There are only a few things in this world that are true red, white, and blue 100% American. For many people, the most important of these is automobiles. With strength, speed, and sex appeal, the American automobile has everything that anybody could ever want.
So what do we do to show our appreciation to these fierce iron horses??
We use America’s other great passion- music- to celebrate. For as long as the modern music scene has been around, there have been songs written in appreciation of our long American automotive heritage. These automobile anthems transcend genre and generation. And, they appeal to all of us because no matter what our differences are, we can all agree on our love of cruising down the highway.
So without further ado, here is my list of the top 21 Automotive Anthems of all-time:
21. Billy Ocean- Get Out of My Car and Into My Dreams
This 1988 single shot all the way to number one on the Billboard charts and cemented Billy Ocean as a star. Despite being based on one of the corniest pickup lines I’ve ever heard, this song seems to register as true classic. Of course, the only thing better than the song is the strange, souped up 80s music video.
20. Johnny Cash- One Piece at a Time
If there was ever a man that stood for the “Fuck You” movement of American culture, it was Johnny Cash. He regularly recorded songs that challenged “the man,” even recording albums live from prison (by the way, is there anything better than Johnny Cash back talking prison guards???). In this classic, Johnny Cash sings about robbing the GM factory that he works at, doing it ONE PIECE AT A TIME.
19. The Wallflowers- One Headlight
Imagine being the son of Bob Dylan… JEEZ. How could you ever live up to the hype?? For The Wallflowers lead singer Jakob Dylan, this was a daily struggle. However, he silenced critics with this classic 1997 single. The song was so American and automotive that they had to bring Bruce Springsteen on to sing backup vocals because, you know, Bruce is the ultimate American.
18. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg- Let Me Ride
In the 90s, gangster rap ruled and Dr. Dre was the king. Teaming up with Snoop Dogg, Dre recorded this 1993 single to let everyone know the importance of having a good whip in the hood. In addition to the song, the video is amazing, featuring all of the makings of a classic rap video: rims, tits, orgies, gangster leans, and gun point robberies!!
17. Bob Dylan, Johnny Winter- Highway 61 Revisited
Bob Dylan has been the voice of rebellion ever since he burst onto the scene in the early 60s. In this song, he delivers once again, creating the dark and poetic Highway 61. “Where do you want the killing done?/ God says, Highway 61!”
16. The Beach Boys- Little Deuce Coupe
When people debate the greatest bands of all-time, they often forget about the Beach Boys. But don’t sleep on their all-time credentials. They’ve sold around 350 million albums worldwide and Rolling Stone Magazine named them the 12th greatest musical act of all-time. “Little Deuce Coupe” is one of their greatest songs, and their California-ized rendition of the Automotive Anthem makes my head spin every time I hear it.
15. The Cars- Drive
This is one of those songs that you may end up humming and not even realize that you’re doing it. Released in 1985, this song shot to number 3 on the Billboard charts and showed that the The Cars and the new wave scene were legit.
14. Chamillionaire- Ridin’ Dirty
Some might want to call this song corny, but you can’t deny the song’s impact. It reached number one on the charts and created a million parodies and jokes about Chamillionaire. L0ve it or hate it, this song has made waves, so I’ll stick it into the unlucky number 13 spot on this list.
13. White Snake- Here I Go Again
Along with its video -which created a spike in Kleenex sales because of teenage boys-, this song became a true 80s classic. The song helped romanticize the idea of being out on the road and made acid washed jeans hip (How in the hell???). But even more remarkable, it helped Tawny Kitaen gain a Hollywood career and become a future poster child for the damages of reality television: Celebrity Rehab, Surreal Life meltdowns, etc.
12. Rose Royce- Car Wash
In the 70s, Foxy Brown and Shaft became household names, and Blaxploitation films were all the rage. Possibly, the biggest of these films was Car Wash, starring Franklyn Ajaye, Bill Duke, and the one and only Richard Pryor. Like all 70s Blaxploitation films, Car Wash featured an amazing soundtrack, headlined by this classic auto anthem.
11. Bob Seger- Turn the Page
My wife always makes fun of me for my extreme love of Bob Seger, but I can’t help it. This guy is just great! And this song is probably his best. Need I say more?
10. Outkast- Two Dopeboys in a Cadillac
Back before Outkast was making pop music, they were making legitimate rap records. Of course, even these records always had an other worldly twist. On their album, ATLiens, Outkast created a laid back, spacey feel. One of their best songs was “Two Dopeboys in a Cadillac,” which became an instant classic.
9. Queen- I’m in Love with My Car
Queen has always been known as a high energy act, the epitome of arena rock. Obviously, much of this energy shoots out like lightning from their legendary lead singer, Freddie Mercury. In “I’m in Love with My Car,” we are lucky enough to see Mercury shoot his otherworldly energy directly into the American automobile, creating a high octane, speed demon machine of a song.
8. Willie Nelson- On the Road Again
Today, too many people know Willie Nelson solely as a pothead (there are some legendary stories out there about him and Woody Harrelson toking up). But he is so, so, so, so much more than that. In this song, we get to see everything great about Nelson the artist.
7. The Clash- Brand New Cadillac
The Clash’s London Calling is pretty much universally regarded as one of the greatest albums of all-time. The blended musical sensibilities of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones created a hypnotic, diverse repertoire of music on the album and helped create one of the greatest auto anthems of all-time. It’s too bad they couldn’t settle internal strife and make even more great music.
6. Bruce Springsteen- Thunder Road
Bruuuuuuuce!!!! Off of his legendary Born to Run album, “Thunder Road” is a great, great American tune. Of course, this shouldn’t be surprising. Springsteen is the ultimate American; he has an incredible work ethic (he puts on 5 hour live shows!!!), and he still has the humility that is often lost amongst superstars. These are probably the reasons why he continues to crank out some of the most iconic American songs of all-time.
5. War- Low Rider
Every time “Low Rider” pops on the radio, I can’t help but bust out a move; it’s too infectious. The funk and groove roll together and invade your soul!! Over the years, countless movies have featured this song, and it’s not surprising. It’s a true classic.
4. Iggy Pop- The Passenger
Have you seen Iggy Pop lately??? The guy is still fucking ripped at 66 years old. If I look half that good at his age, I’ll be over the moon. But this still isn’t even close to as impressive as the music he makes. And out of all of his tunes, I think that “The Passenger” is my personal favorite. Every time I hear it, I can picture myself cruising on the highway, maybe getting ready for an old time shoot out or bank robbery. I can appreciate any song that makes me feel like that.
3. Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats- Rocket 88
This is the song that is often credited with inventing rock and roll. Should we be surprised that it has to do with driving and automobiles??? I don’t think so. Performed by Jackie Brenston and written by wife beating Ike Turner, this song will live on for all-time because of its groove and place in history.
2. Steppenwolf- Born to Be Wild
I can still remember the first time that I saw Easy Rider. My mind was blown!!! And I have have to credit a lot of that to the soundtrack, and its lead song “Born to be Wild.” This song not only created the term heavy metal music, but it made Peter Fonda look like the ultimate badass on his American chopper.
1. Chuck Berry- No Particular Place to Go
Chuck Berry is the coolest musician to ever live. He inspired The Rolling Stones and countless acts after him. And he is one of the first men to really build a large high profile catalogue of rock and roll tunes. Of course, none is better than “No Particular Place to Go.”