Top Ten Songs for Driving at Night

Do you have a job where you have to drive at night? Are you an insomniac who enjoys running errands at a late hour? Have you ever felt like just getting into your car and never looking back? Whether you’re trying to escape or simply enjoy listening to good music while you drive at night, here are ten songs that will make you feel infinite behind the wheel and under moonlight.

Number Ten: “I Drove All Night” by Cyndi Lauper. Originally written and composed by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, and originally meant for Roy Orbison, Cyndi Lauper made her version famous in 1989 on her album, A Night to Remember. This track describes a person who desperately wants to see her lover and is willing to drive all night in order to do it. The first verse goes, “I had to escape / the city was sticky and cruel /maybe I should have called you first / but I was dying to get to you / I was dreaming while I drove / the long straight road ahead.” The catchy chorus is the following: “I drove all night to get to you / is that alright / I drove all night / crept in your room / woke you up from your sleep / to make love to you / is that alright / I drove all night.”

Number Nine: “Hitchhiker” by Neil Young. “Hitchhiker” is a song by Neil Young, off of his 2010 release, Le Noise. The song describes the journey of a traveler and all the drugs he tried along the way. This latter aspect includes the narrator trying hash in Toronto, amphetamines in a ’48 Buick, weed in the country, cocaine while being “on the road” and valium in California due to “the neon lights and the endless nights.” The song begins and ends with the following lyrics: “When I was a hitchhiker on the road / I had to count on you / but you needed me to ease the load / and for conversation too / or did you just drive on through.” The heavy electric guitar, fusing into Young’s echoing vocals, makes this the perfect song to drive to while contemplating past adventures or misadventures.

Number Eight: “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman. “Fast Car” is a song by Tracy Chapman, off of her 1988 self-titled debut album. The song seems to be about a person who longs to escape and not repeat the mistakes of her parents; however, by the end of the song, we see the narrator gets stuck in a similar fate. The song begins, “you got a fast car / I want a ticket to anywhere / maybe we can make a deal / maybe together we can get somewhere / any place is better / starting from zero got nothing to lose / maybe we’ll make something / me myself I got nothing to prove.” The song ends with the lyrics, “you got a fast car / is it fast enough so you can fly away / you gotta make a decision /  leave tonight or live and die this way.” Despite the sadness in the verses, this song is known for its optimistic chorus: “So remember when we were driving, driving in your car / speed so fast I felt like I was drunk / city lights lay out before us / and your arm felt nice wrapped ‘round my shoulder / and I had a feeling that I belonged / I had a feeling I could be someone.” This classic, beautiful song is perfect for a relaxing drive at night with the windows down.

Number Seven: “Keep the Car Running” by Arcade Fire. It was either this song, off of 2007’s Neon Bible or “In the Backseat, off of 2004’s Funeral.  However, I chose the former as it contains a beat which is perfect for driving, especially down a long open road where you can easily go over the speed limit. The song describes the need to escape from some impending doom, with lyrics like, “every night my dream’s the same / same old city with a different name / men are coming to take me away / I don’t know why, but I know I can’t stay” and “there’s a fear I keep so deep / knew its name since before I could speak / aah / they know my name cause I told it to them / but they don’t where and they don’t know / when it’s coming.” The last verse contains the following lines: “If some night I don’t come home / Please don’t think I’ve left you alone / The same place animals go when they die / You can’t climb across a mountain so high / The same city where I go when I sleep / You can’t swim across a river so deep.”

Number Six: “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” by Deftones. “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” is a song by Deftones, off of their 1997 album, Around the Fur. Using simplistic lyrics, heavy metal instruments and Chino Moreno’s ethereal whispers/screams, Deftones know how to create an atmosphere of sound that both sucks you in and blows you away. This song is no different. Beginning with a trembling exhale followed by an addictive guitar, the words eventually come in: “This town don’t feel mine / I’m fast to get away, Far / I dressed you in her clothes / now drive me far away, away, away / it feels good to know you’re mine / now drive me far away, away, away / I don’t care where just far away.” This is a great night-driving song for anyone who yearns to escape, anywhere with anyone. Listen to this on full blast if you’re feeling a little reckless.

