Top Ten Songs for Day-Driving and Road Trips

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Whether you’re driving during the day in the sun or in the rain, or whether you’re taking a road trip alone or with friends, the one thing that can complete your journey is a good playlist of songs. Here are ten tracks that are perfect to listen to during road trips or driving during the day (for the best night-driving songs, click here). Feel free to add your own favorites.

Number Ten: “The Way” by Fastball. “The Way” is a song by Fastball, off of their 1998 album, All the Pain Money Can Buy. The song is about an elderly married couple who leaves home and hit the road, until their vehicle breaks down and they continue their journey on foot. Supposedly the inspiration for the lyrics came from the true story of an older couple from Texas who were attending a festival but were found dead two weeks later. Despite this, the song became a hit for its generally upbeat, catchy melody. The first verse goes, “they made up their minds / and they started packing / they left before the sun came up that day / an exit to eternal summer slacking / but where were they going without ever knowing the way?” The story continues in the second verse, which goes, “they drank up the wine / and they got to talking / they now had more important things to say / and when the car broke down they started walking.” The chorus describes how, at least in the song, the couple has a happy ending: “Anyone can see the road that they walk on is paved in gold / it’s always summer, they’ll never get cold / they’ll never get hungry / they’ll never get old and grey / you can see their shadows wandering off somewhere / they won’t make it home but they really don’t care / they wanted the highway / they’re happier there today.”

Number Nine: “Life is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane. “Life is a Highway” is a song by Tom Cochrane, off of his 1992 album, Mad Mad World. The song became an international hit, and fans of The Office may remember Michael and Darryl singing it on their trip to drop Holly off. Anyway, even if you hate this song, you have to admit that it’s the perfect driving song. The song begins, “Life’s like a road that you travel on / when there’s one day here and the next day gone / sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand / sometimes you turn your back to the wind / there’s a world outside every darkened door / where blues won’t haunt you anymore / where brave are free and lovers soar / come ride with me to the distant shore / we won’t hesitate / to break down the garden hate / there’s not much time left today.” Another verse goes, “through all these cities and all these towns / it’s in my blood and it’s all around / I love you now like I loved you then / this is the road and these are the hands / from Mozambique to those Memphis nights / the Khyber Pass to Vancouver’s lights.” And of course, the infamous chorus: “Life is a highway / I wanna ride it all night long / if you’re going my way / I wanna drive it all night long.”

Number Eight: “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop. “The Passenger” is a song by Iggy Pop, off of his 1977 album, Lust for Life. Ricky Gardiner composed the track’s music, David Bowie sings on back-up during the chorus and supposedly the song was inspired by a Jim Morrison poem. The song begins, “I am the passenger and I ride and I ride / I ride through the city’s backsides / I see the stars come out of the sky / yeah, the bright and hollow sky / you know it looks so good tonight.” The song continues, “get into the car / we’ll be the passenger / we’ll ride through the city tonight / we’ll see the city’s ripped backsides…/…and all of it is yours and mine / so let’s ride and ride and ride and ride / singing la,la,la,la,la,la,la.”

Number Seven: “Rearviewmirror” by Pearl Jam. “Rearviewmirror” is a song by Pearl Jam, off of their 1993 album, Vs. Said Eddie Vedder of the song, “We start off with the music and it kinds of propels the lyrics. It made me feel like I was in a car, leaving something, a bad situation. There’s an emotion there. I remembered all the times I wanted to leave…” The lyrics are some of the band’s best, beginning with, “I took a drive today / time to emancipate / I guess it was the beatings, made me wise / but I’m not about to give thanks or apologize / I couldn’t breathe, holdin’ me down / hand on my face, pushed to the ground / enmity gauged, united with fear / forced to endure what I could not forgive.” The second verse begins, “I seem to look away / wounds in the mirror waved / it wasn’t my surface most defiled / head at your feet, fool to your crown / fist on my plate, swallowed it down.” And then the chorus: “Saw things clearer / once you were in my rearview mirror / I gather speed from you f***ing with me / once and for all I’m far away / I hardly believe, finally the shades are raised.” This is the perfect driving song, especially if you’re running away from a toxic relationship.

Number Six: “Big Empty” by Stone Temple Pilots. “Big Empty” is a song by Stone Temple Pilots, off of their 1994 album, Purple. It also appeared on the soundtrack for the film, The Crow. The song begins, “drivin’ faster in my car / falling farther from just what we are / smoke a cigarette and lie some more / these conversations kill / falling faster in my car.” The second verse goes, “too much walkin’ shoes worn thin / too much trippin’ and my soul’s worn thin / time to catch a ride / it leaves today, her name is what it means.” And then the music crescendos into the chorus: “Time to take her home / her dizzy head is conscience-laden / time to take a ride / it leaves today no conversation / time to take her home / her dizzy head is conscience-laden / time to wait too long / these conversations kill.” I feel this song is best listened to on full blast, as you’re driving by himself through the middle of nowhere.

