Roads) – Tom Petty.
GWO sees petty team up with the 'Heartbreakers' for the hit album of the same name featuring an all star video that includes Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway, Terence Trent Darby and Matt LeBlanc.
60. Lights On The Hill
– Slim Dusty.
Slim is an Australian icon who had a genuine feel for his subject matter and this tragic tune about a weary truck driver who loses his load and his life, over a cliff one rainy night, is typically 'Slim'.
It really hasn't got much in common with more stereotyped journeyman anthems but lead singer Stipe mentions cars and rides a couple of times and the meaning is motivating, powerful and authoritive.
62. Ramblin' Man
– Hank Williams.
We're referring to Hank Williams Senior, rather than Hank Williams the Third who had a hit with this as did a mountain of other people who credit ol' Hank as having an extraordinary influence on their careers.
63. Six Days On The Road
– Dave Dudley.
Dudley's deepish voice and the poetic sequence in the lyrics all combine to make one of the all-time classic trucker songs - a feast of pills, cops, white line fever and diesel.
64. Miles From Nowhere
– Cat Stevens.
'The Cat' is the only artist here who has commanded dual appearances from the same album (see song .79)
and the cult road and hippie culture movie 'Harold and Maude' attests to the power of his music.
– Keb' Mo'.
Keb' Mo' is one of those artists that can take a tune and just give it a personality all of it's own and Suitcase is no exception, with wailing blues guitar, a crying mouth harp and a time honoured story.
66. The Road Goes on Forever
– Robert Earl Keen.
Keen's musical pedigree are firmly rooted in Texan blues-country rock and he plays this tune with all the life experience of someone who has seen small town sensibilities hungry for the highway.
67. Ride Like Hell
– Big Sugar.
It's grungy, hard playing song that just sounds like automobiles and highways and has all the hallmarks of a road classic - wailing, attacking guitar, a thumping drum beat and a lyric and vocals to match.
68. Going Mobile
– The Who.
For anyone that has forgotten or never knew, The Who were as big as anyone else once and everything they touched went gold and everything they sang had a rebellious, hard case feel (for the times).
With their distinctive male/female harmonies and unique sixties, cum postmod rock, cum punk sound, the crew ramp it up for a fun and peppy rhyme with a groovy beat and feel good message.
70. Homeward Bound
– Simon & Garfunkel.
Like all of their stuff, Homeward Bound, has a clever and catchy lyric that has you mentally humming it in time while this song creates a sensation of departure in a way that only this pair can accomplish.
71. Travellin' Band
– Creedence Clearwater Revival.
John Fogerty and C.C.R. were masters at generating a cohesive, electric sound with a powerful theme and lyric and Travellin' Band is just one of a long list of songs that deserve a mention here.
72. Long May You Run
– Neil Young.
Neil Young is as good as anyone when it comes to evoking imagery of places to go and things to do and 'Long May You Run' maintains Young's fine tradition of writing songs with feeling
73. The Road's My Middle Name
– Bonnie Raitt.
For some reason road songs seem to be a mainly male domain and few women have made this list but Raitt does so with a flourish, capturing the feel of the genre perfectly.
74. Key To The Highway
– John Lee Hooker.
Hooker has one of those personas that capture the idea of life on the road exquisitely and nearly all of his catalogue has the feel, if not the lyric, of someone accustomed to moving on.
75. He 'Aint Heavy
- The Hollies.
'The road is long, with many a winding path...'
leads the viewer into a false understanding of the song (which is really about comradeship in war), however the tune delivers big time on the empathy associated with destination.
76. Surf City
– Jan and Dean.
Surf City was among the first of a string of songs dealing with 'surf culture' and helped break the ground for the onslaught of happily energetic pop tunes that followed.
77. Crossroad Blues
– Robert Johnson.
Much like John lee Hooker (featured at no.74),
Johnson related his life experience through his music and when he sang about 'standing at the crossroad - tried to flag a ride', it reeked of authenticity.
78. Midnight Rider
– The Allman Brothers.
Midnight Rider is a simple ditty with words and vocals by Gregg Allman and has become the band's signature tune with a myriad of respected artists also singing successful cover versions.
79. On the Road to Find Out
– Cat Stevens.
While 'Road' may not be the archetypal rocking road song, anything by Steven Georgiou, aka Yusuf Islam, aka Cat Stevens usually generates a toe-tapping feel-good sensation that drives as well as it plays.
