12 Great Songs About Journeys to Inspire Your Writing
Every journey is a story. And, from the intro to the bridge to the final refrain, all songs are journeys in themselves.
As we ask the world to write about emotional and physical journeys they have been on, we thought we’d rummage through our virtual disc racks to unearth some great music about journeys to inspire your pen.
We could have included 100 more songs in this list but decided to stick to 12. Please signpost others to the inspirational songs we’ve missed to inspire others to write about a journey they’ve been on.
1. 'Then I Met You' by The Proclaimers
Let’s start with the most controversial choice. Yes, we haven’t chosen 'I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)'. Yes, we are the SCOTTISH Book Trust and we haven’t chosen 'I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)'. We acknowledge that 'I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)' is a foot-stomping declaration of love’s pure intention. However, Leith’s favourite twins are singing about what they might do were they challenged to prove their love. In other words, they haven’t been on the journey yet but they would go on it if they were forced to.
Ergo, as we, by law, have to include a Proclaimers song, 'Then I Met You' is a more natural choice. It tells the tale of a man who thought that he ‘was whole instead of being half of something’ until love brings hitherto unknown depths to his life.
2. 'Born to Run' by Bruce Springsteen
If Bruce Springsteen had a twin then he would be America’s answer to The Proclaimers. He doesn't, but then, he doesn’t need to. He’s The Boss and 'Born To Run' is perhaps the greatest journeys-related rock song of all time. As Springsteen says in his introduction to this acoustic version, ‘it’s about two people trying to find their way home.’ And, in that, it’s about everything.
3. 'I Drove All Night' by Roy Orbison
If you find romance in someone creeping in your room, waking you from your sleep to make love to you, then this song should inspire to commit a romantic journey from your life to the page. Cyndi Lauper originally released this track in 1989 even though Roy Orbison had recorded an unreleased version in 1987. Orbison’s version finally hit the charts in 1992 and, with its galloping horse drumbeat, it become the version most people now bring to mind. Plus, the video stars Jason Priestley and Jennifer Connelly – a major ‘90s swoonfest of unbuttoned shirts worn over t-shirts.
4. 'Chicago' by Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens embarked on writing an album for each Amercan state in his ambitious Fifty States project. His second album for the project, Illinois, produced his most famous song to date, 'Chicago'. It’s a semi-autobiographical tale of an idealistic young man setting off on a road trip. Stevens claimed that the song is, in part, inspired by Saul Bellow’s poem of the same title. Be sure to read some of poems we’ve already received for Journeys.
5. 'California' by Joni Mitchell
Taken from the sublime Blue, Joni Mitchell’s travelogue of homesickness inspires memories of that feeling you get when you know you’ll soon be heading home to where the streets won’t be so ‘full of strangers’. Mitchell’s song is written as a stream of consciousness about her time spent in France, Spain and Greece and how she longed for home at each juncture. Of course, the excitement of heading home is always tinged with the question ‘Will you take me as I am? Will you?’
6. 'Skye Boat Song,' Traditional
Currently the title track for the television adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling Outlander series (the Scottish Game of Thrones), this Scottish folk song recalls the pathos of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape from Uist to the Isle of Skye after his defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The Outlander version prefers Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem version of the song rather than using Sir Harold Boulton’s more bellicose 19th century lyrics and guarantees the popularity of this famous journey song for another generation or two.
Perhaps you’ve been on a memorable boat crossing to Scotland’s islands? Write about it for Journeys.
7. 'Cordelia' by Jo Mango
Losing someone close to you can force you to reboot your life as you journey back to the person you were before. In this beautiful song of loss, Jo Mango's lyrics will resonate with anyone whose journeyed through grief towards a new, very different way of being.
8. 'Prelude, Op. 28, No. 15 (Raindrop Prelude)' by Frederic Chopin
There are many apocryphal tales surrounding Frederic Chopin’s 'Raindrop Prelude'. Chopin himself refuted most of them and any link between the persistent A flat in the piece and the sound of rainfall. Regardless, as an inspiration for an entry to Journeys, it is without peer. Perhaps Chopin meant that the persistent note could represent anything. Perhaps it is rainfall hitting a tin roof; maybe it represents a niggle from one's subconscious; or it could represent a battle with illness or grief. Whatever it means to you, tune in, sit back and see which of your life’s journeys it brings to mind.
9. 'America' by Simon and Garfunkel
Written in unrhymed blank verse, Simon and Garfunkel’s achingly beautiful depiction of young lovers in search of America, and themselves, forever haunts the soul of anyone who listens to it. Its lyrics are a shining example of the old writing maxim ‘show don’t tell’. Our young lovers move from ‘playing games with the faces’ to telling each other of their aching emptiness in fragments of memory from their journey together.
10. 'Albi the Racist Dragon' by Flight of the Conchords
Of course, you don’t need to have set off across a continent to write a story for Journeys. And, yes, you can be funny like this Flight of the Conchords song about a racist dragon who overcomes his prejudices.
11. 'Star Guitar' by The Chemical Brothers
This tune from 2002 makes it onto our playlist for its combination of a great track and even better video from acclaimed director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep). Simple in concept, the video is just a continuous shot of a view from a train window passing through towns and countryside with buildings and objects matched to the beat. In the era of smart phones, perhaps we’re losing the joy of simply sitting and staring out of a train window. It's a shame as it's one of life’s most simple, and subtly romantic, pleasures.
Why not write about a simple, memorable or epic train journey from your life for Journeys?
12. 'Home Sweet Home' by Mötley Crüe
We couldn’t resist the temptation to close our mixtape with this lighters-in-the-air, spine tingling power balled that couldn’t sound more ‘80s if it were listened to through a Sony Walkman whilst driving a Ford Sierra, dressed in ripped jeans, licking a Push Pop, on your way back from getting a perm. Take it away lads…
We hope these songs have helped to bring a memorable emotional or physical journey to your mind and that you'll find time to write about it for Journeys. For more inspiration, read some of the stories we've received so far.