From blues to country and rap to rock, we love songs about cars. These are some of our favorites.
For us, the automotive experience isn’t truly complete without our favorite tune blasting on the stereo; preferably with the top down, woofer humming, and old folks on the sidewalk shaking their fists for us to turn it down. This list compiles twenty-five of the greatest songs about cars from across the decades and across genres. Is it comprehensive, definitive, and inarguable? Absolutely. No doubt whatsoever. (Also, make sure to let us know in the comments what should’ve made the list instead of Macklemore.)
The Beach Boys’ “Fun, Fun, Fun” is the classic tale of a teenage joyride, in this case a Ford Thunderbird. But, as the Boys warn, it’s all “fun, fun, fun, til daddy takes the T-bird away.”
Ah, ‘80s new wave doesn’t get much better than the synth and driving drum machine of Gary Numan’s “Cars”. The music video features weird lighting, Gary in makeup and a red jump suit, and absolutely no actual cars … anywhere.
Most will look to Cake’s “The Distance” as the band’s preferred driving related song. Good as “The Distance” is, we prefer the country-fied B-side tune “Stick Shifts and Safety Belts” which extols the virtues of the traditional bench seat. Lyrics include: “Stick shifts and safety belts/bucket seats have all got to go/when we’re driving in the car/it makes my baby seem so far.” Certainly not safe, but romantic, nonetheless.
This classic was originally written by Mack Rice, but its best rendition was recorded by Wilson Pickett and the Wrecking Crew at Muscle Shoals.
“Before He Cheats” stands as a warning to all those two-timing men out there that heck hath no fury like a woman scorned. And specifically, a reminder that, at minimum, you’re hazarding your favorite ride to the wrath of your jilted lover.
Chuck Berry had already had an automotive related hit with “Maybellene,” but his best car song is “No Particular Place to Go” in which the singer gives a roaming ride to his girl. The romance is frustratingly cut short when he can’t get his girl’s seatbelt undone.
In “Jerry Was a Racecar Driver,” the Bay Area’s weirdest prog rockers spin the cautionary tale of Jerry the racecar driver, who drunkenly wraps his 442 (Oldsmobile 442 that is) around a telephone pole. Always have a designated driver, kids. Check out more on the 442 here.
Love or hate his stint in Van Halen, Sammy’s greatest contribution to rock ‘n roll was his hit, “I Can’t Drive 55.” For anyone who lived through a time when highway speeds were an excruciatingly slow 55 mph, I’m sure you can relate. The video (an ‘80s classic) features Sammy’s own Ferrari BB 512i. If that was our car, we’d have a hard time slowing down too.
The video for Rhianna’s “Shut Up and Drive” features the singer rolling up to an all-female chop shop in a Ferrari F430. The song is chock full of automotive metaphors with the central one being an entreaty for her man to make his move, or rather “Shut Up and Drive.”
“Fast Car” is a song of escape rather than escapism, opening with the lyric: “You gotta a fast car/I wanna take it anywhere.” Chapman’s biggest hit offers that quintessentially American hope that a better life lies down the road and just over the horizon.
The theme to Smoky and the Bandit, Jerry Reed’s “Eastbound and Down” has a driving rhythm elevated by an equally energetic banjo for a song almost as roguishly charming as Burt Reynolds himself.
Off Outkast’s sophomore album, ATLiens, “Two Dope Boyz (In a Cadillac)” threw down the rap gauntlet and proclaimed that the hottest thing in rap wasn’t happening in LA or New York.
Recorded under a pseudonym in 1951, “Rocket 88” is considered by some as the first straight rock n’ roll recording. Ike sings about the V8 and convertible top of his Rocket 88, references the Oldsmobile 88, then a hot new car seeing major success on the NASCAR circuit.
Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” is an ode to the peripatetic life of a traveling musician. And it wasn’t just a song, Nelson famously toured for decades in his custom outfitted tour bus.
West coast rap has a deep affinity for lowriders and the ’64 Impala in particular. Naturally, the car gets a shout out in Ice Cube’s laid back “It Was A Good Day.” The video features a beautiful green Impala convertible with rims and hydraulics. Lyric: “Had to stop at a red light/lookin’ in my mirror/not a jacker in sight/and everything is alright.” A good day indeed.
The itinerary alone is impressive but combined with Cash’s rapid-fire delivery, “I’ve Been Everywhere” becomes a classic road song, hitchhiking across the wide-open spaces of the America.
This tune has been covered again and again, but the best version might be the first, a rockabilly tune by Charlie Ryan that tells the tale of a street race between a Cadillac and a hotrod Lincoln. Naturally, the singer gets pulled over and arrested. He calls and asks his dad for bail, leading the concluding lyric: “Son, you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’/if you don’t get rid of that hotrod Lincoln.”
Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me” is a catchy hip-hop classic that puts automotive courtship to a danceable beat. In the music video, Nelly can be seen rolling in a t-top Pontiac Trans Am Firebird, complete with leopard-print seat covers. How’s that for inviting, ladies? For more on the Firebird, click here.
From The Beatle’s 1965 Rubber Soul, “Drive My Car” tells the story of an ambitious young woman who offers the singer a chance to be her chauffeur, or perhaps more than that. Lyric: “Baby, you can drive my car/Yes, I’m gonna be a star/baby, you can drive my car/and maybe I’ll love you.”
The Boss outdid himself with “Born to Run.” The story of two lovers seeking escape from the doldrums of a dead-end life in Jersey. Unlike the thematically similar “Fast Car” (see above), Springsteen’s song is as exhilarating as it is desperate, a driving beat to match the motor’s rpm.