Music and driving go hand-in-glove. There once was a time where the radio was the distraction-pariah that smartphones have become in cars. But driving fast, reckless, and inebriated are prevalent themes through generations of tunes and in all genres. Automobiles are the ultimate sign of independence and the first-person tellers of many songs’ stories are often the heroic protagonists, while the law and everyone else is just in the way.
Eminem’s “Stan” is actually through the eyes of a crazed fan of the rapper, who, in the second-to-last verse is “doing 90 on the freeway.” He accidentally crashes off of a bridge while en route to committing a very intentional murder, so Stan’s driving miscues are overshadowed.
The Wallflowers’ “One Headlight” sparked the idea for this piece, as the chorus to the 1996 hit ends with, “We can drive it home with one headlight.” That line from Bob Dylan’s son, Jakob, is less harmful than most driving lyrics. But, alas - bad advice. Metaphoric as it is.
The most egregious violator in the songs that quickly came to my mind was Commander Cody, who, with his Lost Planet Airmen, gave us “Hot Rod Lincoln.” My longtime and late mentor, Captain Herb Emory, used this tune for years as the theme to his racing show on 95.5 WSB.
Cody sang about driving in a Model A, with a Lincoln motor, getting passed by a Cadillac, and then overtaking the rival. Riding with his buddies, he accelerated to 110 mph, passed cars like they were standing still, made telephones look like a picket fence, clanked the guard rails, and sideswiped a truck, before passing the Caddy. Then the law pulled them over and took them to jail.
But an overlooked driving faux pas in this song is the fact that the narrator was driving on “fair” tires. Not that anyone should drive triple digits on public streets, but no one should push the limits of their cars on faulty rubber. And they almost ran out of gas.
I cast a line out on my social media pages to fish for some other songs with dirty driving deeds. My Facebook crowd delivered.
Timmy H. dropped an obvious one. Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55″ not only covers his disdain for minding the speed limit, but his continually getting pulled over for it. I had never paid much attention to the 1984 hit, except for the chorus. So I had no idea that he thought driving slower made steering more difficult, which might be the worst excuse to an officer or judge ever.
If the police put Hagar in a paddy wagon, would they call it a “Van Haulin’”?
Scott H. exposed me to Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good”, which contains the line “My Maserati does 185. I lost my license, now I don’t drive.” Anyone that attempts that kind of speed on a public road should only get their license back when hell freezes over.
Kerry O. brought one of a number of applicable hip hop tunes on board with Chamillionaire’s smash hit “Ridin’ Dirty.” Driving with illegal items, which is the main theme of the song, is bad enough. But Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone are also drunk and high, while hauling dope and guns and evading the beloved patrolmen. This song is rife with how not to do, well, life. Inebriated driving, while trying not to get pulled over, is certainly not a pro tip.
Sublime gave a lifetime’s worth of bad advice in the 19-second song, “Drunk Drivin’”. Not only is that something that the narrator likes to do, he also likes to do so with the person whom he is singing to. That is just one more life in danger there.
These are just songs; they are art. None contains actual advice or is necessarily based on real events. But since driving is a huge part of our culture, we should not have a blindspot to these sometimes musically glorified misgivings. Employing the above carelessness will leave one Drivin’ and Cryin’ on the “Highway to Hell”, so to speak.
Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. Download the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App to hear reports from the WSB Traffic Team automatically when you drive near trouble spots. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.
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