Song of the Week

EHSDA Song of the Week: Roadrunner

Distracted driving is a huge safety issue. This week on EHS Daily Advisor, we wrote about how employers and employees can prevent distracted driving. There are many great songs about driving, but the Song of the Week honors go to “Roadrunner” by the Modern Lovers.

Led by singer-songwriter Jonathan Richman, the Modern Lovers were formed in the Boston suburbs in 1970. The band also included drummer David Robinson (who went on to play in The Cars) and keyboardist Jerry Harrison (who was a founding member of Talking Heads).

The song has an interesting and convoluted history. Richman wrote “Roadrunner” as a tribute to Route 128 in Massachusetts, which he spent a lot of driving on as a teenager. He name-checks several Massachusetts landmarks and sings about listening to rock on the radio.

The song’s sound was inspired by the Velvet Underground’s classic “Sister Ray” and was first recorded in 1972 and released as a single. Other versions were recorded but the band broke up in 1974 over Richman’s desire to go in a different musical direction. The songs the Modern Lovers recorded in 1971-72 were eventually released on a self-titled album in 1976, and “Roadrunner” was released in different versions over the years. The original garage-rock version has grown in popularity among rock fans and has inspired many musicians over the last 40+ years. It has been covered by artists including the Sex Pistols, Wire, Joan Jett, the Greg Kihn Band, the Jazz Butcher, and Phish.

There was even an effort to make “Roadrunner” the official rock song of Massachusetts, although that stalled. One thing is for certain, “Roadrunner” is one of the all-time great driving songs. Just don’t get distracted.

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