Number Five: “America” by Simon & Garfunkel. “America” is a song by Simon & Garfunkel, off of their 1968 album, Bookends. The song was written by Paul Simon, who was inspired after taking a road trip with his girlfriend. You may recognize this song from the film Almost Famous, in the scene where Anita says, “This song explains why I’m leaving home to become a stewardess.” The song begins, “Let us be lovers / we’ll marry our fortunes together / I’ve got some real estate here in my bag.” The song then makes mention of “a Greyhound in Pittsburgh,” Michigan, Saginaw and the New Jersey turnpike. Some of the most endearing and truthful lyrics are the following: “Laughing on the bus / playing games with the faces / she said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy / I said, ‘be careful, his bowtie is really a camera’” and “’Kathy, I’m lost,’ I said / though I know she was sleeping / ‘I’m empty and aching / and I don’t know why.” This song describes both the appeal and the loneliness of traveling, and it’s a great song to listen to if you want to chill out and watch “the moon (rise) over an open field.”

Number Four:  “Never Let Me Down Again” by Depeche Mode. “Never Let Me Down Again” is a song by Depeche Mode, off of their 1987 album, Music for the Masses. I was tempted to include “Behind the Wheel” (off of the same album,) but I felt this track had a more night-driving feel to it. One of the verses goes, “I’m taking a ride with my best friend / I hope he never lets me down again / promises me I’m as safe as houses / as long as I remember who’s wearing the trousers / I hope he never lets me down again.” While these lyrics could be describing a demented friendship, it could also easily be about drugs, especially if you look at the chorus: “We’re flying high / we’re watching the world pass us by / never want to come down / never want to put my feet back down on the ground.” In this sense, the song could be about not wanting to come down from a drug that is his “best friend.” The song ends, “see the stars, they’re shining bright / everything’s alright tonight.” This song could be for anyone who’s ever driven under the influence, and as you can tell from the lyrics and the beat, it’s the perfect song for driving at night.

Number Three: “Drive Blind” by Ride. “Drive Blind” is a song by the British band Ride, off of their 1990 self-titled EP. A live version from 1991 was also featured on a bonus disc to their 1990 debut album, Nowhere. The music and lyrics were written by Andy Bell, while Mark Gardener is featured on lead vocals. The first verse is, “Can’t see the lights or the blue orange signs / can’t see the road or the long white lines / feeling the ground through the pedals on the floor / feel death pounding at the door,” while the second verse is, “windows all open, chaos in my hair / driving me round and leaving me there / cover my eyes and we’ll die driving blind / cover my trail and we’ll leave this life behind.” Another verse goes, “all at once, too much light / captured and frozen, hear no sound / bright flashes penetrate / glowing, flowing, lifting off the ground.” This song is the perfect blend of rock and shoegaze, and it kind of reminds me of witnessing a UFO. Nonetheless, it’s perfect for driving alone or with friends, although its underlying dreamlike quality may have you looking up at the sky instead of at the road.

Number Two: “Dub Driving” by Angelo Badalamenti. “Dub Driving” is an instrumental track done by composer Angelo Badalamenti. It’s featured on the 1997 soundtrack to Lost Highway, a David Lynch film (I was tempted to include David Bowie’s ‘I’m Deranged” but felt this song fit better on this list.) The prominent bass and percussion in this piece give it a jazzy yet sinister quality, while, like the title says, it definitely contains a dub feel to it. This song is perfect for driving slowly at night while smoking cigarettes (or something else.)

Number One: “Passenger” by Deftones ft. Maynard James Keenan. “Passenger” is a song by Deftones, off of their 2000 album, White Pony. It features the vocals of the brilliant Maynard James Keenan of Tool. Although this is the second Deftones song on this list, I felt the need to include both of them as they both provide the perfect ambience for night driving. The chorus contains the following lyrics: “Roll the windows down / this cool night air is curious / let the whole world look in / who cares who sees anything / I’m your passenger.” The song makes interiors of cars sound sexy, mentioning “cool seats” and “chrome buttons, buckles and leather surfaces.” The best part of the song is how Chino and Maynard go back and forth singing in just about every other line. For example, Chino whispers, “now to calm me,” Maynard sings, “this time won’t you please” and then the music crescendos as Chino demands, “drive faster.” Whatever your take on this track, it’s definitely a great driving song for both drivers and “passengers.”