One of life’s simplest pleasures? Clicking your seatbelt in, putting your car in gear and just driving, without a care or destination. And in the COVID-19 Era, solitude is key—and a long drive down a roadway-to-nowhere could be just what the doctor ordered to ward off that cabin fever. Every drive needs—no requires—an amazing soundtrack. And while there are truckloads of songs to choose from, Horsepower’s whittled the list down to our 10 favorites.
1. Wilson Pickett, “Mustang Sally”
Although “Mustang Sally” was originally written and recorded in 1965, it was Wilson Pickett who made it famous in ’66. If your car happens to have a video screen in the backseat, we suggest watching the 1991 film The Commitments, which also features a wonderful, spot-on cover of the song.
2. Tom Cochrane/Rascal Flatts, “Life Is A Highway”
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember when Canadian rocker Tom Cochrane’s original cracked the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Your kids will probably be more familiar with the Rascal Flatts version from the soundtrack to the movie Cars, which was also a Top 10 hit.
3. Bruce Springsteen, “Born To Run”
New Jersey rock legend Bruce Springsteen—a.k.a. The Boss—might as well be made out of auto parts. He’s written some of the greatest car songs ever, and “Born To Run” is arguably his best. We’ll strap our hands ’cross this one’s engines any day.
4. The Beach Boys, “Little Deuce Coupe”
Songwriters Brian Wilson and Roger Christian must’ve been thumbing through an auction catalog when they wrote “Little Deuce Coupe,” the world’s grandest ode to the 1932 Ford Coupe. At just under 2 minutes long, the tune’ll go by as fast as the car itself drives, were you to be drag racing in one yourself.
5. Tom Petty, “Runnin’ Down A Dream”
Technically a solo album, the late Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever might as well be its own road trip playlist. But the true car-fanatic nugget in the set is “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” a tune that makes you want to step on the gas pedal and never let it up.
6. The Grateful Dead, “Truckin’”
What a long strange trip it’s been, for sure. While the Dead were likely talking about a lysergic highway, not a physical one in this ditty, “Truckin’” still ranks among the top tracks to blare while you’re coasting—not speeding—down the golden road.
7. Sammy Hagar, “I Can’t Drive 55”
Speaking of speeding, Sammy Hagar’s 1984 single “I Can’t Drive 55” was supposedly written soon after the rocker got a ticket on The Northway (i.e. Interstate 87) back in the day. Take Exit 13N off of I-87 and get a ticket to the Saratoga Automobile Museum.
8. Don McLean, “American Pie”
As you know, The Saratoga Automobile Museum’s located in beautiful Saratoga Springs, NY—the site of historic folk venue Caffè Lena, where a young Don McLean cut his teeth in the ’60s. For years, there was a rumor that McLean actually wrote “American Pie” in a Saratoga bar, but, alas, the folkie’s since dispelled it. Either way, at 8 minutes and 37 seconds long, the tune is perfect for long stretches of highway.
9. Steppenwolf, “Born To Be Wild”
Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild,” which was featured prominently in the (motorcycle) road trip movie to end all road trip movies, Easy Rider, soared all the way to No.2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Whether you’re on a steel steed or in a drop-top, this one’ll get your heart rate up.
10. The Beatles, “Drive My Car”
Beep-beep, beep-beep, yass queen. Ask your buddy that likes The Rolling Stones better than The Beatles to identify their best car song. (They don’t have one.) The Lennon-McCartney machine dropped this stunner on the 1965 UK version of Rubber Soul—and it’s a must for your playlist.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of Horsepower magazine, a publication produced by Saratoga Living Arts in partnership with the Saratoga Automobile Museum.