The best driving songs of all time

New Zealand road map landscape
Every road trip needs a good map and a good soundtrack (Getty)

There's the right soundtrack for every occasion - whether it's music to dance to, music to cry to, or music to sing along to.

Then there's driving music. An art form in itself, music for the road has evolved since the 1930s when stereos started appearing in cars.

There are thousands of songs to suit all driving occasions - moody night rides, rainy Sunday cruises or windows-down beach adventures. Spotify's 'Travel' section has 31 popular playlists to choose from.

Now 'tis the season for the Kiwi summer road trip. So what are you going to listen to as you hit the highway?

After much research, Newshub has found the best driving song ever - the one automobile anthem to leave all others in the dust. 

'Born to Run' by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band is the one driving song to rule them all.

From the first drum roll sounding like an engine starting up to the wall-of-sound saxophone, the song burns with yearning for the open highway.

It's the title track of one of the Boss' greatest albums, with all its songs set out on the streets. The record starts off with 'Thunder Road' and hits top gear with 'Born to Run'.

"In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream," Springsteen sings. "At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines."

It's the perfect song to fill you with hope and the expectation of glorious golden summer days away, and it will always be there as the soundtrack to your nostalgia.

Of course you'll need more than just one great song to keep you happy on the road. Newshub has created a Spotify playlist to help you make the most of your journey, wherever you're heading this summer. Here's a sample of six of our picks - you can listen to the whole playlist on Spotify here

Tom Petty - 'Free Fallin''

'Free Fallin'' is a classic pick for those who love to sing along. The cry of the chorus, the story of good girls and LA freeways makes it an essential for winding down the window and watching the world fly by. 

The Phoenix Foundation - 'Hitchcock'

Wellington-based group The Phoenix Foundation have heaps of great driving tracks. 'Hitchcock' is a particular favourite, with an eerie, oscillating instrumental that makes for the perfect night-driving-down-an-empty-rural-road accompaniment. And the music video features a bunch of Cortinas spinning doughnuts. What more could you want?

Carly Rae Jepsen - 'Run Away With Me'

You might only know her from 'Call Me Maybe', but Carly Rae Jepsen has put out many brilliant pop anthems and perfected the art of the driving song in 'Run Away With Me'.

The pulsing rhythm and soaring synth have the cinematic sound of the open road, while Jepsen sings of driving all night, street lights and getting out of town.

Lyrnyrd Skynyrd - 'Free Bird'

'Free Bird' is another strong contender for best driving song. Nearly 10 minutes long, like any good road trip it starts slow and settles you in before it goes double-time and hits top speed with a screaming triple-guitar solo. 

Kings of Leon - 'Red Morning Light'

Kings of Leon are also kings of the road trip soundtrack. If you don't believe us, listen to Youth and Young Manhood and put on 'Red Morning Light' as you hit the highway.

The War on Drugs - 'Red Eyes'

In 2014, indie rock band The War on Drugs released Lost in the Dream ­­- an album inspired by touring life, 1980s rock and some of the best American driving anthem songwriters.

'Red Eyes' is the standout road trip track, with its churning guitar lines, but the whole album will improve even the dullest journey.  

Happy - and safe - travels!


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