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Compiling a music playlist for a long drive ahead

Updated on July 26, 2013
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Michelle is a professional freelance writer who loves music, poetry, pets, and the arts. She is a techno-geek as well.

On the road again....
On the road again.... | Source

On the road again - Willie Nelson

Are you planning a road trip or about to drive somewhere just a little further away?

Whether you are planning a vacation on the road or just going the slight distance, spending a long time in a car with no music can really knock the wind out of your sails. We are all aware that music serves to quell the boredom that develops so often over long distances.

And it is not just any music....with friends on board, your music playlist can make or break a road trip.

Music for long journeys

I live in Singapore, a smaller nation where one does not really require a car, much less take a very long drive.

However, there are occasions when we would make a long journey into Malaysia and it would involve a 4 to 6 hour journey. This means a little music that would make our time on the road just a little bit easier.

How to select songs to listen to while on a long drive

Compiling a music playlist for a long drive involves keeping several things in mind. Many love driving on road trips while playing their favorite tunes.

However, we often forget that going on a long drive with friends in the car with the wrong music playing can break a road trip. Putting in the effort to select the correct songs for the trip can, however, make it a special one. So what are the things we have to consider when putting our driving playlist together?

Keep calm, but not sleepy.

The music that we listen to on long drives has to be able to keep us calm, but not sluggish. We do not want to develop the tendency to fall asleep at the wheel.

While we need to remain as stress free as possible on the road, we need to remember that certain music has the effect of making the driver’s seat a bed. So totally relaxing music might not be so suitable for an extended drive.

Consider your audience.

If you have others along for a long ride, remember that they may feel irritated after listening constantly to music that they have little partiality to. Do consider your audience while on a long drive and pick some songs that will also be their favorites.

Certain genres of music are suitable for long drives.

I am a personal fan of hard rock and don’t mind a little heavy metal on occasion. However, on a long ride, having the music throbbing in one’s ears can cause a little headache.

Classical music is suitable, but not selections that are entirely too relaxing. Good choices would come from the blues, or some lively easy listening pieces. Again, do make sure not to fall asleep at the wheel!

Select your song choices from a wide repertoire.

This might be a personal preference. As it would for many, I would feel very tired after listening to the same CD and songs over and over. For a long drive, it would be advisable to bring a wider range of songs or tracks.Remember your family or friends who would be with you on the journey and that they might be frustrated listening to the same song repeatedly!

Norah Jones at Tarrytown Music Hall
Norah Jones at Tarrytown Music Hall | Source

Don't Know Why Norah Jones

The best songs for road trips or long drives

As with many, I have a favorite selection of songs that I like to listen to on my drives. These are not fast in tempo, but are not such easy listening pieces that they would put the driver of the car to sleep.

Don’t Know Why by Norah Jones

This song was originally written by Jesse Harris and appeared on his album Jesse Harris and the Fernandos. Norah Jones adapted the song to suit her vocals and it peaked at number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

Although it did not exactly make a heady entrance, this song established her reputation as a s talented new artist. And its even, soothing yet not-so-sluggish tempo makes for easy, relaxing listening on a road trip.

Avril Lavigne
Avril Lavigne | Source

Complicated Avril Lavigne

Complicated by Avril Lavigne

The debut single by Canadian Singer Lavigne was written by her and produced by the Matrix. It reached numbers 2 and 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the US and United Kingdom respectively, it remains as one of the most successful releases of 2002, receiving nominations for Best Pop Vocal Performance and Song of the Year at the Grammys.

Tracy Chapman in performance
Tracy Chapman in performance | Source

Fast Car Tracy Chapman

Fast Car by Tracy Chapman

Fast Car was a song released by Tracy Chapman in 1988 on her self-titled debut album. Her appearance on the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute was a catalyst for the single reaching the number one spot. It re-entered the charts in 2011 after being performed by a contestant, Michael Collings on Britain’s Got Talent.

Certainly not a very Fast Car of a song, it is not dreary either and serves as great musical accompaniment on a drive.


Freeway of Love Aretha Franklin

Freeway of Love by Aretha Franklin

If you are a fan of Aretha’s, love the blues or a little finger snapping tempo then rehash her single, Freeway of Love.

It was released in 1985 as part of her album, Who’s Zoomin’ Who. It peaked in the number 3 position on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and topped it for 6 weeks. She earned her 12 Grammy for Best Female Vocal Performance.

The upbeat, yet non-harsh tempo and Aretha’s soulful vocals are certainly easy listening!

The Blues Brothers
The Blues Brothers | Source

The Peter Gunn Theme - Blues Brother’s Version

This also has a steady tempo that gets your toes tapping. The sexy saxophone gets you hooked on the melody straightaway. And this track as a blast of an ending. Do check it out for some fun listening on your drive.

Peter Gunn - Blues Brothers Version this one really rocks)

Nat King Cole ; 1964 Performance Archives
Nat King Cole ; 1964 Performance Archives | Source

Route 66 - by Nat King Cole or Depeche Mode

I think that many would want to have this track in their mix! Composed by Bobby Troup, it became a hit for Nat King Cole and was covered by many including Chuck Berry, Rolling Stones and Depeche Mode. The song’s lyrics follow the path of the Route 66 Highway which runs a long distance across the U.S.

Any version of this song, In my book, should be included on a driving playlist.

Nat King Cole Route 66

A more updated version by Depeche Mode

The Eagles in performance
The Eagles in performance | Source

Eagles - Life in the fast lane

Life in the fast lane by the Eagles

Don’t even think about doing a road trip without the Eagles. All their songs make for great listening on long drives, but this one, in particular, is a winner for the road.

Recorded in their studio album Hotel California, it peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Hot Hundred. Frey got the idea for the song with someone who was driving too fast. When he was asked to slow down, the person just said, “Why? This is life in the fast lane!”

It was included on an MTV as part of the 1994 Eagle’s Reunion Tour.

The Eagles
The Eagles | Source

Hotel California by the Eagles

This is a great one to listen to while driving. The Eagles have called it their interpretation of life in Los Angeles.

The song remained on the Billboard Hot 100 charts for a week in 1977. It was also one of 500 the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s songs that shaped Rock and Roll.

The Eagles Hotel California

Adele in performance
Adele in performance | Source

Adele - Rolling in the Deep

Written by the British singer-songwriter and Paul Epworth, this song is best described, in the singer’s own words, as a ‘dark, bluesy, gospel disco tune.” It is the largest radio crossover to the US in 25 years and reached number 1 in 11 countries. It was number one on the US Billboard Charts for 7 weeks.

The emotions of a scorned lover make for some heady, but not hard listening on your road trip.

Rolling in the deep - Adele

Wayward Son Kansas

Carry on my Wayward Son - Kansas

This was a 1976 recording by Kansa on their album Leftoverture. It peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Singles Chart.

The eclectic harmonies and impressive guitar solo make for enjoyable listening on road trips, if your preference is for slightly heavier rock beats.

Interestingly, it is also on of the songs that echo the angst of the two brothers, Dean and Sam in the hit series, Supernatural It eches their struggle of being constantly on the road as ghost hunters.


Make your next long journey more enjoyable with a little planning and easy listening music. It makes a difference to its success!


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