Americans and their automobiles: It’s been a love story since cars became a ubiquitous feature of our country’s landscape. As vehicles evolved from a few test models in the early 1800s to autos only the wealthy enjoyed to a mode of transport pretty much anyone could acquire, we’ve had a long and storied history with this necessary partner. Necessary also includes auto insurance these days, since you cannot legally drive anywhere without it.
Without our rides, we would still be a stationary society – and we wouldn’t have this great collection of songs from all genres about the love of using our wheels to explore our country. There’s nothing like rolling the windows down and belting out the words from our favorite artists as we embark on the beloved road trip. Roger Taylor from Queen probably expressed it well in his tune “I’m in Love with My Car,” where he celebrates his Alfa Romeo and the love of automobiles in general.
Cars and Road Trips Just Go Together
There’s something about embarking on a road trip that fires up everybody’s sense of freedom. You may have a starting point and you may have a destination, but the magic happens in between. Hitting the “long and winding road” as the Beatles sang in 1970 can be done solo, with a few besties or with your family. It really doesn’t matter because the open-road adventure has defined Americans since roads and autos were introduced. And rockers from all generations have written and sang ballads about the beauty – and the nostalgia – of taking their jalopies and trucks and being on the road.
At the root of all this exhilarating exploration down America’s highways and byways is the love we have for our wheels. After all, using a horse and buggy to go from Point A to Point B wasn’t nearly as much fun as hopping in our “Little Red Corvette” as Prince sang in 1982 or our hot rod “Little G.T.O.” as Ronnie and the Daytonas rocked out in the 1960s.
And for those who love to rock, there are plenty of our best songs to choose from that celebrate the revered relationships we have with our vehicles. You may not be taping your faves from an album anymore, but taking advantage of the latest technology gives you an awesome playlist. So, without further ado, here is a list of the best rock anthems about cars for you to blast while getting your road trip on (or even just going to the grocery store)!
Let’s Start at the Beginning of Rock Songs About Cars
The first tune about an auto could be “In My Merry Oldsmobile” by Gus Edwards in 1905. However, since rock-n-roll wasn’t invented until the late 1940s and early 1950s, we’ll jump ahead to that time period to start searching for song suggestions you can download and put on your playlist before you hit the road.
Besides the list below, you’ll seriously be remiss if you miss Woody Guthrie and his 1954 ode to the new-fangled machine (and the noises it made back in the 50s) in a children’s ditty called “Riding in My Car”. You and your passengers will be literally ROFL (don’t undo the seat belts!) as you listen and learn the words. It’s such an old favorite that Bruce Springsteen – and various other artists – continue to perform (and make all of the required engine and door noises) today.
In 1949, Jackie Brenston and his band the Delta Cats released “Rocket 88”, an homage to the Oldsmobile Rocket 88, so named due to having a 135-horsepower engine (rocket) that beat every other racer on the NASCAR circuit and coming off the line between the Olds 76 and Olds 98. Jackie Brenston wrote the popular rock that featured an opening keyboard riff based on Little Richard’s famous “Good Golly, Miss Molly.”
In 1958, a little ditty called “Beep Beep (The Little Nash Rambler)” by the Playmates made it onto the charts. This celebrated what may be America’s first successful compact ride, the Nash Rambler, as well as telling a real David and Goliath story of a mismatched race between this small but mighty convertible and a Cadillac. We won’t spoil the ending, you’ll have to download it yourself!
Hey Little Cobra
Jumping ahead to 1963, the Rip Chords jumped into fleeting fame with this anthem to the hot rod of the day, the Ford/Shelby AC Cobra. The musical scene was changing from the early rock-n-roll sounds of Chuck Berry to the surfer music that illustrated the 60s. Ford’s not-so-subtle desire to overtake the Chevy Stingray in the market drives the lyrics and if you can listen without jumping up to shake, rattle and roll, well, you are more sedate than us!
Finishing up the 1950s-1960s are several truly classic rock songs that you shouldn’t miss, including:
- “Mustang Sally” by Wilson Pickett – Although defined as a rhythm and blues genre tune, Mustang Sally was beloved by rock-n-roll fans, as well. The ditty celebrated the Ford Mustang, as well as the fast girls who liked them.
- “GTO” by Ronnie and the Daytonas – Considered the first “muscle car”, the Pontiac GTO is detailed (really detailed) in this kind of whiny ditty only a true early rock fan could love.
- “Little Deuce Coupe” and a variety of other automobile songs by the Beach Boys – No doubt about it, this sun-soaked surfer boy band of the 60s really really loved their automobiles, dedicating numerous great rockers to a variety of girl and car combinations.
