The Road in Song

What is it about the open road that is so appealing in song? It pops up so often – in rock, blues, bluegrass, country, you name it. For as long as people have wanted to get away from something, surely there have been road songs.

Is it just the simple fact of the freedom that we find in an unaccounting, open-ended road? Something that represents a certain kind of freedom from the mundane and the routine. It represents a break from responsibilities that seem to grow on you, especially as you get older. But you also realize as you get older, one of your options is that you adhere to those responsibilities, making freedoms more a pipe dream and less a reality if you respond to it accordingly. The other option is to take no responsibility. Admittedly an extreme option, so why not substitute a good song about the road instead – what a fresh relief!

I might also mention the sub-genre of road songs that are something like “I’m so lonely for home” or “I’m finally going home”. They have a little different sentiment from the “let’s hit the road just for fun” or “I’m through with it all so I’m leaving” type that I’ve described above.

I believe we have a topic here that bears under-analysis. Take it for its simplicity and leave it alone. So, in keeping with my own advice, see how many of these road songs you know or remember. They’re in no particular order. Some have been recorded by many different artists, so I’ll leave those with just the songs’ name.

Johnny Rodriguez – Ridin’ My Thumb to Mexico
Ramblin’ Man – The Allman Brothers Band
Road House Blues – The Doors
Lonesome Road Blues
It’s Mighty Dark to Travel
Eight More Miles to Louisville
King of the Road- Roger Miller
Key to the Highway – Big Bill Broonzy
Statesboro Blues – Blind Willie McTell
Roll on Down the Highway – Bachman Turner Overdrive
Arkansas Traveler
Carefree Highway – Gordon Lightfoot
Lost Highway – Hank Williams
500 Miles
I am a Pilgrim
Rockin’ Down the Highway – The Doobies

What other songs come to mind when you think of road songs?

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About Phill Gibson

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama where I work as a Systems Engineer and part-time banjo and mandolin instructor. I've been playing various instruments since my teen years. I started mandolin at about age 17 and banjo at 20. I love just about all kinds of music. In terms of banjo styles, I play Scruggs and melodic and am working on becoming more advanced with single string. I'm also working on 4-finger banjo, which is way off the beaten path. I would like to see more jazz techniques integrated into bluegrass situations; counterpoint, especially. So long-term, that's what I'm doing. I'm also very keen on astronomy, ATM (amateur telescope making), birding, christian homeschooling, martial arts, organic gardening and about 30 other distracting hobbies to a (mercifully) lesser extent.
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