For many of us, our car can be a special thing. It doesn’t just get us around from place to place. We clean it, take care of it, and in some cases, even talk to it. Some people like to dress them up with fancy body kits. It becomes almost part of the family. It is not surprising then that songwriters have written plenty of songs about cars.
They have become themes in songs that we are familiar with. And they have become a part of the growing process between adolescence and adulthood. There have been, and still are, enthusiasts who buy them just for the love of the car.
Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones drummer, bought cars even though he had no driving license. He just loved to look at them. The shapes and the styles and sometimes just the history of them.
They take their share of criticism…
We should also remember that in the hands of some, they become lethal weapons. One of the songs we shall look at mentions that very situation. But still, we are impressed with the look. So let’s get in, turn on, rev up, and have a listen to some of the best songs about driving and cars.
- Highway Star – Deep Purple
- Maybellene – Chuck Berry
- Little Deuce Coupe – The Beach Boys
- Mustang Sally – Wilson Pickett
- I Drove All Night – Roy Orbison
- Drive – The Cars
- Drive My Car – The Beatles
- Cars – Gary Newman
- Fast Car – Tracy Chapman
- Driving in My Car – Madness
- Radar Love – Golden Earring
- Crawling From The Wreckage – Dave Edmunds and Rockpile
- Interested in Music with Meaning?
- A Dozen Of The Best Songs About Cars
There are too many songs about cars to say any of them are the best. But, if you did grade them, then this would be in the top two or three for me. I say top two or three because I’ve saved my best two for last.
This goes along at a blistering pace and is just typical of Purple at their best. It is about a man’s love for his high-powered speedy car. And it basically gave birth to an early form of a whole new genre of music, “Speed Metal.” Motorhead was one of the great exponents of that rather frantic style.
Richie Lets Rip…
Apart from its frenetic pace, Ian Paice’s great drumming, and Ian Gillan’s excellent vocals, it may be best known for something else. The Richie Blackmore solo showed he was pushing the boundaries of what was possible on a Fender Strat.
It was taken from what was, in my opinion, their best album, Machine Head, from 1972. If you haven’t heard them play it live on the album Made In Japan, then it is worth a listen or ten.
Let’s bring the tempo and the temperature way down. We don’t want to overheat the engine just yet. This was a song that most consider began the era of rock n roll. And it led to him being referred to as the grandfather of rock and roll. There is a case for that. Well, for his style of rock n roll anyway.
He produced a decent amount of car songs himself, and this very early recording from 1955 was one of them. The song is about him pursuing a girl driving a Cadillac Coupe DeVille using his Ford V8.
Scholars, Revise Your Dictionaries
A pretty good way to introduce himself to the world and especially the eager younger fraternity. He also gave us a new word that Charles Dickens didn’t think of, “Motorvatin.” As in “As I was motorvatin’ over the hill, I saw Maybellene in a Coupe de Ville.” Great stuff from the great old rock n roller.
This was a song that made an impression on me as a young teenager, even though I had no idea at the time what a Deuce Coupe might be. I thought at first, in my innocence, they were singing “Juice Cup” with a funny accent.
It was a song about the Ford Model 18, a car that was popular with street racers. It was especially popular in California. They were sought after because of their powerful V8 engines in such a small body.
Plenty of Extra Attention…
The release of the film “American Graffiti” added a lot of prestige to its reputation. “Mr. Cool,” John Milner uses one as his drag racer in the movie.
The Beach Boy lyrics include references to parts of the car. “The competition clutch” and “four on the floor” and a “flat head mill” are all parts that will be recognized by petrol-heads.
This Beach Boy classic brings the car to life and allows those that were there to reminisce about a very special time. And those of us that weren’t, a little insight to what, for some, was a golden age.
One of the first soul records I heard was this from Wilson Pickett from 1966. Was it a soul song or just good old R&B played a bit slower? Not sure. I did see a lot of bands play it live in various styles, so I suppose it could fit in both categories.
But, it is Wilson Pickett’s version that I and most people remember. It is a song about a man who gets his girlfriend, a Ford Mustang. He then gets concerned because she is always out around the town and never home.
Aretha Franklin suggested the name of the song after it had previously been called something else. It was used in the 1991 film “The Commitments,” where it got a makeover from an Irish band. That introduced a whole new age group to Wilson Pickett and his music.
A bittersweet inclusion. It tells the story of a man desperate to see the one he loves and drives all night to do so. The song was written by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, who also wrote “True Colors,” and recorded by Roy Orbison in 1987.
However, it wasn’t released as a single though until 1992, five years after Orbison’s death. It has also been covered by Cindy Lauper and Celine Dion, but it is Orbison’s version most remember.
To anyone who was at Live Aid in 1985, this will hold a special place in their psyche forever. We knew why we were at Wembley Stadium in London on that hot July day. To raise money for Ethiopians starving to death because of the famine that lasted from 1983 to 1985. But, the great bands and the music made you forget just why we were there at all.
David Bowie dropped a song from his set so that this could be played and introduced it himself. It was played over some harrowing, actual footage of children dying of thirst and hunger. The place was shocked into utter silence as we just watched.
It is a wonderful song from this Boston band. They recorded it at Morgan Studios in Willesden, London, if you didn’t know. And that is not just hearsay. Morgan had plenty of tricks to produce such ethereal sounds. Great studio, no longer with us. Interestingly it was banned from some radio stations after Princess Diana’s car accident in Paris that killed her.
