Driving playlist for your Western American road trip

Music has the power to transform ordinary days on the road into magical moments.

Personally, I never go on a trip without first preparing a special playlist on my iPod. It then becomes the soundtrack of my memories, and when I listen to it back home it transports me back there.

So here is a list of songs put together specially for Western USA vacations


Playlist for the American West

On the Road Again - Willie Nelson

To my mind, there is no better song with which to begin a road trip in the Western U.S. A great classic!

Did you know that Sydney Pollack asked Willie Nelson to compose a song for his movie Honeysuckle Rose in 1979? And so “On the road again” was born...

Hit the Road Jack - Ray Charles

“Hit the Road Jack” is a reference to Jack Kerouac and his famous 1957 novel On the Road.

That’s All Right - Elvis Presley

You can't make a playlist for a trip to the U.S. without including a song by the “King”!

Here's a lively one that will help the miles speed by...

Johnny B. Goode - Chuck Berry

A recording of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" was included on a golden record sent to space with the Voyager mission in 1977. If there is life out there, they will probably find us pretty "rock 'n' roll".

The famous Rolling Stone magazine ranked this hit as the seventh greatest song of all time.

Route 66 - The Rolling Stones

Bobby Troup composed “Route 66” in 1946 to celebrate a route that symbolized for each American the conquest of the west and a hope for a better future.

Since then, this anthem of freedom has been recorded by dozens of artists including Nat King Cole, Chuck Berry, Bing Crosby, Depeche Mode, Jerry Lee Lewis, and more recently by John Mayer for the soundtrack of Disney's Cars.

Here's my favourite version, by the Rolling Stones.

Folsom Prison - Johnny Cash

Everyone knows that America is the land of country music. And the undisputed king of country music is Johnny Cash.

So you can't take the American roads by storm without some Johnny Cash on your playlist. Let's go with one of his greatest hits.

Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan is considered by Americans to be the greatest of poets. Without going that far, let's just say that Bob Dylan is a true living legend.

He is a must on any American road trip playlist.

Horse with No Name - America

This song has often been ridiculed for its simplistic lyrics like “the heat was hot”.

American comedian Richard Jeni once made fun of the song's title on television, commenting: “You're in the desert. You've got nothing else to do. Name the freaking horse!

But the fact remains that this song, which sounds a lot like Neil Young, needs to be on your playlist.

Fortunate Son - CCR

The group Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) marked the history of rock and roll with worldwide hits like "Have you ever seen the rain?", "Proud Mary", "Green River" and this one, "Fortunate Son".

Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen

This Springsteen classic tells the story of a Vietnam War veteran and the rejection he experiences from his countrymen once he returns home.

The Republican Party, which clearly did not grasp the song's true meaning, even used the song in their 1984 election campaign.

Bruce Springsteen objected and asked the campaign to stop playing it.

Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd

Eating up the miles to the sound of “Sweet Home Alabama” will transform any road into an epic adventure.

This song greatly contributed to the racist image of the group Lynyrd Skynyrd, as it was written as a response to Neil Young's “Southern Man” and “Alabama”, which denounced racism in the American South.

The controversial Confederate flag is featured on the band's album covers and as a backdrop for many of their concerts.

Born to be Wild - Steppenwolf

If this song is often associated with road trips, it's because it is featured on the soundtrack of Easy Rider.

"Born to be Wild" is 29th on the AFI (American Film Institute)'s 100 Years...100 Songs list of the 100 top movie songs of all time.

La Grange - ZZ Top

It would be a sin not to include ZZ Top in your playlist for your American West road trip.

The 3 bearded members of the legendary band had many hits in the 70's and 80's, including "La Grange". Rock on!

One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer - George Thorogood

A bourbon, a scotch and a beer… but not before you hit the road, if you please.

The song tells the story of a man who loses his job, goes down to a tavern and repeatedly orders the three title drinks to drown his sorrows.

Cocaine - Eric Clapton

Contrary to what many people think, “Cocaine” is an anti-drug song.

The rock & blues feel of this famous song will add a nice touch to your playlist.

Roadhouse Blues - The Doors

"Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel". Some good advice from American poet Jim Morrison, lead singer of the Doors.

Highway to Hell - AC/DC

If you're starting to feel tired behind the wheel and need a boost of energy, turn up the volume and press “play”.

Road Trippin’ - Red Hot Chili Peppers

"Road Trippin’" probably has the most appropriate lyrics you can find for an American road trip.

"Let’s go get lost anywhere in the U.S.A..."

Society - Eddie Vedder

If you haven't seen the movie Into the Wild, what are you waiting for?

It tells the story of a student who sets out on a journey in search of meaning and adventure. A perfect theme for your U.S. road trip!

Eddie Vedder, the lead singer of Pearl Jam, wrote the soundtrack for this cinematic masterpiece.


Special California playlist


If you'll be visiting California, keep a special section of your playlist for the following:

  • Surfin’ USA - Beach Boys
  • California Dream - The Mamas and the Papas
  • L.A. Women - The Doors
  • Californication - Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Going to California - Led Zeppelin
  • San Francisco - Scott McKenzie
  • Hotel California - Eagles

Any other suggestions for our playlist? Add them in the comments below!

Have a great trip, and drive safely!

Karolane Lessard

An enthusiast of both our vibrant cities & great oudoors, my life revolves around travel & adventure. It's a no brainer that I have to share the wonders & secrets of my neck of the woods with other travelling souls. Enjoy the journey!


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