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Readers' picks: Best travel songs of all time

By Chuck Thompson, CNN
updated 1:15 AM EDT, Fri June 20, 2014
Back when the Grateful Dead recorded their immortal ballad of the blacktop, "Truckin'" defined a state of mind far more than it did the actual act of riding in a truck. Back when the Grateful Dead recorded their immortal ballad of the blacktop, "Truckin'" defined a state of mind far more than it did the actual act of riding in a truck.
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15. 'Truckin'' (Grateful Dead, 1970)
14. 'Convoy' (C.W. McCall, 1975)
13. 'I Can't Drive 55' (Sammy Hagar, 1984)
12. 'Going Up the Country' (Canned Heat, 1968)
11. 'Holiday Road' (Lindsay Buckingham, 1983)
10. 'Me and Bobby McGee' (Janis Joplin, 1971)
9. 'Turn the Page' (Bob Seger, 1973)
8. 'Ramblin' Man' (Allman Brothers, 1973)
7. 'Running on Empty' (Jackson Browne, 1977)
6. 'Travelin' Man' (Ricky Nelson, 1961)
5. 'City of New Orleans' (Arlo Guthrie, 1972)
4. 'Radar Love' (Golden Earring, 1973)
3. 'I've Been Everywhere' (Johnny Cash, 1996)
2. 'Route 66' (Nat King Cole, 1946)
1. 'Life is a Highway' (Tom Cochrane, 1991)
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • We chose our favorite travel songs. Our readers scoffed. And came up with a new list
  • "Me and Bobby McGee" is much-covered, but most readers prefer Janis Joplin's version
  • "I've Been Everywhere" was written by Australian country musician Geoff Mack in 1959
  • Bob Seger had a number of songs nominated by readers -- only one made the top 15 list

(CNN) -- Once in while, the CNN Travel braintrust blows it -- make that all the time if you happen to be @cnnalwaysblowsit47.

Such was the case last year when we published our updated list of the greatest travel songs ever recorded.

Sure, we included a few unassailable classics about life on the travel trail.

Even @cnnisamoron231 couldn't rage against our inclusion of Willie Nelson's all-time sing-a-long "On the Road Again."

But we have to admit, once in a while, @iloathecnn and @cnntroll99 have valid points to make.

How exactly did we miss such obvious wanderlust ditties as the Allman Brothers Bands' "Ramblin' Man" and Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee"?

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These and more than 150 other musical oversights (as suggested by readers) marred what we naively assumed was a list sure to get readers humming tunes and tapping their toes -- not calling for our jobs and swinging their air guitars like Game of Thrones truncheons.

Good thing defenders of never-faltering good taste and intellectual omniscience (thank you, @cnnyoushouldbeashamed) are around the make sure no misstep goes un-roasted.

Below are the best travel songs our readers couldn't believe we missed the first time around -- frankly, neither can we.

Click here for our original list of best travel songs ever -- which, to be fair, does include Simon and Garfunkel and the Hoodoo Gurus. We didn't miss all the biggies.

Grateful Dead: Together, more or less in line.
Grateful Dead: Together, more or less in line.

15. "Truckin'" (Grateful Dead, 1970)

Back when the San Francisco herbadours recorded their immortal ballad of the blacktop, "Truckin'" defined a state of mind far more than it did the actual act of riding in a truck.

Perhaps that's why the Grateful Dead's terminally relaxed supporters didn't bother caterwauling in our comments section about long strange trips and mellowing slow.

Most simply left a single word of wisdom: "Truckin'."

14. "Convoy (C.W. McCall, 1975)

It's hard to imagine now, but for a flicker in time, no one in the world was as hip as America's red-blooded and red-eyed long-haul truckers.

Fueled by the CB radio lingo of the day -- "That's a big 10-4," "Good buddy," "Breaker 1-9," "Put the hammer down," they're all here! -- C.W. McCall's ode to outrunning smokies and teaming up with 11 long-haired friends of Jesus in a chartreuse Microbus resonates to this day.

Deanna J. Dragonus wasn't the only reader to chastise us for neglecting traveling professionals, but she did it with the no-nonsense aplomb of a truck stop waitress when she wrote: "Apparently, CNN didn't bother to ask the people that travel for a living for input otherwise there would be song (sic) such as C.W. McCall's 'Convoy.'"

Reader Popeboof chimed in from down the counter: "Hell ya Convoy!!!!"

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Sammy Hagar: Let\'s hope that\'s not a cop in the rear view mirror.
Sammy Hagar: Let's hope that's not a cop in the rear view mirror.

13. "I Can't Drive 55" (Sammy Hagar, 1984)

From Long Island to Los Angeles, howls of indignation echoed across the country when the U.S. government decreed a nationwide federal speed limit of 55 molasses-like miles per hour on the nation's interstates.*

No one howled quite like lead-footed California rocker and Ferrari owner Sammy Hagar.

His populist challenge to the authority of a paternalistic central government remains an all-time classic.