A simple little opener to the album Rubber Soul. It is meant to be a bit of fun. With music by Paul McCartney and some clever lyrics from John, it paints a strange picture.
It tells the story of a young man, probably not much older than a boy, being asked to be a chauffeur. A young girl is asking, but there is a problem. She is convinced that she is going to become a big movie star. And she will need a personal driver.
The problem is she hasn’t become that star yet and hasn’t even got a car for him to drive her. But then we get the Lennon humor when she says, “I’ve got no car, and it’s breaking my heart, But I’ve got a driver, and that’s a start.”
I was not a great fan of Gary Numan or the “new wave music” he represented. But this is an interesting song, it was a huge hit, and it is about cars. It was inspired by a road rage incident he was involved in when he had to drive on the pavement to escape.
His view of the car is his “safe space” where harm cannot come to him. Unless you drive on the pavement, of course, then the harm could potentially come to others as well.
Now here is a song with a life-changing story. I had been on holiday and disillusioned with my land of birth and its attitudes, and I was thinking of leaving permanently. There I sat in a coffee shop, where a work colleague tried to persuade me against the idea.
She left, and I sat pondering what to do. Then the lines in the song playing on the shop stereo burned a hole in my head, “We’ve got to make a decision. Leave tonight or live and die this way.”
I went to book my ticket. To this day, I cannot hear this song without remembering that cold and wet afternoon in the coffee shop. Anyway, it is a song about reminiscing about good times which she spent just driving with her partner. Not a happy song at all in many ways, and the driving is all past tense for her.
She shot to fame with this song at the Nelson Mandela concert in London in 1988. Stevie Wonder was having equipment issues, and she came on again to fill in while they fixed it, and she sang this. If she hadn’t, we might never have heard it, and I might be thousands of miles away from where I am now.
Can music change lives? You’d better believe it can.
Let’s introduce a bit of fun to the proceedings. This is Madness, who before they were Madness were called Morris and the Minors. Why? They used to drive around in a beat-up old Morris Minor. A tongue-in-cheek iconic car in the UK at the time. It might still be.
They subsequently had a string of great fun, tongue-in-cheek hits under the new name. “Not quite a Jaguar,” as Suggs sang on one of them, reminding himself of it. They were an interesting band in many ways, not least because they brought the essence of Ska music to a wider audience.
Ok, it’s time we got serious. This is a Dutch band formed even before the Beatles in 1961 in the Hague. It is only very recently they have stopped playing live. And, I can say they are one of the best live bands I ever saw. Stunning drummer, two great guitarists.
That night in Amsterdam, they rocked the 50,000 fans in the Arena, even though they were all in their late 60s at the time. They have released 25 studio albums, eight live albums, and 74 singles. One of those was this timeless beauty.
The Beat, The Guitar Licks
This is a great driving song about a man in connection with his girl across the CB airwaves as he drives through the night. “I’ve been driving all night, my hands wet on the wheel.”
With a great driving rhythm and superb guitar lick, it had everything. Turn it up, and off you go. I would have put “Highway Star” ahead of this. But then I saw the Dutch guys at that concert in Amsterdam. That pushed them up the league table one place.
So let’s finish our look at songs about cars with this rock n roll masterpiece. The band was formed by Welshman Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe in the mid-’70s and displayed an inspired command and understanding of how basic rock & roll should be played. It was uncannily accurate in its feel and sound.
Not even the early Rolling Stones mastered it like these guys, led by Dave’s thundering Gibson 335. This is the song that I mentioned earlier that showed the car could be a lethal weapon in the wrong hands. This is rather a whimsical and irreverent observation of that.
The car is being driven rather aggressively, and “Bits of me are hanging in the trees and on the hedges,” he sings. Released in 1979, it wasn’t a huge hit, other than in rather select circles. But, boy, does it rock.
Music and Driving Alike…
He sings, “I took out my revenge on the revolution counter.” And “he’s been giving it maximum today.” Applies to the music as well as it drives along at a frenetic pace. But listen for a typical Edmonds rock/blues/country guitar solo. Only he could combine those three genres and make it work.
If you like your rock n roll, plain and simple without 300 effects pedals, silly hats, and oversized egos, you’ll love it. If you haven’t heard it, take a listen.
Interested in Music with Meaning?
We can help with that. Take a look at our handy articles on the Best Songs about Friday, the Best Songs about Fighting, the Best Songs About Friendship, the Best Songs About the Sun and Sunshine, the Best Songs About Walking, and the Best Songs About Clouds for more great music you may not have heard before.
And you need to listen to these awesome car songs. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Floor Standing Speakers, the Best Bookshelf Speakers, the Best Wireless TV Speakers, the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, and the Best True Wireless Earbuds you can buy in 2023.
A Dozen Of The Best Songs About Cars
Of course, we will all have our personal favorites. Songs to drive to and all about cars. Some of the songs here have been quite personal in some ways. But that is one of the great things about music. It helps to build the tapestry of our lives.
There will be songs that bring back memories of certain cars you may have owned, as with Madness. There may be songs that help you relive moments, as with Live Aid and the Cars.
And there will be songs about driving that maybe helped you make a life-changing decision as with “Fast Car.” But there will also be songs that are just great fun and great to listen to, as with “Radar Love” and “Crawling From The Wreckage.”
Music and cars. Some might ask what else you need.
Until next time, happy listening.