Tuning Up for the Road

Rob Hochschild
May 29, 2003
Horatio Nelson Jackson drives the "Vermont" through sage during his cross-country drive in 1903.
Photo from University of Vermont, Special Collections

The right music is critical for the success of any road trip. Whether you're driving on a sunny afternoon with all the windows rolled down or speeding through darkness in the middle of the night, there's always some song that will help make your trip go smoother. This year is the centennial of the first cross-country automobile trip in the U.S., and to help mark the occasion, Berklee has released a list of the 50 all-time top driving songs.

Berklee associate professor of songwriting Jon Aldrich created the list, which spans four decades of pop music, from Chuck Berry's "Maybellene" (1955) to Bruce Springsteen's "Pink Cadillac" (1984). The release of the list of driving songs comes just months before the debut of Horatio's Drive: America's First Road Trip, a new film by Ken Burns that recreates Horatio Nelson Jackson's cross-country drive of 1903. PBS will broadcast the film this fall.

Take a cruise through Aldrich's top fifty driving songs below (the top ten, in no particular order, are in italics):

Title   Artist   Year
"409" Beach Boys 1963
"No Particular Place to Go" Chuck Berry 1964
"Born to Be Wild" Steppenwolf 1968
"Crosstown Traffic" Jimi Hendrix 1968
"American Pie" Don McLean 1972
"Born to Run" Bruce Springsteen 1975
"Paradise by the Dashboard Light" Meatloaf 1977
"Highway to Hell" AC/DC 1979
"On the Road Again" Willie Nelson 1980
"I Can't Drive 55" Sammy Hagar 1984
"Maybellene" Chuck Berry 1955
"40 Miles of Bad Road" Duane Eddy 1959
"Hit the Road, Jack" Ray Charles 1960
"Wheels" String Alongs 1961
"Stick Shift" The Duals 1961
"The Wanderer" Dion 1962
"Ramblin' Rose" Nat King Cole 1962
"Route 66" Nat King Cole 1962
"Detroit City" Bobby Bare 1962
"500 Miles" Bobby Bare 1962
"Let's Go Trippin'" Dick Dale 1962
"Little Deuce Coupe" Beach Boys 1963
"Six Days on the Road" Dave Dudley 1963
"Dead Man's Curve" Jan and Dean 1964
"Little GTO" Ronny and the Daytonas 1964
"Little Honda" The Hondells 1964
"King of the Road" Roger Miller 1965
"Mustang Sally" Wilson Pickett 1966
"America" Simon and Garfunkel 1968
"I Can See for Miles" The Who 1968
"Crossroads" Cream 1969
"Hitchin' a Ride" Vanity Fair 1970
"Roadhouse Blues" Doors 1970
"Truckin'" Grateful Dead 1970
"Goin Up Around the Bend" Creedence Clearwater Revival 1970
"Country Roads (Take Me Home)" John Denver 1971
"Take It Easy" The Eagles 1972
"Ventura Highway" America 1972
"Hot Rod Lincoln" Commander Cody 1973
"Ramblin' Man" Allman Brothers 1973
"Keep on Truckin'" Eddie Kendricks 1973
"Carefree Highway" Gordon Lightfoot 1974
"Convoy" C.W. McCall 1976
"Life in the Fast Lane" Eagles 1976
"Barracuda" Heart 1977
"Cars" Gary Numan 1979
"Drivin' My Life Away" Eddie Rabbit 1980
"Cruisin'" Smokey Robinson 1981
"Drive" Cars 1984
"Pink Cadillac" Bruce Springsteen 1984