Reader Marisofhm summed up the feelings of many by dubbing our original story a "lame list" without the inclusion of the Red Rocker's high-octane hit.

*The U.S. government passed the National Maximum Speed Law in 1974, making 55 mph the top speed on all interstate roads. In 1995, federal speed limit controls were officially removed with the passage of the National Highway Designation Act, largely leaving the matter of speed limits up to individual states.

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12. "Going Up the Country" (Canned Heat, 1968)

MoDef wanted to know: "What about the Canned Heat??????"

That wasn't the only call for this chooglin' blues-rock number that deploys a power flute, promises a trip that "might even leave the U.S.A." and memorably lit up the crowd at Woodstock in 1969.

That's a travel-song resume for the ages.

11. "Holiday Road" (Lindsay Buckingham, 1983)

Widespread support for the theme from National Lampoon's "Vacation" movies took us by surprise.

We're big Lindsay Buckingham fans, but we'd deemed this one a little too lightweight for our original list.

Along with a number of others, reader Eric passionately disagreed: "'Holiday Road' by Lindsey Buckingham is #1."

But pspdude summed up the Buckingham Bridgade's beef best: "The road anthem of all time, 'Holiday Road' by Lindsay Buckingham. CNN, what were you thinking to leave (this) out?"

Janis with music impresario Clive Davis, not Bobby McGee.
Janis with music impresario Clive Davis, not Bobby McGee.

10. "Me and Bobby McGee" (Janis Joplin, 1971)

Reader pepina questioned our travel bona fides when lambasting the absence of this undisputed travel masterpiece from our original article: "Guess the writer has never been 'busted flat in Baton Rouge ... waiting for a train.'"

That's true enough, pepina, but various members of the CNN Travel staff have been busted flat in such places as Bangkok, Melbourne and Blythe, California.

Enough, it goes without saying, to admit we should have known to include this one in our original story.

Readers suggested various versions of Kris Kristofferson's drifter fable originally recorded by Roger Miller in 1969.

Wes Scott called the Grateful Dead's take the "best version of that song I EVER heard, and I LOVE Janis!"

But most cited Janis Joplin's 1971 version as the one they like best.

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9. "Turn the Page" (Bob Seger, 1973)

Perhaps representing the roots rocker's mature and tolerant fan base, reader Mark was among many who lobbied in genial fashion for the inclusion of this world-weary tour bus ballad.

"Ease up people everyone's list is different," wrote Mark. "'Turn the Page' by Bob Seger would've been on my list but I'm not gonna bash (writer Barry Neild) because it's not on his."

Several other Seger songs garnered mentions from readers, including "Roll Me Away," "Travelin' Man" and "Against the Wind."

The Allman Brothers Band: Let\'s get ready to ramble.
The Allman Brothers Band: Let's get ready to ramble.

8. "Ramblin' Man" (The Allman Brothers Band, 1973)

Reader Kokapelye was driven to multiple exclamation points (actually a pretty common reaction) by the omission of this Southern rock tour de force: "What?! No Allman Brothers!! One of my road tapes is almost all Allmans."

We'll agree that any song that includes a line about being born in the back seat of Greyhound Bus, as well as one of the most memorable guitar solos in rock history (by Dickey Betts), deserved a place our original list.

We'll also agree that anyone who has a cassette player in their car is probably driving something way cooler than we are.

7. "Running on Empty" (Jackson Browne, 1977)

Micah Burns wrote: "'Radar Love' and 'Runnin' On Empty' ... are better than half the songs on this list."

Micah should be happy -- both picks were echoed often enough by others to make the readers' top picks list.

Driver of the magical cassette-rockin' car Kokapelye chimed in with an interesting if dubious claim: "Ooh yeah! 'Runnin' on Empty!' I actually get better mileage from the bottom of my tank by humming that song!"

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6. "Travelin' Man" (Ricky Nelson, 1961)

Thomas McCraw wrote: "I am in my 50's and only recognize about 6 of these songs ... Where did they come up with this list of obscure songs? Surprised they did not have 'Traveling Man' by Ricky Nelson."

Smitty echoed the sentiment: "What no mention of Ricky Nelson's 'Traveling Man'?"

It's true, of course, that there are at least five or 10 benighted music fans under the age of 35 don't know who Ricky Nelson is.

Perhaps his high ranking here will help rectify the troubling musical vacuity of today's youth.

5. "City of New Orleans" (Arlo Guthrie, 1972)

Reader Neibo Eneri wrote: "I can't believe you left out 'City of New Orleans' by Arlo Guthrie."

Only a handful of songs were more popular among readers than this ode to American train culture originally penned and recorded by folk troubadour Steve Goodman in 1971.

"City of New Orelans" has been performed by a number of artists, including Johnny Cash, John Denver and Willie Nelson, but Arlo Guthrie had the signature hit with it in 1972.

Noting the song's numerous iterations, SteveK77536 wrote: "Not bad, I hope Goodman got some money for all that."

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Golden Earring in 2014: Turns out that song\'s not so forgotten after all.
Golden Earring in 2014: Turns out that song's not so forgotten after all.

