There’s just something cathartic about driving around. The open road, the roar of the engine, and all those thoughts that suddenly enter your mind – these are the things we all love about a long drive.
So if you’re a lover of all things automotive or if you just really like driving around, this playlist was made for you!
Tracy Chapman – Fast Car
Let’s start off this list with a classic from Tracy Chapman. Fast Car is a story about a poor working woman who wants to escape the cycle of poverty. She mentions how any place is better than where she is as well as her alcoholic father who made her quit school. She makes plans for the future like saving up, working in the city, and finally live the life she’s always wanted to live.
Car lyrics: So remember when we were driving, driving in your car
Speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped ’round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone
Jamie Cullum and Clint Eastwood – Gran Torino
This song was made for Clint Eastwood’s movie, Gran Torino. And the lyrics reflect many of the themes of the movie. It’s a song of redemption and forgiveness. It’s the lead character’s ode to his Gran Torino, which is his prized possession – the one thing that manages to make him happy despite all the atrocities he’s seen in the world.
Car lyrics: Gentle now a tender breeze blows
Whispers through the Gran Torino
Whistling another tired song
Engines hum and bitter dreams grow
A heart locked in a Gran Torino
It beats a lonely rhythm
All night long
The Beatles – Drive My Car
For all of you not in the know, this radio-friendly song is actually about sex. “Drive my car” is an old blues euphemism for sex, and that’s pretty clear in the lyrics. In the song, the woman propositions a man to be her driver because she’s on her way to being a movie star. But in the end, she admits that she doesn’t even have a car but a driver is a good start!
Car lyrics: I told that girl I can start right away
And she said, “Listen baby I got something to say
I got no car and it’s breaking my heart
But I’ve found a driver and that’s a start”
Tom Cochrane – Life is a Highway
If you want a pep talk in the form of a song, go for this track by Tom Cochrane. Life is a Highway was inspired by a trip to West Africa. He describes the trip as “mind bending and soul-sapping,” and he really needed something to lift himself up from the heavy experience. Lo and behold, Life is a Highway was made!
Car lyrics: Life is a highway
I want to ride it all night long
If you’re going my way
I want to drive it all night long
Johnny Cash – One Piece at a Time
Perhaps one of the most entertaining storytellers of all time is Johnny Cash, whose songs are packed with regaling tales of mischief and mayhem. In One Piece at a Time he tells the story of the time when he worked in a car factory putting wheels on Cadillacs. He has always wanted a car of his own so he decided to steal a part in his lunchbox every day. In the end he did get his car, but it was a Franken-car made with a bunch of mismatched parts!
Car lyrics: I got it one piece at a time
And it wouldn’t cost me a dime
You’ll know it’s me when I come through your town
I’m gonna ride around in style
I’m gonna drive everybody wild
‘Cause I’ll have the only one there is around
Drive – The Cars
What better embodiment is there than a song called Drive by a band called The Cars. Fitting as it may be, it’s still quite a melancholy song. It’s about a man talking to a woman he used to date. The woman isn’t doing so well, and the man is asking her if there’s anyone in her life that’s there for her at all.
Car lyrics: Who’s gonna pick you up
When you fall
Who’s gonna hang it up
When you call
Who’s gonna pay attention
To your dreams
Who’s gonna plug their ears
When you scream
You can’t go on
Thinking nothing’s wrong
Who’s gonna drive you home tonight
Stephen Speaks – Passenger Seat
This list is due for a love song, and here’s one that’s perfect for all of you out there who drive cars. Passenger Seat is a song from the perspective of a man driving a woman around. He’s so madly in love with her that he can barely keep his eyes on the road.
Car lyrics: And I’ve got all that I need
Right here in the passenger seat
Oh, and I can’t keep my eyes on the road
Knowing that she’s inches from me
Deftones feat. Maynard Keynes – Passenger
Of course, with songs about love and sex on our list, we can’t help but add in car sex as well. Passenger is an unabashed song about two people getting it on in the car, and in a moving one no less! The sultry way Chino Moreno sings paired with parts of the songs where he’s just panting just drives home what this song is all about.
