Songs About Me
Trucking tunes make a country comeback
In the late 1970s, pop culture was captivated with trucking, thanks to a catchy country song called “Convoy.” The intersection of twang and trucking wasn’t necessarily new — it dates back to the 1930s, when trucking tunes were a logical outgrowth of work songs about coal miners and railroad men. But something about that moment in history made trucking a hot topic in country music.
And if a spate of recent releases is any indication, the trend may be headed for a comeback. George Strait and Trace Adkins both recorded trucking-centric songs on their latest albums. After 11 years, Dale Watson recorded a follow-up to his immensely popular Truckin’ Sessions, and Canada’s Road Hammers just released their third album. And then there’s Aaron Tippin, whose latest album In Overdrive bridges the gap between old and new by including classics like “East Bound and Down” and “Truck Drivin’ Man,” alongside an original composition called “Drivin’ Fool.”
Though it may seem random, the timing of the resurgence doesn’t come as such a surprise to historians. Shane Hamilton, author of the 2008 book Trucking Country, says pop culture has always tended to paint truck drivers as the last cowboys — renegades who buck the bureaucracy, and the original “self-made men.” It’s logical then that trucking tends to be celebrated in popular culture particularly during times of economic hardship.
“I think that there is a wider sense that truckers are a throwback to an older time, with a frontier spirit and an individualist work ethic. Historically, politicians have often pointed to the American truck driver as the stock figure of a hard worker,” Hamilton says. “At a time like this, when people sense that all these big institutions — the big banks and corporations — have failed them, you have to go back to the basics of how to make it through. So you go back to that hard work ethic.”
Also, since delivering goods from point A to point B can’t be outsourced, trucking still offers the rare opportunity to achieve the American dream of building a career from the bottom up, unlike manufacturing and other related industries.
But as the spotlight seems poised to shine on trucking once again, it’s worth wondering: Is that a good thing? “The danger is always in the ridiculous songs that don’t really represent what truckers do,” Hamilton says. “But I think it can only help when thoughtful musicians write good songs about the industry.”