- “Mercedes Benz” by Janis Joplin – One of this great rockers last numbers before she passed away in 1970, Janis asks a higher power to buy her a Mercedes Benz with tongue-in-cheek.
Since rock-n-roll was introduced in the late 40s and early 50s, and the interstate highway system was launched in the mid-1950s, it’s only natural that creative musicians would start tying these new adventures together.
Moving Into More Current Rock Songs About Cars
After the 1960s, rock numbers about cars continued to flourish, even as the rock-n-roll genre moved into bigger and more grandiose productions and took paths into new genres such as rap and hip-hop. Who can forget David Bowie’s “Always Crashing in the Same Car”, an homage to both road rage and possibly Bowie’s own struggle with depression. Other famous musicians who brought cars to life for us include:
- “Cars” by Gary Numan – In America, Englishman Gary Numan introduced us to what is called “New Wave”, a heavily-electronic genre. Sadly, it was his only real hit on these shores, but it will get your blood moving.
- “In the Death Car” by Iggy Pop – Talk about putting on a production, Iggy Pop played and sang (talked?) in a genre called Punk. Known for his theatrics, there have been a few numbers about autos in his collection, including “In the Death Car” and “The Passenger”, allegedly written after many hours on the road with David Bowie.
- “Long May You Run” by Neil Young – So, Neil Young’s classic “Long May You Run” has been used over and over to cheer on various endeavors, including as a kind of ovation to the athletes who participated in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. But the song was an ode to Neil Young’s beloved Pontiac hearse, which sort of carried Young to his first kind of famous gig in Los Angeles when he and Stephen Stills formed Buffalo Springfield.
- Too many to name? by Sammy Hagar – Not much to say here. Just kidding! All classic rock aficionados know and love the Red Rocker’s guitar and it’s especially appropriate when on the road to rock out to “I Can’t Drive 55” and “Trans Am (Highway Wonderland)”, only two of the many automobile tunes Sammy Hagar has contributed to our collective ears.
- “Trampled Under Foot” by Led Zeppelin – This song, which goes into graphic automotive detail (and uses that detail to allude to some graphic, uh, other things) is a banner from the famous 70s rock band Led Zeppelin. Inspired, as were many rockers, by Wilson Pickett’s references to fast girls and fast cars, it’s also on ode to a Terraplane, which is a vehicle most of us have never heard of before.
- “Highway Star” by Deep Purple – C’mon and just admit it. You cannot listen to this heavy metal, fast-moving, pulsing song without the blood moving a little faster in your veins! It’s the perfect upbeat tune – just be careful if you listen to it while driving that you don’t get a ticket, since the pounding beat may inadvertently make you exceed the speed limit.
- “Red Barchetta” by Rush – Rush is known for drawing pictures with their ballads and people won’t be disappointed when they spend their time on a long drive listening to Geddy Lee’s high-pitched voice describing a futuristic time of no vehicles and a beautiful red hot rod hidden in a barn.
Before we come to the end of our list of best songs about cars, we would be horribly remiss if we didn’t at least mention three of the greatest: The Beatles, Willie Nelson and Bruce Springsteen.
The Beatles’ Paul McCartney and John Lennon authored “Drive My Car” – as the first song on their album Rubber Soul. George Harrison contributed to the rhythm and Ringo Starr played drums…and cowbell? The Beatles had a wide variety of tunes related to driving and vehicles throughout their playing years together, but most people can sing every word of the infamous “Drive My Car”.
Now, some folks might argue that Willie isn’t rock, but those of us who love him understand that his “On the Road Again” is the soundtrack to any memorable road trip we’ve taken – or have yet to take – even if it skirts the edge of a country song. And Bruce – a dedicated rocker who has made no secret of his love for cars. Nothing against Hondas or Subarus, but just like Bruce’s “Pink Cadillac” our love is way bigger than that!
All of these very well-known rock stars and their tunes join a list that numbers in the thousands. There are too many to jot down here. As you plan your next trip, whether it’s a long and winding one or just down the street to the grocery store, you’ll have to make your own playlist to accompany you as you get behind the wheel of your own car.
Get Affordable Auto Insurance Online to Match the Best Rock Songs about Cars
Whatever type of music you decide to put on your playlist, make sure you are car insurance legal before you hit the road. At Freeway, we can hook you up with affordable coverage to meet your lifestyle. Reach out and get a free quote online, call us at (800) 777-5620 or check us out in person by rocking up to one of our convenient locations.