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50 essential songs for your summer road-trip playlist

Road Trip

50 essential songs for your summer road-trip playlist

50 essential songs for your summer road-trip playlist
Zac Brown Band at SPAC
Photographer: Peter R. Barber/Gazette Photographer

What would the drive be without the music turned up? Here are some Gazette staffers' picks to move you down the highway, with a brief description of each.

“Toes,” Zac Brown Band

A totally summer song with a very Margaritaville-feel about drinking and relaxing by the beach.

“Rockaway Beach,” The Ramones

No pretext, no pretense. Just get me to the beach.

“I Wanna Be A Lifeguard,” Blotto

True summer fun courtesy of Albany’s most famous band ever. The video of this song played on MTV’s first day on the air in 1981 and soon became the theme song of the Jones Beach lifeguards.

“Cheeseburger in Paradise,” Jimmy Buffett

Nothing kicks off a great summer road trip better than this Buffett classic. Just be careful for all those pop-tops out there.

“I’m Writing a Novel,” Father John Misty

The lyrics are out-of-this-world bizarre, but it has a simple guitar riff that Johnny Cash would be proud of … or mad that someone ripped him off.

“Hang Me Up to Dry,” Cold War Kids

It’s a song that’s hard not to sing along to, has a really groovy, old-timey feel to it and a really raw bass line.

“Consoler of the Lonely,” The Raconteurs

This song just rips. If you feel yourself fading during the car ride, throw this on for a jolt of energy.

“Vacation,” The Go-Gos

Play it on the Friday afternoon before the start of a vacation week.

“Grazing in the Grass,” Friends of Distinction

This upbeat pop song was released in May 1968. Fifty years later, it always seems to get summer play on the radio. Infectious melody.

“The Sound of Sunshine,” Michael Franti & Spearhead

Grab the surfboard and hit the open road. But don’t forget the sunscreen.

“Truckin’,” Grateful Dead

The quintessential song for the road.

“Turn the Page,” Bob Seger

Perhaps the ultimate song about road warriors.

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen

If you know the 1992 movie “Wayne’s World,” no explanation is needed. Wild head bobbing, please.

“Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift

When the highway starts to wear you down, select this little T-Swizz number. You’ll be ready to keep rollin’.

“Party In The U.S.A.,” Miley Cyrus

Vintage Miley is the best Miley.

“Summer Wind,” Frank Sinatra

The Chairman of the Board has summer down pat in this 1966 song that’s one of his most recognizable recordings. Perfect for dusk on a lazy summer day.

“Summertime Blues,” Eddie Cochran

This summer classic from 1958 is all about a poor teenager and the hassles that come up during his summer. The Who also recorded this song, in 1967 …. but more adventurous listeners will go for the Blue Cheer version from the late 1960s …. often cited as the first heavy metal song.

“California Girls,” Beach Boys

Required listening for any road trip to the shore.

“Good Vibrations,” Beach Boys

One good Beach Boys song deserves another. This one is too “Good” to leave off our list.

“Life is a Highway,” Tom Cochrane

This song, from Cochrane’s 1991 album “Mad, Mad World,” just makes you want to cruise on with your head bobbing and arm out the window.

“Steppin’ Out,” Joe Jackson

Ah, those feel-good lyrics: “ … So tired of all the darkness in our lives … come alive, get into a car and drive to the other side.”

“Back Seat Driver (Spirit Guide),” Bear Hands

This song is about traveling with crazy hippies and hipsters in California through the rest of the West Coast, a staple for any road trip.

“Hotel California,” The Eagles

It starts on a highway and ends with a vacation destination — perhaps a permanent one.

“Groovin’ (On a Sunday Afternoon),” The Rascals

A smooth classic. Could be one of the greatest summer songs of all time.

“Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer,” Nat King Cole

This 1963 tune is all about picnics, cold beer, hot dog roasts and girls at the beach who never get their swimsuits wet.

“Ice Cream Man,” Van Halen

What’s a summer road trip without ice cream and David Lee Roth?

“Magic Bus,” The Who

It’s just a happy sounding road song.

“Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad,” Woody Guthrie

The original version of this song famously covered by The Grateful Dead.

“Somewhere on a Beach,” Dierks Bentley

A guy hits the beach to let his ex-girlfriend know he’s doing just fine without her.

“Summer in the City,” The Lovin’ Spoonful

The ultimate urban hot summer night song.

“Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen

Roy Orbison may sing for the lonely, but The Boss sings for us and the dreams that haunt us yet.

“Ramblin’ Man,” The Allman Brothers

Dickey Betts can bend a note to take you through any curve you might encounter. And you won’t think quite the same way about Greyhound buses afterward, either.

“Brown Eyed Girl,” Van Morrison.

A propulsive ode to summertime and first love.

“All Star,” Smash Mouth

You know you want to. So crank it up!

“Not a Bad Thing,” Justin Timberlake

You can’t spell “smooth” without J.T.

“Country Road,” James Taylor

Country road, highway, whatever — they’re all better with (another) J.T. on the radio.

“Radar Love,” Golden Earring

What’s the matter with us that we didn’t list this one sooner? Responsible for a good many speeding tickets in strange towns on nights when you didn’t know where you’d be by morning.

“Tequila,” Dan and Shay

It’s about drinking tequila. Nuff said.

“Summer Lovin,’” John Travolta and Olivia Newton John

Classic song from “Grease” about, well …

“The Story,” Brandi Carlile

This song was literally used in a car commercial about taking long trips. Enough said!

“A Little More Summertime,” Jason Aldean

Wishing summer would last a little longer so his summer love wouldn’t leave. Kind of a country update on the “Grease” classic.

“Archie, Marry Me,” Alvvays

Even though it’s a bit melancholy, it’s got that vintage sound that just seems perfect for a day on the road.

“South,” Hippo Campus

This song is upbeat and fun, but also touches on being young and heading out somewhere on your own for the first time, anywhere, with $30 in your pocket.

“Borderlines and Aliens,” Grouplove

This song is about being unlucky and heading out to travel on your own, but is extremely upbeat and demands to be played at full volume.

“Take Five,” Dave Brubeck

Thanks to Paul Desmond’s relaxed saxophone lines, this one is always a feel-good tune.

“Dancing Queen,” ABBA

One of those finger-snapping numbers that never gets old.

“Ventura Highway,” America

It wouldn’t be a road trip without at least a few miles on a highway.

“Highway Junkie,” Randy Travis

One hundred cups of coffee, 500 cigarettes and 1,000 miles on the road, but he’s still mighty sad about the woman who left him.

“Ride Like the Wind,” Christopher Cross

A true driving tune. Best when played while driving on a hot, humid summer night. Mmmm.

“Kashmir,” Led Zeppelin

Perfect for a long stretch of highway in the middle of nowhere. Windows down. Volume up — way up.

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