Road trip and hitchhiking songs 

We all have our favourite road trip songs and there are many good hitchhiking songs being written today. In the course of researching the history of hitchhiking, I have been compiling a database, soon to be available. In the meantime, here are a few of the obvious, the best, and the unknown, to search out and think on! 

1930s

Memphis Minnie - Nothing in rambling, In my girlish days

Woody Guthrie - Tom Joad 

1940s

Harry Partch – Barstow

1950s/1960s

Johnny Cash – I’ve been everywhere

Roger Miller - King of the road, Hitchhiker

Marvin Gaye – Hitchhike 

Elvis – Guitar Man

Bob Dylan – Down the Highway

1970s

Joan Baez - The Hitchhiker's Song

Credence Clearwater Revival - Sweet Hitch Hiker 

The Eagles - Taking it Easy

John Denver - (Old) Hitchhiker

Kris Kristofferson - Be and Bobby McGee 

Roy Harper - Highway Blues

Joni Mitchell - Coyote

1980s

Neil Young - Bound for Glory

Roger Waters - The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

Tom T. Jones – The Hitchhiker

 

1990s

Old Crow Medicine Show - Wagon Wheel 

Steve Earle – Hometown Blues, Leroy’s Dustbowl Blues, Texas Eagle

Ani DiFranco – Every state line

The Levellers - Battle of the Beanfield

Sheryl Crow - Every day is a winding road

Heart - All I wanna do is make love to you

2000 - present 

Ellis Paul - The Ballad of Chris McCandless

Shelley Segal - Hitchhiking Song

Jenna Witts - Hitchhiker

Ste Kenwright - Standing 

James Bar Bowen - She is 

Jamie M Cooper - Bundanoon Town

Here are a couple of the pieces I perform, and in the absence of a recording they can be read and imagined as performance prose (or something).  

Canadian Shield (2013)

Stroking the air in Canada, a freedom and beauty to share

Hitching the north road from Jasper, a hint of grey in her hair

Many years of dreaming through windows

Trying to connect the times of her life

She left her husband and kids for the summer

To find herself in the wild

 

On a big rig out to Peace River, she says: “I’m Lorna, you must be Jack

I’m taking a tour of the north lands, maybe even Alaska and back;

Where I can sleep out under the Aurora

And the Elias Range cuts the sky

I’ve got a natural kind of politics

But it’s not one for compromise”

 

Chorus

  • She said: “I can feel this land in my heart

  • I can feel this land in my heart

  • I can feel this land … my Canadian shield.”

 

Big Jack talked of oil in the forests, clear cut dividends for the land

He said “There’ll be a hole the size of a country

when they’ve taken the tar from the sand.

But I’m driving straight through to McMurray,

the day shift need these gurneys and reels,

so you’ll have to talk to me all night dear, or take a turn at the wheel.”

 

Chorus

  • He said “I can feel a strength in your heart

  • I can feel a strength in your heart

  • I can feel that strength … my Canadian shield”.

 

Morning broke down Cold Lake Canyon

Where she’d camped in the dark long ago

The glacial blue of that memory

Now choking in ashen plumes

Jack said “Young Mitch is heading for Dawson, but you might

want to stick around because the Indians will be making their protest,

from gutters and prison cell pounds.”

But Lorna and Mitch headed northwards, singing songs of unions and rights

She said “I want my son to be a doctor, to heal these new neuroses and blights”

Three thousand miles she hitchhiked that summer

Teslin, Haines, Fairbanks at a price

She said “What a marvellous thing is solitude even though these meetings excite”

 

Chorus

  • She said: “I can feel their strength in my heart

  • I can feel their strength in my heart

  • I can feel their strength in my heart … my Canadian shields.”

 

Now Big Jack took one too many chances, keeping awake with the loads of our lives

Mitch put his heart in the union, worried less about the time from his wife

And Lorna spread her natural wisdom, seeding hope in fertile young minds

Wrote herself into the road lore of Canada, a traveller ahead of her time.

 

Chorus

  • And I can feel their land in my heart

  • I can feel their strength in my heart

  • I can feel her strength … my Canadian shield.

This song owes much to the inspiring road trip of Lorna Whishaw in the summer of 1955  documented in her hitchhiking memoir 'As Far As You'll Take Me' 

By Cairnsmore

(A Solway song)

C There’s light from the spiral arm tonight

F On the old wharf by the Fleet

C We’re both late for the party

F The cargo of our age

Am Has gone with oak and coal and empire

C Gems for the diplomats

F I was looking for a place in history

C Not a memory captured under glass.

Am For those who had loved

C Dug and drank this way

Made their bids for liberty

F You could wish that

Rabbie Burns was here tonight. C

Beneath the hunch of Cairnsmore mountain

The scythe of the seventy five

Recalling red light fever

When I last hitched in these climes

A tenner in the pot at Stranraer

Race their comrades out of sight

All empty trailers swaying to be

Unwed in Gretna

For the night sky lifts a primal lens

To hope and hold and share

As strangers in the thousand star hotel.

Am Cos we’re always on the edge of something C always on the edge of something F always on the edge of something more C

It feels good to recall the prime of the

Old Portpatrick line

A morning’s brief encounters

The steps of the thirty nine

Now Loch Skerrow’s wayside halt

Smells of garlic and gorse

A purple dragonfly motorway

Like this young thumb by Palnure

Backing his way to Newton Stewart

Caught between work and desire.

I get a summit fever urge

To text wish you were here

But the Solway glitters

Where it rose to drown

Margarets Wilson and McLachlan

Tied to the stakes and that

Catholic guilt still abounds

Yet for those whose Covenant is sky

Kites roam the rocky shrines

And governments

Still can’t climb hills.

Cos we’re always on the edge of something, always on the edge of something, always on the edge of something more

(Rap) Once I met a soldier on the road

Damaged by his training and it showed

Crashes and drinking took its toll

But he remembered every word of Eminem

Took them to the church to make amends

A prayer and a tribute

To his son

Now he’s come to Castle Douglas to be free

If she will accept him down on one knee

With his khaki and Yankees hat

Bought from the same charity shop

Gave me the choice of the words

Which would create most of a stir

When the bell rang she raised her head

But the lights changed and we sped

Away …

At the museum stop at Creetown

Some Guides light up the bus

With makeup and laughter

From their phones

Across the aisle a pencil’s busy

Lips pursed with concentration

She says her name’s Iona

Going to be a writer

Behind glass we watch the traffic

Bones moving in the landscape

Hope our words will travel

Like dragonflies in amber.

Cos we’re always on the edge of something always on the edge of something always on the edge of something more.

Steady rolling tempo, in four, with a shuffle. Acapello rap on the middle eight

© J.Purkis 2020

Picture credits (in order)

*Wikipedia.org 'Peace River'

* www.wrongkindofgreen.org 

*'Murray monument, Gatehouse of Fleet' on www.dgwgo.com

*Anthony O Neill, 2010 on geograph.co.uk

*wikipedia page  'Wigton Martyrs'

*Andy Farrington, 2010 on geograph.co.uk

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