Route 66 and the Music it Inspires
It’s called America’s Main Street because Route 66 is a vast and twisting national highway that epitomizes the pioneering character of the U.S. experience each minute that you cross it. Traverse its extents and spin forward for 2,200 miles through scenery that the best road trips are made of. It’s easy to see why some of the most unforgettable songs in American culture, such as the one by Chuck Berry that goes by the same name, were inspired by it. His ode to Route 66 sounds so much like something you’d hear on a jukebox back in the good old days that you snap your finger with the hand that’s not guiding the steering wheel. You bob your head. You lip synch.
Rodger Miller’s “King of the Road” captures the mood of racing ahead with few other cars in sight and the wind whipping your hair. “Route 66” is a rite that lends itself to gliding with your windows down and the volume of yesteryear’s pop classics turned up high. Wheel through Chicago. Roar by the grasslands of Illinois next. Trace the barren length of the line along the Mojave Desert.
Some of the most unforgettable songs in American culture are written about the very route you’re flying forward on. Leave it to the band Free though to really capture the restless American spirit. The thrashing drums and gutsy vocals of “Alright Now” is a song made to be cranked up all the way that nobody with a beating heart could resist playing air guitar along with.
Elvis Presley is the voice that sums up the innocence of eras before there were a million different ways to order coffee and you wolfed down greasy spoon meals that were high in fat but nourished the rebel in you.
Nat King Cole’s voice of velvet is no better accompaniment to long empty stretches under the stars that you wheel forward on while hoping it takes forever to reach the end of the whole dreamy trip.
Route 66 culminates in Los Angeles, a city known for being welcoming to those chasing the craziest dreams, so “Walk on the Wide Side” by Lou Reed should herald in that final moment. Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” might work even better, however, since it’s an epic that truly symbolizes the triumph of finally arriving somewhere you can’t believe is real until you reach it.