Songs for the Road

Favorite songs for road trips

Update July 10, 2013: Suzanne Fluhr of Boomeresque is hosting a blog carnival with a theme of “Travel Down Memory Lane”. I’m posting this musical journey down the road as my contribution. Hope you’ll enjoy the memories and the tunes. Then be sure to check out Suzanne’s site to find links to other great stories in Travel Down Memory Lane.

When my friend, Daniel Jones of the The World of Deej, tagged me to share my favorite road trip songs, I gratefully accepted, but was at a loss as to where I should start. Whether it’s jazz, rock, R&B, classical or world, music conjures up memories and is part of new ones being created. The songs that make up my travel soundtrack are influenced by so many factors: people, moods, events, domestic or foreign travel, cities or rural areas, business or leisure. The possibilities are endless!

Check out those bell bottoms

Here are few of my favorite road trip songs

So I finally decided to keep it simple. In my soundtrack, I’ve focused on going back to the time of first love, first heartbreak, first job, and those first road trips with me behind the wheel, instead of my dad. Everything was a first back then.


Nostalgia Zone Ahead! Here are some of the songs that always take me back to those times and other trips over the years. For me, they hit just the right notes for road trips even today.

Buckle up, open the windows, turn the volume on high and follow the highway signs as we take a musical road trip in my Chevy Laguna. Hey, it was a cool car at the time.


A Horse With No Name by America is one of my all-time favorite songs for many reasons. But it’s especially great for road trips through the deserts of the western United States. In fact, a post I did last year about a solo road trip through the desert featured this song as its soundtrack. Check it out here: The Heat Was Hot: My Desert Road Trip.

“The first thing I met, was a fly with a buzz,
And the sky, with no clouds.
The heat was hot, and the ground was dry,
But the air was full of sound.”

Lyrics don’t get better than that!


Just about anything by Marvin Gaye fits big city trips, but What’s Going On is always right on.


City of New Orleans by Arlo Guthrie really isn’t a favorite song of mine, but it brings back vivid memories of driving through Nevada, Arizona and Utah a long time ago. It seems like it was always playing. Whenever this song comes on the radio, I listen and remember.


Who the heck is Gino Vannelli? I saw this guy perform in many venues in Chicago from small clubs to big auditoriums. I’m pretty sure that I was instrumental in launching his career. I was on a road trip with my sister when I first heard People Gotta Move as we headed into Los Angeles. It’s reminded me of L.A. freeway driving ever since.


Oh man. Paul McCartney singing The Long and Winding Road can create very intense feelings whether I’m on a busy highway, lonesome road or a city street. I can always imagine another time when I was driving that or a similar route on my way to see someone — someone special.


I have a hard time keeping within the speed limit when I hear Light My Fire by The Doors. It’s great for road trips anywhere, but proceed with caution!

I hope you enjoyed this road trip back in time. Now back to the 21st century!

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45 thoughts on “Songs for the Road

  1. Steve

    When I saw Gino Vannelli on the list, I was sure we were going to hear a snippet of “Black Cars”. I’m going to have to go back and listen to People Gotta Move as I now feel totally out of the loop.

    1. Cathy Post author

      I’m pleased that someone actually knew about Gino Vannelli. Of course, he is a fellow Canadian. Black Cars was a few years beyond the time I was regularly following him. 🙂

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks, Mary. The bell bottom pic was taken in Phoenix while visiting family on a road trip from Chicago with my sister.

  2. Erik

    I love this list!

    You’re right about “A Horse with No Name”. I can’t help but think of a long, exhausting (yet exciting) journey when I think of it.

    Thanks for tagging me- I have unique tastes in music so I’m sure I’ll have some head-scratchers for most people 🙂

  3. Renee King

    This was fantastic, Cathy…..and I had to grin at your outfit….looks very familiar….I had similar tastes! I love your selections and I can’t wait to get started on mine…thanks for the tag my friend!

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks, Renee — looking forward to hearing your soundtrack. Actually, I kind of dress that way now sometimes. 🙂

  4. Charles McCool

    Excellent. I drove through the Mojave last year and posted a picture of the “No service for 100 miles.” sign. Don’t remember exactly what I played for that drive, however.

    My listening habits vary. I like classic rock, BPM, zydeco, opera, pop, disco, dance/techno, rap, r&b, soul, and so on. I like to say I like everything except country, but I like Johnny Cash and Jimmy Buffett.

    What’s Going On?, the album, is one of my most frequently played CDs. I never, ever skip a track. Probably my all-time favorite album.

  5. Jools Stone

    That’s really funny, I was literally just reading about this song ‘City of New Orleans and wondering if I knew it! The song doesn’t sound all that familiar to me, and is not really my thing musically either, but I do like the lyrics and sentiment as you might expect!

    1. Cathy Post author

      I was thinking that might be an appropriate tune for you — even though it’s not your style. City of New Orleans was really popular back then.

  6. Leigh

    Love the bellbottom photo! Now you’ve got me thinking. Supertramp figures prominently but I’ll have to put some thought into this post. Thanks for tagging me Cathy!

      1. Alison at Diamond-Cut Life

        Supertramp! In the summer of ’78 I had the most memorable make-out session of my life to Supertramp’s Crimes of the Century album. It went on for five hours.

        The young man and I went our separate ways. Then in 2011 when my mother died he sent me a condolence card. We’re each happily married but we’ve become close friends via email. We still joke about the power of Supertramp’s music.

        Thanks for the good post. Boomers really resonate to each others’ memories.

  7. Leah Travels

    Hey..small world. I’m glad Deej tagged you. I’m the one who initially started this. I love the old-school photos and the classic music.

  8. Charu

    I love the Beatles and “The Long & Winding Road”! Also love U2’s But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…great other selections, adding to playlist!

  9. Jeremy Branham

    I love the trip down memory lane. It’s amazing the power music can have in our lives and how it attaches to our lives and experiences. We grew up in different generations so I don’t have any attachment to any of these songs. However, “What’s Going On” is a powerful, awesome song and loved listening to this one again!

  10. Pingback: My Travel Soundtrack - On My Feet or In My Mind | On My Feet or In My Mind

  11. Marcia

    Thanks for taking me back, Cathy.
    Whenever I hear Light My Fire, I remember the first production I worked on as assistant stage manager and having to move sets for every performance. It was fun times but boy, those sets were a pain!

  12. Mike

    I came to this from the Trip Down Memory Lane post by Boomeresque. This was a great post and America’s ‘Horse With No Name’ is one of my alltime favorite nostalgia songs! Thank you 🙂

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