The 50 Essential Road Trip Songs

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The 50 Essential Road Trip Songs

Road trip season is upon us. Whether you’re driving across the country or just down the road, it’s always better to be prepared with some music to make the trip go smoothly. Scrounging through digital playlists, sifting through friends’ iTunes libraries and revisiting high school mixtapes can give you some great ideas, but the task of isolating the best driving tunes can be daunting. To ease your travel stress and make the trip just a little bit easier, here are 50 essentials that will work wonders on your next road trip. —Paste Staff

1. Bruce Springsteen, “Born to Run”
The Boss’ 1975 rock jam is the definitive road trip song. With its fist-pumping melody and Springsteen’s rough, rebellious vocals, it’s an ideal tune to throw on before speeding down the highway with that I-don’t-care attitude. If anything is going to get you pumped up for your next trip, it’s this. (Just don’t blame us when you get pulled over.) —Rachel Haas

2. Bob Dylan, “Like A Rolling Stone”
Bob Dylan’s 1965 hit is a message that anyone can become a vagabond. So, pay attention to those around you and feel some compassion for the less fortunate because some day that could be you. At one point or another, we’ll all know that feeling to be on our own, with no direction home, a complete unknown, like a rolling stone.

3. Willie Nelson, “On the Road Again”
“On the Road Again” is about a performer’s life on the road and was used as the theme song to Honeysuckle Rose, a story about an aging musician who travels with his band/family across the U.S. It’s one of the country legend’s most popular tunes and an iconic travel theme. —Rachel Haas

4. Prince, “Little Red Corvette”
Prince, we still can’t believe you’re gone, but we’re so thankful that you will live on forever through song and penned one of the greatest road trip pop tunes of all time. “Little Red Corvette” is the perfect track for those long stretches of flat farmland. You can daydream your basic coupe is a shiny sports car as you speed past fields of corn, just don’t drive too fast: Those farmland cops have nothing better to do than pull over cruising daydreamers.

5. Iggy Pop, “Passenger”
Everyone needs a little punk on a summer road trip playlist, and Iggy Pop is here to deliver. “Passenger” is said to be about the spirit of the wandering punk outcast and the lyrics are clear-cut descriptions of a nomad passenger and the cityscapes he sees from the car window. It’s stark and moody and, after sitting in a car for a couple of hours, you just want a little gruff. —Rachel Haas

6. Wilson Pickett, “Mustang Sally”
Okay, so this song is not actually about a car. The grandfathers of rock ‘n’ roll did not have the luxury of speaking (or singing, rather) freely about sex, so for some reason they decided to fetishize cars. The Beach Boys had their deuce coupes, and Wilson Pickett had his Mustang (ride Sally, ride).

7. Ray Charles, “Hit The Road Jack”
In 1961, Ray Charles released a song that would soundtrack numerous TV shows, movies and commercials for decades to come. “Hit The Road Jack” is every lady’s “I’m fed up with my man” anthem, and its catchy simplicity makes it the perfect road trip song. Just make sure it’s not the last one on your playlist, or it may stay stuck in your head forever.

8. Allman Brothers Band, “Midnight Rider”
Is there a driving montage that doesn’t use “Midnight Rider?” Maybe a few, but any car commercial or road trip film or television show scene could easily be dubbed over with this Allman Brothers Band’s Billboard Top 100 hit. It’s been covered by a multitude of artists, featured on a Geico insurance ad and has appeared on the soundtracks for films like Wild Hogs. Even if the original doesn’t make it onto your playlist—although why wouldn’t it—you should probably have at least a cover or two. —Rachel Haas

9. Talking Heads, “Road to Nowhere”
Even in the age of GPS systems, you’re bound to get lost. Sometimes you don’t update your maps, or your GPS is unaware of roadblocks, detours, etc. And then there are those frustrating “Acquiring Satellite” moments where you just drive around hoping it’ll come back. Whether lost on the road, in life or both, it’s times like these where “Road to Nowhere” is appropriate. —Rachel Haas

10. Grateful Dead, “Truckin”
This 1970 tune was penned communally by Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir and Robert Hunter, and its lackadaisical, bluesy vibe could give us all a lesson on what life’s all about—constant changes. Though the lyrics are about the band’s misfortunes on the road, lyrics like “You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel / Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down” can speak to anyone who’s having a hard time figuring out what they want.

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