Detroit native rock singer Bob Seger is no stranger to life on the road. With a powerful raspy voice, Segar’s music often encompasses blue-collar themes, love, and women. “Roll Me Away,” a hit from Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s 1982 album The Distance, is no exception.
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The Distance was Seger’s 12th studio album and the meaning behind the lyrics was centered on the theme of relationships that fall apart, inspired by Woody Allen’s 1977 film Annie Hall. The record’s top single, “Shame on the Moon,” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and stayed there for four weeks. “Roll Me Away” made it to No. 27 on the Hot 100 and No. 13 on Mainstream Rock Tracks.
In a clipping from the Detroit Free Press in 1994, Seger shares that “Roll Me Away” was inspired by a motorcycle trip he took to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
“I wanted to do that for a long time. It was fascinating being out. The first night it was 42 degrees in northern Minnesota; the second it was 106 in South Dakota and all I had on was my shorts, and my feet were up on the handlebars to keep them from boiling on the engine,” Seger wrote. “It was just silence and feeling nature.”
The song tells a story of a trip out west on a “big two-wheeler,” complete with meeting a woman in a bar to bring along for a few miles.
Took a look down a westbound road, right away I made my choice
Headed out to my big two-wheeler I was tired of my own voice
Took a bead on the northern plains and just rolled that power on
Twelve hours out of Machinaw City, stopped in a bar to have a brew
Met a girl and we had a few drinks and I told her what I’d decided to do
She looked out the window a long, long moment then she looked into my eyes
She didn’t have to say a thing I knew what she was thinkin’
Roll, roll me away, won’t you roll me away tonight?
I too am lost, I feel double-crossed and I’m sick of what’s wrong and what’s right
We never even said a word, we just walked out and got on that bike
And we rolled
And we rolled clean out of sight
True to the original theme of the album, relationships that don’t last, the girl only sticks around for a little while, before the “air began to turn cold” and the two parted ways.
We rolled across the high plains
Deep into the mountains
Felt so good to me
Finally feelin’ free
Somewhere along a high road
The air began to turn cold
She said she missed her home
I headed on alone
The final lyrics bring back the sense of freedom and independence that comes with a solo trip. Without anyone to hinder his choices, the narrator is free to ride where the road takes him and holds out hope for the next connection he makes along the way.
Stood alone on a mountaintop starin’ out at the Great Divide
I could go east, I could go west, it was all up to me to decide
Just then I saw a young hawk flyin’ and my soul began to rise
And pretty soon
My heart was singin’
Roll, roll me away, I’m gonna roll me away tonight
The track embodies the big ballad spirit of the mid-’80s, highlighted with a strong piano melody, backing synths, and the shake of a tambourine. The verses keep the focus on Seger’s raspy vocals and the story he tells, and the choruses come flying in with big instruments and high energy, delivering the anthemic call of “roll me away.”
Seger falls into the category of heartland rock, a genre that emerged in the late ‘70s which entwined classic rock and Americana. Seger is accompanied by well-known artists within this genre including Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. In addition to the classic, rough rock sound, heartland rockers were united by the belief that music should mean something.
One of the best-selling artists of all time, Seger has sold over 75 million records worldwide. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012. He has been nominated for seven GRAMMY Awards and won a GRAMMY for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for Against the Wind in 1980.