Song material can be pretty repetitive. Look at chart-toppers from decades past, and they can be bucketed into just a few different subject matters. But there’s one theme us gear-heads can’t get enough of. We love a good automobile reference in our music. Heck, some entire genres seem to have car-references in every other verse. Rappers love their big-rimmed Rovers, Escalades, and G-Wagens. And we get it country singers, nothing feels quite like a well-traveled pick-up truck with a dog in the passenger seat (buckled-up we hope). But here at The Engine Block, we’re fans of subtlety, and our favorites don’t necessarily beat you over the head with their tailpipes. So grab a drink, peek in the garage to check on your baby, and enjoy our list of the top 10 car songs ever written.
10. Sammy Hagar-“I Can’t Drive 55”
We can sympathize with ol’ Sammy on this one. And it turns out Hagar practices what he preaches. He got the idea for the song when he was pulled over for doing 62 in a 55 near Lake Placid. While the cop was writing out the ticket, he was writing lyrics. After arriving at his destination, he pulled out his axe and the song was completed shortly afterward.
Gonna write me up a 125
Post my face wanted dead or alive
Take my license, all that jive
I can’t drive 55
9. The Gaslight Anthem-“Old White Lincoln”
The most recent entry on the list comes from the Jersey boys of The Gaslight Anthem. Lead singer Brian Fallon is a self-confessed classic car nut, and it’s evident in his music. Give a listen, and we think you’ll agree: the Springsteen is strong with this one.
And I always dreamed of classic cars and movie screens
And tryin’ to find some way to be redeemed
Bring a dollar with you, baby
In the cold, cold ground
8. The Beach Boys- “Fun, Fun, Fun”
We could’ve easily added a few other songs from the 60’s California surfers onto the list, but we chose their story documenting the consequences of speeding. When you’re young, dumb, irresponsible, and have the keys to a legendary muscle car, what else are you supposed to do? Crank the tunes, drop the top, and put your foot to the floor! The song’s young girl did just that, but when her father gets keen to her Tallegdega tendencies, she ends up forking over the keys. And it’s back to the garage for the T-Bird!
Well she got her daddy’s car
And she cruised through the hamburger stand now
Seems she forgot all about the library
Like she told her old man now
And with the radio blasting
Goes cruising just as fast as she can now
7. White Zombie- “Black Sunshine”
Rob Cummings, better known as Rob Zombie, weaves B-side cult classic horror fiction and carnival folklore into much of his music, often including joyrides straight from hell. His hit “Dragula” is based on The Munster’s hot rod of the same name. He speaks of the “Durango ’95” from A Clockwork Orange in “Never Gonna Stop”. But for this list, we go early 90’s Zombie with his fast-paced thrasher, “Black Sunshine”. What is “Black Sunshine”? A Mustang of course! Bonus points for the video SCREAMING early 90’s hard rock.
Yeah! Move me in the silence Baltic motorway
Hang me on the edge before I fall away
Apocalypse is dawnin’ action on the mile
A ‘can-do’ revolution, earth to the river
Sweet’n the ride Black Sunshine
Sweet’n the ride, yeah!
6. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince- “You Saw My Blinker”
A good portion of car songs convey the good feeling of cruising down the street in a fantastic muscle car, lifted truck, or exotic, but this entry goes a different route. Jazzy Jeff and Big Wille Style tell a tale that’s fun and relatable. We’re not here to bash senior citizens, but when it comes to driving, most of us will agree old folks can pose a bit of a hazard. You CAN make a right on red. NO ONE actually travels the speed limit. And the LEFT LANE is for PASSING. These fellas get into a bit of an altercation with one on the road that leads them to wonder…did you see my blinker?
I said wait what’s going on cap
Her cars fine my cars all wrecked
Then I saw what happened in the crash
Her dentures came out got stuck in the dash
You hit me I didn’t hit you
Stop holding your neck lady you can’t sue
5. Joe Walsh-“Life’s Been Good”
One lyric. That’s all it took for this song to make the list. There are only two things I think of when I see this mentioned brand’s trident logo—this song and reliability (JK).
My Maserati does one-eighty-five
I lost my license, now I don’t drive
I have a limo, ride in the back
I lock the doors in case I’m attacked
4. Wilson Pickett/Mack Rice-“Mustang Sally”
Blues singer Mack Rice’s original version fails to get the recognition that the Wilson Pickett version garners, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t include him. This song was born from a joke involving a friend of Rice’s who wanted a Mustang for his birthday rather than a big Cadillac or Lincoln. He poked fun, calling him “Mustang Mama” and from there the song was born–proving that great songs can come from just about anywhere.
Mustang Sally, think you better slow your mustang down
You been running all over the town now
Oh! I guess I’ll have to put your flat feet on the ground
3. Prince-“Little Red Corvette”
What was Prince’s inspiration for this 1982 hit? It had to be a…well…red Corvette, right? WRONG. It was a 1964 MERCURY MONTCLAIR MARAUDER! Don’t believe us? Give the book Prince: Inside the Music and the Masks a read. But I think we can all agree that “Litte Red Mercury Montclair” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Baby you’re much to fast
Little red Corvette
You need a love, you need a love that’s
That’s gonna last
2. Johnny Cash-“One Piece at a Time”
In today’s music culture where songs can get by with no more than a dozen or so words, this masterpiece reads more like a story than a song. In FIFTEEN beautifully crafted verses, Johnny tells the story of building the ultimate “Franken-car”. He assembles Cadillacs for a living in the Motor City and manages to sneak out individual automobile parts day by day. He continues to do this for over a decade and ends up creating an entire vehicle from looted parts! We’ve all tried to make a part from a different model, year, or even make, fit onto our car, but I’d say Johnny has us beat here.
Well, It’s a ’49, ’50, ’51, ’52, ’53, ’54, ’55, ’56, ’57, ’58, ’59 automobile
It’s a ’60, ’61, ’62, ’63, ’64, ’65, ’66, ’67, ’68, ’69, ’70 automobile
1. War-“Low Rider”
C’mon what else could it be? The song with possibly the fewest words on our list comes in at the top spot. This song is nearly 40 years old and still makes its way into movies and TV Shows on the regular. And the great thing is that you can ask 10 people what comes to mind when they hear it, and you’ll get 10 different answers! Cheech and Chong might be its most memorable appearance, but for me, it’ll always be tied to Nicholas Cage’s questionable acting chops in Gone In 60 Seconds. Now let’s go boost some cars!
Low rider don’t use no gas now
Low rider don’t drive too fast