Car lyrics: Roll these misty windows down
To catch my breath
And then go and go and go just drive me
Home and back again
Here I lay just like always
Don’t let me go
Take me to the edge
July for Kings – New Black Car
In this song, a protagonist drops by a restaurant where his old flame used to work and he gets nostalgic. He remembers the summer nights they spent together and all the things they get up to. But now they’re living in different worlds while he’s sitting at a restaurant and she’s driving her new black car. At the back of his mind, he can’t help but wonder if she feels as nostalgic about their past as he is.
Car lyrics: Are you listening to the radio
Are you driving down a city road
Are you alone in your new black car
I imagine you there
Kings of Leon – Camaro
There’s no doubting the iconic status of the Camaro, and it also says something about the person driving it. In this song, the protagonist pulls up at a red light next to a cool girl driving a Camaro. He’s momentarily smitten by her and decides to look her in the eye. But then the light goes green and they end up racing.
Car lyrics: She look so cool in her new Camaro
It’s black as coal and it goes boy, go go go
I brought my fight next to her Camaro
And when I fire on a smile then she blows, she blows
Bruce Springsteen – Pink Cadillac
Here’s another song about cars and how they relate to sex. According to Springsteen, “This is a song about the conflict between worldly tings and spiritual health, between desires of the flesh and spiritual ecstasy.” However, Pink Cadillac also follows the tradition of relating cars with sexuality in the straightforward lyric: “I love you for your pink Cadillac.” Sound innocent, but it’s actually a compliment about a woman’s privates.
Car lyrics: I love you for your pink Cadillac
Crushed velvet seats
Riding in the back
Cruising down the street
Waving to the girls
Feeling out of sight
Spending all my money
On a Saturday night
Honey I just wonder what you do there in the back
Of your pink Cadillac
Janis Joplin – Mercedes Benz
This a capella Janis Joplin song is a masterpiece that showcases her vocal prowess. Known to be staunchly against consumerism, Joplin wrote the lyrics as a rejection of consumerism by way of satire. In the song, she asks the lord to prove his love by giving her a Mercedes Benz, a color TV, and night out because she envies her rich friends who drive Porches. Ironically, Joplin owned a Porche 356C, which was parked outside of the motel room where she died of a heroin overdose.
Car lyrics: Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends
So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz
Dishwalla – Counting Blue Cars (Tell Me Your Thoughts)
Now let’s wax philosophical with this song by Dishwalla. Counting Blue Cars is about a man taking a walk with his child, who happens to be a precocious tyke. His kid asks the protagonist about his thoughts on God. In this case, the God they’re referring to is a woman, and the kid wonders how far he is from meeting her.
Car lyrics: We said, “Tell me all your thoughts on God
‘Cause I would really like to meet her
And ask her why we’re who we are
Tell me all your thoughts on God
‘Cause I am on my way to see her
So tell me am I very far, am I very far now?”
The Wallflowers – One Headlight
We may all be broken, flawed, and lost, but we can all make it through with just one headlight – this is pretty much the message of the song. According to Jakob Dylan, “I wasn’t feeling like there was much support outside the group putting together the record. In the chorus, it says, ‘C’mon try a little.’ I didn’t need everything to get through, I could still get through – meaning ‘one headlight.”
Car lyrics: Hey, come on try a little
Nothing is forever
There’s got to be something better than
In the middle
But me & Cinderella
We put it all together
We can drive it home
With one headlight
Modest Mouse – Dashboard
Oh man, if you want a hefty dose of optimism despite it all, you need more Modest Mouse in your life. This song is all about seeing the positive side of life even if things are falling apart. In this case, the singers are on a road trip where the car is breaking down and on the verge of crashing. And even if the dashboard is melting, at least they still have the radio. This could be a way of saying that even if things are going south, you can turn to music to escape for a little while.
Car lyrics: Well, it would’ve been
Could’ve been worse than you would ever know
Oh, the dashboard melted
But we still have the radio
Show your love for your car by playing some of these tracks the next time you head out for a road trip!