80. Me And You And A Dog Named Boo
Lobo made a flying start to their career with this debut single about "Travellin' and livin' off the land", with a beat up car, a girlfriend, a loyal dog and a disposition for stealing chicken eggs.
81. Cowboy Junkies
– 200 More Miles.
'Atlanta's a distant memory - Montgomery a recent birth'
sings this talented Canadian foursome, not your run of the mill band and this is not your run of the mill highway tune.
– WC McCall.
A 1975 song that three years later became a Peckinpah film of the same name, Convoy tells a tale of trucker resistance against highway police and ties it together with chest thumping exuberance and CB radio jargon.
83. Road Trippin
– Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Road Trippin' is one of the least known of the 'Chili Peppers' tunes and strays from their usual formula by being an entirely acoustic track without drums and tells the story of the band on a road trip.
84. Roll Me Away
– Bob Seger.
Seger is another one of those artists whose whole singing and song writing persona seems to exude a lifetime's understanding of the highway and how to make it sound romantic.
85. Runnin’ Down a Dream
– Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
Petty's first solo album contained this gem which has grown in popularity over time and features a road song within a road song, as Petty drives with Del Shannon's 'Runaway' playing on the radio.
86. Walk on the Wild Side
– Lou Reed.
David Bowie produced Reed's second album, Transformer, that contained his most well known work, this hit about the journeys and adventures of a group of trans-gender, transsexual, Warhol protégés arriving in New York.
87. Proud Mary
– Ike & Tina Turner.
It's another river song, but the concept of 'rollin' on a river is no different to 'rolling' along a highway or 'leaving on a jet plane' and this rocking paddle steamer chant, penned by Creedence tunesmith, John Fogerty, is timeless.
88. Drivin’ My Life Away
– Eddie Rabbit.
Always Mr Smooth, here Rabbit, tells the tale of a Roadie for a touring band and the drudgery of the endless haul, but an engaging chorus and toe tapping rhythm save this ditty from self-pity and melancholy.
89. North on 95
– Shawn Mullins.
With references to Jack Kerouac (the 1960's author who epitomised life on the road), Mullins reaches for his best soulful, 'older than his years' voice and sings about lost love and lost inspiration.
90. Taking the Long Way
– Dixie Chicks.
Rolling Stone Magazine called this song 'a heart-tugging guitar anthem for small town girls with big dreams' and while it may be a little sugar coated, it is nevertheless, performed with gusto and talent.
91. Wichita Lineman
– Glen Campbell.
Written by Jimmy Webb (who features here at no.97 with 'Phoenix'),
Wichita Lineman tells the story of a life of loneliness on the road and on the pole and the longings of a long distance electric linesman.
92. North To Alaska
- Johnny Horton.
Horton was the master of 'big songs' with 'big themes' and North was no different, starting out with an infectious, marching chant and the promise of a journey filled with adventure and riches in the wilds of Alaska.
– Frankie Laine.
It's a rollickin', whipcracking', dust snortin' get-up-and-go demand designed to move the most stubborn of bulls or the most languid of people and it is as much about movement and motivation as it is about herds of cattle.
Another song penned by Jimmy Webb (3 in total here) and sung by this supergroup consisting of Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.
95. Take The Money And Run
– Steve Miller Band.
The Steve Miller Band were another group who could take a piece of music and inject instruments and notes with the ring of the highway and the prospect of a voyage.
96. Ramble On
– Led Zeppelin.
'Zep' recount the tale of Tolkien's 'Lord Of The Rings' (long before the story became fashionable)
and makes mention of a journey with 'Mordor', 'Gollum' and 'Frodo Baggins'
97. By The Time I Get To Phoenix
– Jimmy Webb.
It has the same sort of lonely, longing feel that is attached to Wichita Lineman, which Webb wrote (song .91) and like so many more hits that this talented songwriter composed for other people.
98. Gypsys, Tramps And Thieves
The other half of Sonny, Cher broke out in her first solo attempt with this gem about a group of wandering minstrel types, living and working a nomadic life with all the passion and drama Cher can muster.
99. East Bound and Down
– Jerry Reed.
The talented Mr Reed starred alongside friend Burt Reynolds and wrote and sang this trucking tune which became the theme for the film 'Smokey and the Bandit' which still evokes images of big rigs and big highways.
– Desmond Decker and The Aces.
It could be argued that the 'Israelites' has no place on this list but it is such a damn fine song it should be included on every list - and since no one knows what it's about anyway, we are making it number 100.
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