4. "Radar Love" (Golden Earring, 1973)

Reader chuck d opined fiercely: "What, no 'Radar Love' ?????? flawed list my friend."

Is that the Chuck D?

We doubt it, but much respect anyway, both from CNN and a number of readers whose road trips apparently aren't the same without this ESP booty call psalm from the driving Dutchmen of Golden Earring.

Reader whymilikethis reported a disconcerting connection with the song: "'Radar Love' -- I get speeding tickets listening to that one. My favorite drivin' tune."

3. "I've Been Everywhere" (Johnny Cash, 1996)

After scanning our list, Ron Bolin wanted to know: "Where is Hank Snow's 'I've Been Everywhere'?"

Idbrandel piped in: "Ron Bolin's vote for 'I've Been Everywhere' is a good call, though more people probably know Johnny Cash's version."

Jeff said: "LAME list. Forgot Johnny Cash -- 'I've Been Everywhere.'"

We're not sure that missing one song renders an entire list LAME, but we get your point, Jeff.

Ron Bolin and Idbrandel are also each right, though not quite complete.

Canadian country warbler Hank Snow took this rhythmic road riff to number one on the U.S. country chart in 1962.

But the Man in Black's 1996 version, produced by Rick Rubin, is the one most often heard today and the one most often cited by CNN readers.

However, the song was written by Australian musician Geoff Mack in 1959.

The original lyrics included a rundown of Aussie towns such as "Strathpine, Proserpine, Ulladulla, Darwin, Gin Gin, Deniliquin, Muckadilla, Wallumbilla, Boggabilla, Kumbarilla."

The lyrics were later adapted to name check American towns.

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By the time of this 1951 performance, Nat King Cole had put plenty of miles on \
By the time of this 1951 performance, Nat King Cole had put plenty of miles on "Route 66."

2. "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66" (Nat King Cole, 1946)

Reader Littleredtop nearly blew a head gasket when he came across our original list of greatest travel songs ever: "(Writer) Barry Neild* must either be twelve years old or the most poorly informed music critic ever. He has completely overlooked the greatest travel song of all time -- Nat King Cole's rendition of 'Route 66.' This isn't just my opinion as hundreds of millions of people all across the globe will agree."

Many (though not quite hundreds of millions) did indeed agree.

SDM113: "Was shocked that neither 'Kokomo' nor 'Route 66' made this list."

Guest: "2 words, my friends. 'Route 66.' Get your kicks."

Kokapelye: "Other than Nat King Cole's original, Asleep at the Wheel has performed a great cover."

STSEndeavour: "'Route 66' by Depeche Mode (or anybody for that matter)."

*Little Barry Neild actually turns 11 this year. He's recently been introduced to the Rolling Stones and is currently in the process of recovering his self-esteem.

1. "Life is a Highway" (Tom Cochrane, 1991)

No song left off our original list inspired as much outcry as this rousing run through destinations from Mozambique to Memphis.

Greg Breault wrote: "list is invalid without 'Life Is A Highway.'"

Brad Johnson: "Life is a highway needs to be on here!"

Nikki Nik: "You left out 'Life is a Highway' by Rascal Flatts."

Stephen Haladay: "Tom Cochrane: 'Life is a Highway.' Come on CNN!"

Quite right on all counts -- we deserve to have our passports confiscated by surly border guards for leaving this one off the list.

Also, we like Rascal Flatts' twanged-up version almost as much as the original.

What we're not certain about is the whiff of anti-Canadian sentiment that colored some responses.

Alex1234 wrote: "What about 'Life is a Highway' by Tom Cochrane. Oh. He's Canadian."

Stumping for the Cochrane, Marty wrote: "Already disqualified because of Canadian citizenship. Hey, no one said life was fair!"

Hey, we've got nothing against Canadian anything -- some of our best editors are Canadian -- as the links below attest:

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The fact is, we could build a whole top 10 list of greatest travel songs ever solely with songs by Canadian artists.

In addition to "Life is a Highway" and "I've Been Everywhere" there's BTO's "Roll On Down the Highway," Gordon Lightfoot's "Carefree Highway," Rush's "Fly By Night," and ... um ... then there's ... uh ... help us out here, people!

Honorable Mention (songs that received multiple nominations from readers): "Country Roads" (John Denver), "Highway Song" (Blackfoot), "Highway Star" (Deep Purple), "Hot Rod Lincoln" (Commander Cody), "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" (The Proclaimers), "Jet Airliner" (Paul Pena/Steve Miller Band), "King of the Road" (Roger Miller), "Magic Carpet Ride" (Steppenwolf), "Midnight Train to Georgia" (Gladys Knight & the Pips), "Roll On Down the Highway" (Bachman-Turner Overdrive), "Southern Cross" (Crosby, Stills and Nash), "Take It Easy" (Eagles).

Still some great travel songs we've missed? Drop a title (critique of our musical knowledge, travel experience and fitness for journalistic duty optional) in the comments.

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