For most of us, the title “Life Is A Highway” is inseparably tied to Rascal Flatts. The trio recorded the anthem for the Disney/Pixar movie Cars. Subsequently, the group gave new life to the track, which was originally recorded in 1991.
Videos by American Songwriter
Videos by American Songwriter
“He told us about this movie, Cars, that he was doing,” Gary Levox once told Songfacts about getting the idea from Pixar head John Lasseter. “We were, like, ‘Well, that sounds weird. So, the cars are gonna talk?’ [But] Toy Story worked, so you know what you’re doing, John.'”
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Despite being made for a children’s movie, the song became a staple in Rascal Flatts’ live set and one of their biggest hits to date. It was such a successful effort for the band, that many (especially those who were introduced to the song through Cars) may not even be aware that it’s a cover. Find out who wrote and originally performed the song, below.
Who Wrote “Life Is A Highway”
Canadian rocker Tom Cochrane penned this “Carpe diem” anthem in the early ’90s. The song became an international hit for Cochrane, peaking at No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. It did especially well back home, hitting No. 1 in Canada in late 1991.
The lyrics were inspired by Cochrane’s trip to West Africa, where he was raising awareness for World Vision famine relief. “I was mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausted and I really needed something to pull me out of this funk,” Cochrane once recounted. “I had this sketch that I had written and I ended up going into the studio and recorded it in an hour at seven in the morning. The irony is that it was the most positive song I’d ever written, coming out of a pretty heavy experience.”
“There’s certain songs you just wanna leave alone,” Levox continued in his Songfacts interview. “You’re, like, ‘How can you re-do that?’ There are staples of music history, and ‘Life Is A Highway’ is one of them with Tom Cochrane.”
Cochrane started off his career as the frontman of the Canadian rock group Red Rider, also consisting of Ken Greer, Jeff Jones, Peter Boynton, and Rob Baker. Cochrane served as both their lead singer and primary songwriter for more than 10 years.
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His contributions to the outfit were so integral that by 1986 the group was being billed as Tom Cochrane & Red Rider. Though the band originally called it quits in the early ’90s, Cochrane reunited with Greer and Jones in 2002 and continues to perform with them today.
After becoming a household name with Red Rider, Cochrane launched his solo career in 1991, punctuated by the release of “Life Is A Highway.” The single’s subsequent album, Mad Mad World, went on to reach the six million mark in worldwide sales.
Cochrane has a fair few honors to his name, including a Canadian Music Hall of Fame induction, a place on Canada’s Walk of Fame, an honorary doctorate from Brandon University, an honorary colonel status by the Royal Canadian Air Force, six Juno awards, and more.
Cochrane released his last full-length LP in 2019, which saw him revisit a number of his biggest hits, including “Life Is A Highway.” The singer-songwriter has a Canadian tour plotted this summer. Find the full dates, HERE.
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