I’ve been everywhere by Jonny Cash: This is the quintessential traveling song. It’s upbeat and almost even sounds like tires rolling down the pavement. Look on a map for all of the cities named in the lyrics; what a great way to pass the time in a car (and learn some new geography). No playlist would be complete without this master of the road, Jonny Cash.
Running Down a Dream by Tom Petty: Love the lyrics in this one, whose title I regard as the tagline for our yearlong journey. The message is simple and positive, embracing uncertainty and adventure: Yeah, runnin’ down a dream/that never would come to me/workin’ on a mystery/goin’ wherever it leads… absolutelyperfect!
Any songs by John Denver: I grew up listening to John Denver on long rides with my mom, who owned every album (first on 8-track, then on cassette). On annual trips to her hometown in West Virginia, it became a family ritual to sing along to Take Me Home, Country Roads while crossing the boarder. For this trip, I’ll be packing my favorites: Rocky Mountain High, Eagle and the Hawk, Calypso, and Season Suite. But any JD will do.
Society by Eddie Vedder: I loved the book Into the Wild by John Krakauer. Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack to the movie captures the spirit and sentiment of this story’s tragic hero. This particular song speaks of disillusion in a material world and breaking free from the hamster wheel that we so easily find ourselves on. This one’s for more somber, contemplative moments.
Truckin by the Grateful Dead: Not the best Dead song (try Franklin’s Tower or Eyes of the World) but certainly one that captures the ups and downs of hippy travel: sometimes the light’s all shining on me/other times I can barely see/lately it occurs to me/what a long strange trip it’s been. I foresee blaring this from Route 66 all the way to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. I’ve even got a Dwight Yoakam version for when we hit Texas and other parts of the South.
Road to Nowhere by Talking Heads: Have I mentioned that we’ve never RV’d before? This song is for those surreal, existential moments that are bound to happen: Where are we? What are we doing? Is this really happening? I don’t understand the lyrics entirely, but I have a feeling they’re about more than just a road trip. And, if we see Beckett’s Godot waiting for us in the desert, we’ll be sure to stop and give him a lift.
Raga Charukeshi by Shivkumar Sharma: Family life in such close quarters is bound to be rough at times. And while I love Jen and the boys dearly, there will be moments when we all just need a break. This song will be my “happy place” where I can plug in and drift away. I saw this maestro of the santoor perform in Delhi, where he captivated a packed arena with such mesmerizing solos. This raga has been selected not only for its sound, but also for its length. At over 59 minutes long, it should provide a therapeutic timeout for all of us.
Everyday is a Winding Road by Sheryl Crow: Like many songs by Sheryl Crow, this song makes me happy. It reminds me of summertime, rolling down the road with the windows open and the radio on high. (Back in the day, I even had some wind blowing through my hair!). The tune is upbeat and the lyrics are cool… just right for singing along.
This Land is your Land by Woody Guthrie: As one the most popular American folk songs ever, this tune from the 1940’s has a timeless quality to it. I remember learning the words in Kindergarten as part of our school’s bicentennial celebrations (1976). With its populist message and everyman appeal, I see this song as an invitation to come and see an America that belongs to us all.
These are a just few to help get us started, but I’m sure there are many more. Help grow this playlist by adding your own favorite “songs for the road” below.