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Hittin’ The Road: 7 Songs to Take on Your Summer Road Trip

written by: on July 13, 2011

Summer. It’s the time when we finally shed our winter skin for sun-kissed shoulders and hide our eyes behind tinted plastic glasses. Some things quintessentially speak of the warm air that the season brings: barbeque, sweet tea, back porches and the all-American road trip.

But spending hours on the road with your family, friends or anyone can be daunting, and let’s get real, if you’re driving through the U.S., most of it is countryside. However, with a good mix of songs to sing along to, you’ll get by just fine.

So here’s a list of songs, in no real order, to kick off your sandals to while dangling your feet out the window.

Foster The People – “Pumped Up Kicks”

This song has such an outrageously catchy beat that most listeners completely overlook the dark lyrics. Really, once the lyrics really slap you in the face the fun is almost drained out of the song, almost. “Pumped Up Kicks” is about a delusional teen with homicidal thoughts. “Yeah, he found a six-shooter gun/In his dad’s closet hidden in a box of fun things/All the other kids with the pumped up kicks/You’d better run, better run, outrun my gun.” Foster the People’s Mark Foster said the song was wrote to bring awareness to gun violence among youth. That aside, “Pumped Up Kicks” has a bubbly melody that veils the lyrics and makes for a great song to dance in your seat.

Scott McKenzie – “San Francisco (Flowers in Your Hair)”

The song came out in 1967, urging people to travel to San Francisco to attend the Monterey Pop Festival. The festival promised three days of “music, love and flowers.” Because the song is about traveling to the West Coast , it makes for a great driving song no matter where you’re headed. If you’re actually going to San Francisco be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Road Trippin’”

Here we find the Chili Peppers subdued, winding through their verses. This song is all about the open road, hence the title. “Road Trippin’” fits nicely at the end of the night, with everyone asleep in the backseat. The song’s lyrics are perfect for hitting the highway with no particular destination. “Let’s go get lost/Anywhere in the U.S.A.”

Electric Light Orchestra – “Mr. Blue Sky”

ELO frontman Jeff Lynne spent time secluded from his bandmates to write Out of the Blue. “Mr. Blue Sky” emerged from a two-week period of writer’s block for Lynne. The sun had finally emerged and Lynne transcribed this into his song quite simply, “Sun is shinin’ in the sky/There ain’t a cloud in sight/It’s stopped rainin’.” This bright, jovial track is a perfect way to start any journey, unless it’s raining.

The Kinks – “This Time Tomorrow”

While The Kinks left quite the legacy behind them, “This Time Tomorrow” gained a lot of popularity in 2007 after being featured in Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited. The song originally came from the album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One. It was a critical view of the music industry with various songs representing different aspects. “This Time Tomorrow” was about the road. This track is a perfect way to end a night of driving; “I’ll leave the sun behind me/And I watch the clouds as they sadly pass me by.”

Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody”

If “Bohemian Rhapsody” isn’t a perfect sing-along for a car ride, what is? The song has no chorus, but three distinctive parts: a ballad segment that ends with a guitar solo, an operatic portion and then a conclusion in heavy rock. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is about a man who accidentally killed a man and sold his soul to the devil. The night before his execution he cries out to god in Arabic, “Bismillah” in hopes that angels will save his soul from the devil. This “mock opera” will make six minutes go by quickly.

Sufjan Stevens – “Chicago”

Really, either the Illinois or Michigan albums by Sufjan Stevens make the perfect soundtrack for winding roads and two lane highways. However, “Chicago” is a song that can make you want to travel for miles and miles.  While most of Illinois is based on research, “Chicago” is one of the songs on the album written mostly about personal experiences.  The lyrics in this song are as delicate as the instrumentals and set the tone for driving through the U.S. There are various versions of this song, but any of them will do.

  • Ian

    What, no Faire du Surf?!