Number Five: “Runnin’ Down a Dream” by Tom Petty. “Runnin’ Down a Dream” is a song by Tom Petty, off of his 1989 album, Full Moon Fever. The song was co-written by Mike Campbell and Jeff Lynne, and it achieved moderate chart-topping success. The reason this is a good driving or road trip song can be found within the track’s lyrics. The song begins, “it was a beautiful day, the sun beat down / I had the radio on, I was drivin’ / trees flew by, me and Del were singin’ little runaway / I was flyin’.” The second and third verses contain the following lyrics: “I felt so good like anything was possible / I hit cruise control and rubbed my eyes / the last three days the rain was unstoppable / it was always cold, no sunshine” and “I rolled on as the sky grew dark / I put the pedal down to make some time / there’s something good waitin’ down this road / I’m pickin’ up whatever’s mine.” The chorus is, “Yeah, runnin’ down a dream / that never would come to me / workin’ on a mystery / goin’ wherever it leads / runnin’ down a dream.”

Number Four: “Mexican Radio” by Wall of Voodoo. “Mexican Radio” is a song by Wall of Voodoo, off of their 1982 album, Call of the West. Quite literally the song was inspired by the band members listening to Mexican AM radio stations, while the song features guitar, harmonica, synthesizer and organ. If you’re a Seinfeldfan, you may remember the episode in which Kramer sings this song as he’s creating his “reverse peephole.” The song begins, “I feel a hot wind on my shoulder / and the touch of a world that is older / I turn the switch and check the number / I leave it on when in bed I slumber / I hear the rhythms of the music / I buy the product and never use it / I hear the talking of the DJ / can’t understand just what does he say? / I’m on a Mexican radio / I’m on a Mexican- whoah- radio.” However, my personal favorite lyric in the song is, “I wish I was in Tijuana eating barbequed iguana.” This song, and band, are extremely unique and underrated. I recommend listening to this song especially if you’re headed down to Mexico.

Number Three: “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. “Home” is a song by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, off of their 2009 album, Up from Below. The song begins, “Alabama, Arkansas / I do love my Ma and Pa / not the way that I do love you / well, holy moly me oh my / you’re the apple of my eye / girl, I’ve never loved one like you / man, oh, man, you’re my best friend / I scream it to the nothingness / there ain’t nothing that I need / well, hot and heavy pumpkin pie / chocolate candy, Jesus Christ / ain’t nothing please me more than you.” The second part of the song goes, “I’ll follow you into the park / through the jungle, through the dark / girl, I’ve never loved one like you / moats and boats and waterfalls / alleyways and payphone calls / I been everywhere with you / laugh until we think we’ll die / barefoot on a summer night / never could be sweeter than with you / and in the street’s you run afree / like it’s only you and me / geez, you’re something to see.” The chorus is simply, “Home, let me come home / home is wherever I’m with you.” This catchy indie-folk tune is perfect for love-birds taking a trip cross-country.

Number Two: “Road to Nowhere” by the Talking Heads. “Road to Nowhere” is a song by Talking Heads, off of their 1985 album, Little Creatures. Said David Byrne of the song, “I wanted to write a song that presented a resigned, even joyful look at doom…” Nonetheless, many consider this an upbeat track with the theme of being lost with no destination as a positive thing. The song opens with a choir, before breaking into the beat, with the following lyrics: “We’re on a road to nowhere / come on inside / takin’ that ride to nowhere / we’ll take that ride / I’m feeling okay this mornin’ / and you know / we’re on the road to paradise / here we go, here we go.” This is followed by, “maybe you wonder where you are / I don’t care / here is where time is on our side / take you there” and “there’s a city in my mind / come along and take that ride / and it’s all right / and it’s very far away / but it’s growing day by day / and it’s all right.” The last lines are somewhat interesting in context: “They can tell you what to do / but they’ll make a fool of you.” Whatever your take on what this song’s about, you can’t deny its infectious melody. This is a great road trip song, whether you’re driving alone or with friends.

Number One: “Road Trippin’” by Red Hot Chili Peppers. “Road Trippin’” is a song by Red Hot Chili Peppers, off of their 1999 album, Californication. This mellow, acoustic track begins with the lyrics, “Road trippin’ with my two favorite allies / fully loaded we got snacks and supplies / it’s time to leave this town / it’s time to steal away / let’s go get lost anywhere in the USA.” Other lyrics include, “in Big Sur we take some time to linger on / we three hunky dory’s got our snakefinger on / now let us drink the stars / it’s time to steal away / let’s go get lost right here in the USA.” The chorus is the following: “Blue you sit so pretty / west of the one / sparkle light with yellow icing / just a mirror for the sun / these smiling eyes are just a mirror for.” This song is obviously perfect for those taking a road trip, and it’s one of the few RHCP tracks that doesn’t feature drums.

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