5 Songs Linked to Cars

Not all songs referencing cars are about four-wheeled vehicles. Though the word “car” has been used in numerous song titles over the decades, vehicles are often used as metaphors for something else — love, sex, events, social and political views, and more—from Bo Diddley‘s 1960 touring tale “Road Runner” to The Beatles‘ flirtatiously driven “Drive My Car,” T. Rex‘s lovelorn “Jeepster,” and Foghat’s orgasmic “Slow Ride.”

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By 1979, Gary Numan was already addressing an unhealthy human connection to technology on his The Pleasure Principle hit “Cars,” while Tracy Chapman told her 1988 ballad, “Fast Car,” from the perspective of a woman whose life isn’t unfolding as she hoped.

Just a handful of the dozens of songs linked to autos throughout the decades, here’s a look at five songs that pay a unique homage to cars—and other subject matter—from children’s nursery rhymes, love, and other scenarios.

1. Riding in My Car (Car Song),” Woody Guthrie (1951)
Written by Woody Guthrie

In the midst of releasing his classic songbook of folk, Woody Guthrie (1912-1967) also penned children’s songs, including “Riding in My Car,” also known as the “Car Song.” Using onomatopoeia throughout, singing a motorized sound, the “Oklahoma Cowboy” originally penned “Riding in My Car” in the 1940s while he was living on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York.

The song was released on Guthrie’s 1951 album, Songs to Grow On, Volume One: Nursery Days, and was covered by a number of artists, including Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie, Peter, Paul and Mary, Donovan, and Pete Seeger, among others.

Take me riding in the car, car
Take me riding in the car, car
Take you riding in the car, car
I’ll take you riding in my car

Click clack, open up the door, girls
Click clack, open up the door, boys
Front door, back door, clickety clack
Take you riding in my car

Climb, climb, rattle on the front seat
Spree I spraddle on the backseat
Turn my key, step on my starter
Take you riding in my car

2. “Moonlight Drive,’ The Doors (1967)
Written by Jim Morrison

“Moonlight Drive” was first written by Jim Morrison while he was living in a rooftop apartment in Venice Beach, California. An evening voyeur, Morrison would look out at all the lights and into people’s windows, observing their lives—down to what they were watching on television. The lyrics tell the story of two lovers enjoying the freedom of the night, swimming under the moon and then some.

The song was the first song recorded by The Doors, but it was left off their eponymous debut and later released their second album, Strange Days, in 1967.

Let’s swim to the moon, uh-huh
Let’s climb through the tide
Penetrate the evenin’ that the
City sleeps to hide
Let’s swim out tonight, love
It’s our turn to try
Parked beside the ocean on our
Moonlight drive

3. “Mercedes Benz,” Janis Joplin (1971)
Written by Janis Joplin, Bob Neuwirth, and Michael McClure

On Janis Joplin‘s iconic Pearl album, her sole a cappella song, “Mercedes Benz,” addresses the detriments of desiring too many pleasures and possessions. Joplin began writing the lyrics of “Mercedes Benz” during a poetry jam in 1970 at a bar called Vahsen’s in Port Chester, New York along with songwriter Bob Neuwirth, who was a longtime associate of Bob Dylan and released a 1994 album with John Cale.

At the beginning of the song, Joplin sets the tone of the song: “I’d like to do a song of great social and political import. It goes like this.”

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends
So, oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV?
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me
I wait for delivery each day until three
So, oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV?

4. “I’m in Love with My Car,” Queen (1975)
Written by Roger Taylor

All the engine noises heard on Queen‘s “I’m in Love with My Car” came from drummer Roger Taylor‘s actual vehicle at the time, an Alfa Romeo. Released on the band’s fourth album, A Night at the Opera, in 1975, the song was dedicated to the band’s first roadie Jonathan Harris, who was in love with his own set of wheels, a Triumph TR4, and had to put an end to his touring days due to illness.

The studio and live versions of “I’m in Love with My Car” feature Taylor singing lead vocals. Taylor also sang lead on the band’s “Tenement Funster,” “Fight from the Inside,” and “Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll,” among a number of other Queen songs.  

“I’m in Love with My Car” was also released as a B-side to “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Beyond its repeated references to automobiles, the song slips in some sexual innuendos in its obsessive verses about that one, special car.

The machine of a dream
Such a clean machine
With the pistons a pumpin’
And the hubcaps all gleam

When I’m holding your wheel
All I hear is your gear
With my hand on your grease gun
Ooh, it’s like a disease, son

I’m in love with my car
Got a feel for my automobile
Get a grip on my boy-racer Rollbar
Such a thrill when your radials squeal

5. “Little Red Corvette,” Prince (1982)
Written by Prince

Of course “Little Red Corvette” is about sex—Gimme the keys / I’m gonna try to tame your little red love machine—but its synth-pop pulses made it more digestible for radio in comparison to some of Prince’s other, more sexed-up songs.

Prince was inspired to write the song after he fell asleep in a bandmate Lisa Coleman’s 1964 pink Mercury Montclair Marauder, which he helped her buy at auction in 1980, after an all-night recording session. Released on his fifth album 1999, “Little Red Corvette” peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remains a Prince classic.

I guess I should’ve known
By the way you parked your car sideways
That it wouldn’t last
See, you’re the kinda person that believes in makin’ out once
Love ’em and leave ’em fast

I guess I must be dumb
‘Cause you had a pocket full of horses
Trojan and some of them used
But it was Saturday night, I guess that makes it all right
And you say, “What have I got to lose?”

And honey, I say
Little Red Corvette
Baby, you’re much too fast
Little Red Corvette
You need a love that’s gonna last

Photo by Universal History Archive/ Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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