In this day and age, you may find yourself feeling way overdue for a good old fashioned car song; not the kind of song that just happens to mention a car while singing about something else, but a foot-tapping musical masterpiece that pays homage to a specific automobile. Allow us to reflect back on some now-classic rock ’n’ roll car songs.
“Hot Rod Lincoln,” Charlie Ryan/Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen: The Hot Rod Lincoln in question was a Ford Model A coupe body fitted onto a 1941 Lincoln frame, and it was owned by singer and songwriter Charlie Ryan, who wrote and performed the original song in 1955. One fine honky-tonk band, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, played the most popular version of the song in 1971 and won over crowds everywhere with their energy, humor and boogie-woogie piano beats.
Best Lyric: “My pappy said, ‘Son you gonna drive me to drinkin’ if you don’t stop drivin’ that Hot Rod Lincoln.’”
“Rocket 88,” Ike Turner/Jackie Brenston: In 1949, Oldsmobile released the fastest car of its time and advertised it as having an overhead-valve V-8 Rocket engine, branding it with the slogan “Make a Date with a Rocket 88.” By inspiring the song “Rocket 88 “ — which is thought to be the major link between rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll — Oldsmobile hit two historical milestones with one vehicle.
Best Lyric: “Now that you’ve ridden in my Rocket 88, I’ll be around every night about eight. You know it’s great, don’t be late. Everybody likes my Rocket 88”
“Pink Cadillac,” Bruce Springsteen: From blues to rock to rap, more songs have been written about the classy Cadillac than any other car, and one of the many tunes deserving honorable mention was written by the Boss himself in 1984. In this song, Bruce is captivated by a girl because of her car, and it’s no wonder why.
Best Lyric: “Now some folks say it’s too big and uses too much gas. Some folks say it’s too old, that it goes too fast. But my love is bigger than a Honda, it’s bigger than a Subaru.”
“Mustang Sally,” Wilson Pickett: It was prime time for the first pony car when this song was released in 1966. Mack Rice actually wrote “Mustang Sally,” but Wilson Pickett made it legendary in 1966 with his strong singing voice and fine groove. In the song, Sally is a bad girl of sorts who drives a Mustang around town, but Wilson wants her to slow down. Think of all of the proud Mustang owners of the 1960s rolling down the streets with this tune traveling through their rolled-down windows. Now whether you own a Mustang or not, go find the song, hit play, and sing it at the top of your lungs.
Best Lyric: “All you wanna do is ride around Sally, ride Sally, ride.”
“Little Deuce Coupe,” The Beach Boys: The Beach Boys have written some of the best car songs of all time, and “Little Deuce Coupe” is a favorite of the hot rod crowd, along with the car itself. The original 1932 Ford Coupe “Deuce” is what the Beach Boys celebrate during the ’60s car culture craze, but little did they know that even decades after the song’s 1963 release, fans of the little coupe would still be tapping their feet to this song.
Best Lyric: “She’s got a competition clutch with the four on the floor, and she purrs like a kitten till the lake pipes roar.”
“Hey Little Cobra,” The Rip Chords: This surf-rock band released this catchy number about America’s favorite roadster in 1964. The little Cobra struck the hearts of many, and to their fan’s delight, the Rip Chords embraced the automotive infatuation of the times. Spring little Cobra, with all of your might.
Best Lyric: “The Stingrays and Jags were so far behind, I took my Cobra out of gear and I coast to the line.”
“GTO,” Ronny and the Daytonas: GTOs are thought of as the first American muscle car by many collectors, and this twangy tune was released in 1964, the same year that Pontiac’s most famous performance model was released. Ronny and the Daytona’s appreciation for the car paid off as the debut single reached No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and sold more than 1 million copies.
Best Lyric: “Little GTO, you’re really lookin’ fine. Three deuces and a four-speed and a three-eighty-nine. Listen to her tachin’ up now, listen to her whine.”
Go Lil’ Camaro by The Ramones: Uumamamau-papaumamau! Like most of the Ramones songs, it’s so simple that it’s genius. This is the band that had a large hand in changing the sound of rock and roll forever, and they continued that trend with this song’s release in 1987. Girls, cars, sun and fun means good fun for everyone.
Best Lyric: “Go lil’ Camaro go, Oohhh!”
“Red Barchetta,” Rush: Released in 1981, not only is this song about a fellow who finds his uncle hid an old red Fiat Barchetta in a barn, but it also reveals the fears of car lovers everywhere as motor laws change. Set in the future, this tune takes place in a world where stringent safety regulations force cars to evolve into massive modern safety vehicles, making poor little sports cars like the classic Barchetta illegal to drive on the roads.
Best Lyric: “I fire up the willing engine, responding with a roar. Tires spitting gravel, I commit my weekly crime.”
“Mercury Blues,” The Steve Miller Band: Originally titled “Mercury Boogie,” this song was first written in 1948 by K. C. Douglas and Robert Geddins. There have been several covers, but in 1976, the Steve Miller Band’s bluesy, soulful rock style gave it a nice, meaningful twist.
Best Lyric: “I’m going to buy me a Mercury, and I’ll cruise up and down this road.”