Chicago Sun-Times

Transportation songs

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Songs about riding in cars, trains, boats and planes fill the airwaves. Here's a sample of some that you'll find online: :


1. Chuck Berry, “Maybelline”
2. The Beach Boys, “Fun, Fun, Fun”
3. Kraftwerk, “Autobahn”
4. The Beatles, “Drive My Car”
5. Ministry, “Jesus Built My Hotrod”
6. Gary Numan, “Cars”
7. War, “Low Rider”
8. Golden Earring, “Radar Love”
9. The Clash, “Brand New Cadillac”
10. Prince, “Little Red Corvette”

1. The Byrds, “Eight Miles High”
2. The Beatles, “Flying”
3. Neil Young, “Flying on the Ground (Is Wrong)
4. Tom Petty, “Learning to Fly”
5. The Kinks, “Wish I Could Fly Like Superman”

1. The Beach Boys, “Sloop John B”
2. Frankie Ford, “Sea Cruise”
3. Crosby, Stills & Nash, “Wooden Ships”
4. Lyle Lovett, “If I Had a Boat”
5. Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

1. Johnny Cash, “Folsom Prison Blues”
2. Robyn Hitchcock, “I Often Dream of Trains”
3. The Grateful Dead, “Casey Jones”
4. R.E.M., “Driver 8”
5. Kraftwerk, “Trans Europe Express”


“Wabash Cannonball,” credited to J.A. Roff
“City of New Orleans,” Steve Goodman
“Take the ‘A’ Train,” Duke Ellington
“Mystery Train,” Elvis Presley
“Peace Train,” Cat Stevens

“Open All Night,” Bruce Springsteen
“Highway 61 Revisited” Bob Dylan
“Lake Shore Drive,” Aliotta, Haynes & Jeremiah
“On the Road Again,” Willie Nelson
“Expressway (To Your Heart),” Soul Survivors
“Vehicle,” Ides of March

“We Sail the Ocean Blue,” Gilbert & Sullivan
“Low Bridge (Erie Canal),” Thomas Allen
“The Sinking of the Reuben James,” Woody Guthrie

“Jet Airliner,” Steve Miller Band
“Leavin’ on a Jet Plane,” Peter, Paul & Mary
“3/5ths of a Mile in 10 seconds,” Jefferson Airplane

“Six Days on the Road,” Carl Montgomery and Earl Green
“Truck Driving Man,” Terry Fell
“White Line Fever,” Merle Haggard
“I’ve Been Everywhere,” Hank Snow

“Bike,” Pink Floyd
“Daisy Bell,” Harry Dacre (famously sung by Hal in “2001: A Space Odyssey”)
“Bicycle Race,” Queen
“Leader of the Pack,” Shangri Las
“Ballad of Easy Rider,” The Byrds
“Vincent Black Lightning 1952,” Richard Thompson
“Born to be Wild,” Steppenwolf

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Don't mean to hog the blog, there's another Shindell song worth a listen, "Che Guevara T-shirt", about a cruise ship stowaway caught up, presumably, in the Patriot Act.

If I assembled a collection of road songs, I would certainly include The Who's "Goin' Mobile". When I hear it on the radio, even when hard at work, it never fails to elate me with its promise of motion and freedom.

Songs about travelling, roads, vehicles, etc.:

Deep Purple: "Highway Star"
Bobby Troup: "Route 66" (covered by the Rolling Stones, among others)
Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra: "Theme from Route 66" (TV show theme; not to be confused with above)
John Lee Hooker: "Hobo Blues"
Big Bill Broonzy: "Key To The Highway" (covered by John Lee Hooker, Eric Clapton, Ledbelly, and others too numerous to mention)
David Bowie: "She'll Drive the Big Car"
Tomorrow: "My White Bicycle" ('60s British psychedelic-era band, best known for being guitarist Steve Howe's gig prior to his joining Yes)
Mark Bolan/T. Rex: "Bang a Gong/Get It On" ("you're built like a car, you've got a hubcap diamondstar halo"); "Jeepster"
Leo Kottke: "Busted Bicycle Wheel"
The song "Convoy" (I forget the artist, but this '70s hit made CB radios a must-have fad for a brief time, and the song also mentions the Illinois National Guard)
Buffalo Springfield (actually just Neil Young, but credited to the whole band): "Expecting to Fly"
Aerosmith and others too numerous to mention: "Train Kept Runnin'"
Bruce Springsteen: "Thunder Road"; "Pink Cadillac"; "Born to Run"; "Cadillac Ranch"
Grateful Dead: "Truckin'" (with one of the most famous lyrics in rock history: "what a long strange trip it's been"); "New Speedway Boogie"
Commander Cody/Lost Planet Airmen: "Hotrod Lincoln"
Simon and Garfunkel: "America" (about the most depressing cross-country bus trip imaginable; the protagonists are in the midst of a slow breakup as they "count[] the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike"; also covered by Yes)
Wilson Pickett: "Mustang Sally"
Jan and Dean: "Dead Man's Curve"
Beach Boys: "409"
The Who: "Magic Bus"
Bob Seger: "Turn the Page" (also covered by Metallica)
Jackson Browne: "Runnin' On Empty"
Beatles: "Why Don't We Do It In the Road" (pretty much just Paul McCartney, but credited to the whole band); "Back in the U.S.S.R."
Arcade Fire: "Keep the Car Running"
Doors: "Roadhouse Blues"; "L.A. Woman"
Robert Johnson: "Crossroads Blues" (covered famously by Cream but also by others); "Love In Vain" (covered by the Rolling Stones)
Rolling Stones: "No Expectations"
Allman Brothers Band: "Ramblin' Man"
Creedence Clearwater Revival: "Proud Mary" (covered famously by Ike and Tina Turner)
Doors: "The Crystal Ship"
Steve Miller Band: "Mercury"; "Jet Airliner"
Peter, Paul, and Mary: "Leavin' On a Jet Plane"
Blues Image: "Ride Captain Ride"
Beach Boys: "Little Deuce Coupe"

