Trains, they’re extraordinary creations that helped shape America, but they seem pretty arbitrary subjects when it comes to music. And yet, there are so many songs about trains—midnight trains to somewhere, love trains, crazy trains, long or fast trains.
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With train songs come stories of journeys, freedom, and destinations real and imagined. There is an art to the train song, one that feels lost today, but lives on in a select, yet extraordinary, few. Welcome aboard! Below you will find some of our favorite songs about trains.
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1. “Midnight Train to Georgia” – Gladys Knight & The Pips (1973)
And I’ll be with him / On that midnight train to Georgia / I’d rather live in his world / Than live without him in mine, sings Knight in the 1973 R&B classic.
Even though it’s not about the train itself, but a railway voyage to be with a loved one, Gladys Knight & The Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia” is one of the most iconic train songs on this list. It’s perfection from its slow groove to its background woo-woos. Written by singer-songwriter Jim Weatherly, the song was originally titled “Midnight Plane to Houston,” which just doesn’t have the same ring.
2. “Midnight Train to Memphis” – Chris Stapleton (2017)
Forty days of shotguns and barbed wire fences / Forty nights to sit and listen / To the midnight train to Memphis, Stapleton sings in the fiery train song.
The beloved country traditionalist sings about a different late-night locomotive in his 2017 country-rock banger, “Midnight Train to Memphis.” This train, however, is just out of reach for the singer who is doing hard time.
3. “Crazy Train” – Ozzy Osbourne (1980)
Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” isn’t headed in any certain direction, but wherever it’s going, it’s off the rails. The 1980 heavy metal hit marked Osbourne’s solo debut, one that barreled down the tracks and into rock and roll acclaim.
4. “Love Train” – The O’Jays (1972)
There are crazy trains and then there are love trains, but either one will have you moving your caboose. The O’Jays’ 1972 R&B hit, “Love Train,” especially, will incite a groove or two as they call for People all over the world / Join hands / Start a love train/ Love train alongside an infectious disco-tinged arrangement.
5. “Texas 1947” – Guy Clark (1975)
Look out, here she comes, she’s coming / Look out, there she goes, she’s gone / Screaming straight through Texas like a mad dog Cyclone / Big, red, and silver, she don’t make no smoke / She’s a fast-rollin’ streamline come to show the folks, sings Guy Clark in this love letter to a train.
His 1975 deep cut “Texas 1947,” which was originally recorded and released by Johnny Cash, is about seeing his first streamliner locomotive racing through a small Texas town.
6. “Long Train Runnin’” – The Doobie Brothers (1973)
Down around the corner / Half a mile from here / You see them long trains runnin’ / And you watch ’em disappear, the Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Runnin’” plays.
Another song that involves simply watching trains roll by, the 1973 hit chugs along, leaving behind a cloud of scratching strings and a bubbling bass line. It’s music to our engine ears.
7. “The City of New Orleans” – Arlo Guthrie (1972)
A song that is sung from the perspective of a train? Yes, please! Arlo Guthrie’s 1972 rendition of the classic folk song “The City of New Orleans” is about the train of the same name that runs from Chicago, Illinois to New Orleans, Louisiana on the Illinois Central Railroad.
Good morning America how are you?, the beautifully bittersweet song goes, Don’t you know me I’m your native son / I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans / I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.
8. “Peace Train” – Yusuf / Cat Stevens (1971)
Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train” isn’t so much about a physical train as it is about a destination of the heart and mind. The 1971 tune carries some poignant freight with words like Cause out on the edge of darkness / There rides a peace train / Oh, peace train take this country / Come take me home again.
The song holds powerful messages of peace, urging listeners to Get your bags together / Go bring your good friends, too / Because it’s gettin’ nearer / It soon will be with you as the peace train pulls into the station.
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