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Remembering songs about cars in the age of climate change

There was a time when songs about motorized transportation were a big thing – songs about cars, songs about trains, trucker songs, even songs about airplane flight. Now that climate change and our carbon footprint are top of mind, does that spell doom for the car song? Are we likely to hear songs about Teslas, hybrids, sub-compacts and so on? Maybe there will be a shift to songs about riding bicycles?

Some of the best pop songs are about cars or stuff we do in them. I’d like to celebrate those songs today. We’ll get to trains and planes in later posts. There are so many excellent choices, but it’s my blog so I get to pick. You can add your faves in the comments.

Let’s start off by taking a trip to Lamesa, Texas. Here’s the Pavarotti of the Plains, the late great Don Walser, singing Hot Rod Mercury.

I heard an interview with James Cotton once, many years ago, during which he said he co-wrote Rocket 88 with Ike Turner. That’s the first and only reference I’ve ever heard to his involvement with the penning of what might be the first Rock ‘n’ Roll song. I know he was in Memphis at the right time, and I know he played the hell out of the song. Here he is, from 1973 with a band that was on fire. Back when I was a teenage blues freak, I saw The James Cotton Band perform at the Ontario Place Forum. Remember that place, with the revolving stage? It must have been 1975, and Mr. Cotton and the boys were opening for Muddy Waters. Sadly, they’re both gone now.

From the same era, remember War and their fantastic tune, Low Rider? That’s sax player Charles Miller singing. Funky.

This next one is pure fun. It’s Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk performing Woody Guthrie’s The Car Song. I dare you to listen to this one through without smiling.

Wow, there are so many choices. I may have to do two or more posts just on this theme. For now, I’ll offer up just a couple more. We associate Chuck Berry with the 50s, but this is one of his 60s tunes, from 1964, No Particular Place to Go. “Hail, Hail, Rock ‘n’ Roll”.

Last one for today. Let’s go out with Junior Brown and his weird-ass double neck guitar contraption performing with the Beach Boys on their fantastic car tune, 409. That’s 4-speed, duel quad, positraction 409, buddy.

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