Illinois: Top 11 Epic Road Trip Songs

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If you are looking for road trip songs for your next adventure from Chicago, the Prairie State is no stranger to the influence of music in the United States and around the world.

From Jazz greats like Miles Davis to hip-hop stars like Ludacris, road trip songs are the perfect companions for an epic journey on the open road.

Here are our picks for top road trip songs and why they are so befitting for Illinois.

Great Road Trip Songs for Illinois

With well-known artists like the Smashing Pumpkins and Cheap Trick, Illinois hails as a state from which great musical talents are born (ok, there may be some bias).

Here is a mix of genre and if you’d like to hear it on Spotify, be my guest!

1979, by The Smashing Pumpkins

Year Released: 1995

This piece has road trips written all over it. It’s nostalgic but has a nice, steady beat and makes it easy to create new memories. If you close your eyes while listening, you can see the turns in the road, feel the warm sun, and appreciate what nature has on display.  

September, by Earth, Wind & Fire

Year Released: 1978

This song is our national anthem for the start of the Fall season, although that was not its original intent. You can’t help but get in a groove with this feel-good tune.

The band started in Chicago and makes us Illinois proud with their blend of American, African, Jazz, and R&B style. If you have a long drive ahead, get pumped and belt out those bah-dee-yahs!

I’m Every Woman, by Chaka Khan

Year Released: 1978

Don’t you think it’s the perfect road trip song for a nature getaway with the girls? This tune speaks volumes about female empowerment (the lyrics don’t have to be about a highway, right?)!

Solo travelers, especially, will find several affirmations in this number. The song was originally released in 1978 (by Chaka Khan) and Whitney Houston revamped it with extra funky beats in 1992. Both are expertly delivered.

Runaway, by Kanye West

Year Released: 2010

The playlist would not be complete without a song from Yeezy. People wonder what is going thru his head, and in the same breath, they praise his musical genius. 

When it starts to get crazy, then run away. Babe, I got a plan, run away as fast as you can. This voice speaks to all of us as travelers. We hear you K, just don’t chase after us. 

Let’s Go Crazy, by Prince

Year Released: 1984

It’s high energy and a blood-rush to see this song performed on stage. If you haven’t heard Prince’s Purple Rain album, where have you been? Prince was not born in Illinois, but we adopted him.

He performed free concerts in Chicago, and his philanthropist deeds saved the Chicago arts. And let’s not get into deep discussions about the guitar riff at the end. Enough said. 

Too Much Time on My Hands, by Styx

Year Released: 1981

Known as one of the greatest rock bands in the 70’s and 80’s, this song is pumpin’, stumpin’, rockin’, and jumpin’. It should be brought back as the 2020 quarantine anthem for Illinois.

The lyrics ask, Is it any wonder I’m not crazy? Is it any wonder I’m sane at all? Yes, Styx, bring all the upbeat and funky piano chords. We are here for it! Put this one on full blast as you leave the driveway.

I Need Your Lovin, by Teena Marie

Year Released: 1980

Some call her Vanilla Child, but names don’t cramp her style. When Teena burst into the music scene everyone thought, “Who dat?” She was one of the first to release a song with a series of rhymes that came close to rap in the song Square Biz.

She played at the Chicago House of Blues in 2008 and brought many fine Chicago musicians together to set the town afire. The beat is fun and makes you and your girl crew ride want to ride with the top down.

The horns section came through and the extended play version leaves you wanting more.

Like Sugar, by Chaka Khan

Year Released: 2019

Chaka did not come to play. The beat is hot. The music video is vibrant and fresh. Watch out, you may pick up a few new moves to show off on the dance floor.

Her vocals are just as powerful as they were 40 years ago. This tune pops and brings life. Why, with the state that I’m in. Everybody here is dancing. All I wanna do is get your body next to mine.

Chaka sang with the Chicago band, Rufus, and gained notoriety in the 1970s. Now, Chaka is single-handedly bringing back the afro and the Soul Train line.

mural of kanye west
Lake St. – Fulton Market Neighborhood

Gold Digger, by Kanye West

Year Released: 2005

Some say Kanye is cray-cray, but listen to the lyrics. Not only is this song serving a funky bass beat, but he’s also spitting some good advice!

And can we take a moment to appreciate the soulful Ray Charles sound that Jamie Foxx delivered?! Cause when she leave yo’ ass, she gon’ leave with half. Kanye, Bill Gates, and Jay Cutler may have this on rotation this year, but we’re not mad at them. Divorce is a biotch! It’s only appropriate that this song makes the top ten list of items for travel.

Moves Like Jagger, by Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera 

Year Released: 2010

Take note of all the accompaniments…whistles, hot guitar strums, and drum pumps. The lyrics may be a double entendre. So get in the car, we can ride it. Wherever you want, get inside it.

But let’s be honest (and keep it clean). Who wouldn’t want an offer like that? The entire song screams let’s go, baby! This song should be on every road trip playlist from Alabama to Wyoming.  

Yeah! by Usher featuring Lil Jon & Ludacris

Year Released: 2004

Ready for the road trip, heck Yeah! Come get me! Let’s Go! Of all the collaborations and releases from Ludacris, this one tops the charts. This song has a classic club vibe that will have you doing the Dougie in the driver’s seat.

Final Thoughts for Illinois Road Trip Songs

I’ve had some unforgettable memories on a road trip from Chicago and music had a huge influence on the experience.

As I hit the open road, windows down and wind blowing in my face, there was always one thing that elevated the journey to a whole new level: road trip songs. Several years later, when I hear those songs again, I think of those road trips and the feeling of freedom.

From classic anthems to upbeat melodies that inspire sing-alongs, let’s rev up the engines and embark on a melodic adventure together this summer!

Buckle up, adjust the volume, and get ready to discover the ultimate playlist for your next epic road trip.

What song would you include for Illinois or for you own state? Leave a comment with a suggested road trip song and the state.

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  1. I love putting together a road trip playlist based on the location I’m visiting! Now I have some great ones to add to my list for when I visit Illinois!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      It was pretty fun. I didn’t add Chance the Rapper, maybe next time (he-he). Thanks for reading!

  2. Angela L. Dowdy says:

    Your list is FAB…nice mix of genres and years. I live in Florida and would recommend any songs by Jimmy Buffet or Lynyrd Skynyrd.

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      I agree, Margaritaville is a shoe-in! Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. Great list of songs, I would be singing along to most of these if they were playing on my car ride. I love a good playlist for a big road trip

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Glad you like them! I’m sure the list will grow over the years to come 🙂 Have a great week!