Did you know one of Chicago's blues greats, the late lamented Junior Wells, also covered "Mystery Train"?

You should have included a category for songs about space travel:

Deep Purple: "Space Truckin'"
The Byrds: "5D"; "Mr. Spaceman"
The Moody Blues: virtually their entire post-1965 cata logue, but especially "Best Way to Travel" (inspired, to use DeRogatis's term, by other kinds of "tripping")
David Bowie: "Space Oddity"; "Starman"
Jimi Hendrix/Jimi Hendrix Experience: "EXP/Up From the Skies" (also "Highway Chile" and "Crosstown Traffic", but those are in the non-space travel categories)
Beatles: "Across the Universe" (pretty much just John Lennon, but credited to the whole band)
Rolling Stones: "2000 Light Years From Home"

There are others too numerous to mention.

Sincerely, Mac Brachman

Several alert readers have written in suggesting "Convoy" by C.W. McCall and "Route 66" (esp. the Nat King Cole version). Keep the suggestions coming -- this is fun.

great columns today! i'm ready for a road trip! a few more for the list:

1. "Sober Driver" - Dengue Fever (who i saw friday at Empty Bottle with Rich Harris) i also saw the Iguanas with Rich sunday at Roots Fest; they did "Benny's Cadillac".

2. "Fast Cars" - Buzzcocks ("sooner or later...we gotta listen to Ralph Nader...")

3. "Rt. 66" - my favorite cover is the haunting version by the Cramps

4. "Warm Leatherette" - The Normal (drive safely, or you'll end up like this!)

5. "Tobacco Road" - many versions

6. "Gimme the Car" - Violent Femmes

7. "Crosstown Traffic" - Hendrix

8. "Jumping Someone Else's Train" - Cure

9. "Crossroads" - blues classic, covered by Cream'

10. "53rd & 3rd" - Ramones

11. "Cellphone yakkers on CTA are Morons" - (oops, i only imagined that one!)

Ms. Wisniewski:

Here are some songs to add to the list:

1. Aretha Franklin "Call me"
2. Aretha Franklin "Freeway of Love"
3.O'Jays "Love Train"
4. Issac Hayes "By the time I get to Phoenix"
5. Dionne Warwick "Trains and Boats and Planes"
6. Gladys Knight "Midnight Train to Georgia"
7. "Michael Row The Boat Ashore"
8. Eddie Kendricks "Keep on Truckin"
9. Oleta Adams "Get here"
10Ray Charles "Hit the Road Jack"
11. Marvin Gaye "Hitch Hike"
"People Get Ready by Curtis Mayfield.

From the world of folk, got a GREAT car song by David Wilcox, "Rusty Old American Dream", and a well done story song by Richard Shindell, "Transit". A fine car AND train song is "Sleeper On A Westbound Train", by Terence Martin.

Trampled Underfoot - Led Zeppelin (using automobile parts as metaphors for, let's say, physical love)

Train Train - Blackfoot (chugs along like a choo choo)

Learning to Fly - Pink Floyd (unlike Tom Petty's song of the same title, this song ACTUALLY IS about the vocalist learning to fly an airplane, including cockpit-to-control-tower communications sound effects)

Southern Cross - Crosby Stills Nash (more about sailing than their "Wooden Ships")

Convoy - C.W. McCall (the famous CB radio song about truck drivers)

Bad Motor Scooter - Montrose (okay, a scooter isn't exactly a motorcycle, but the song has some excellent motorcycle sounds via guitar)

New Sensations - Lou Reed (diary of a motorcycle trip)

I was surprised that "ROUTE 66" was not listed in the 07/14/08 article titled "A moving tribute to song". It is probably one of the best known "car songs" of all time. It was also used as the theme song for the TV series of the same name.

Also, what happened to "Chattanooga Choo Choo"? That too is a very famous song about travel.

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