As a metaphor for life, trains can move forward at full speed, veer off the tracks or become full-on wrecks — so it’s no wonder there are so many songs that invoke life on the rails.
From Cat Stevens to Banks, John Mayer to Ozzy Osbourne, we’ve got you covered with the midnight train, peace train, train wreck or love train you’re looking for. Hop aboard our list of the 20 best songs about trains below.
“Stop This Train” by John Mayer (2006)
In a 2006 interview, Mayer confessed the song was about being chased by the unstoppable speed of time and wanting to go back home to childhood. “So scared of getting older, I’m only good at being young/ So I play the numbers game, to find a way to say that life has just begun.”
“Peace Train” by Yusuf/ Cat Stevens (1971)
Toward the end of the Vietnam War, songs about peace were common in popular music, and Stevens’ folk-pop hit made the Billboard Hot 100 top 10 in 1971. “Now I’ve been crying lately, thinking about the world as it is/ Why must we go on hating, why can’t we live in bliss?/ ‘Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train/ Oh, peace train take this country, come take me home again”
“Train Wreck” by James Arthur (2016)
James Arthur’s powerful voice shines on this honest track about battling dark emotions and looking for a way out from the toxic path of drugs and depression. “Find hope in the hopeless/ Pull me out of the train wreck/ Unburn the ashes/ Unchain the reactions, I’m not ready to die, not yet.”
“Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne (1980)
From Ozzy’s debut solo album Blizzard of Oz, the iconic chords in this song about a train are some of the best known. “Going off the rails on a crazy train” is about struggling with mental unrest, specifically dealing with the aftermath of the Cold War. But hey, “It’s not too late to learn how to love, and forget how to hate.”
“Girl on a Train” by Skizzy Mars (2016)
A chill rap song about meeting a beautiful stranger on the train, this Skizzy track is the ultimate Brooklyn almost-love story. “I fell in love before I even got her name/ And I ain’t even know where she was going/ But she broke my heart when her stop came/ On the L with some headphones on.”
“Long Train Runnin’” by The Doobie Brothers (1973)
The Doobie Brothers’ harmony into harmonica on this track has the ultimate ’70s groove. “You know I saw miss Lucy down along the tracks/ She lost her home and her family and she won’t be coming back.”
“The Train” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (2016)
This bilingual ballad featuring Carla Marrison narrates the perspective of a disconnected nomad, always traveling far from family and loved ones. “Always on the road tryna earn a livin’/ I remember when I bought my first ticket/ I been going, haven’t turned back since then.”
“Train in Vain” by The Clash (1979)
Fun Fact: This classic Clash breakup song from London Calling was added to the album last-minute after the artwork was finalized and therefore wasn’t included in the track list.
“Long Black Train” by Josh Turner (2003)
Josh Turner was a student at Belmont University when he wrote this song about a shiny black train symbolizing temptation. In an interview, he revealed that he had a vision of people deciding whether to get on or not. “Somehow they knew that this train led to nowhere, but they were wondering what it would be like to ride on it.”
“Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum (1992)
On the enduring ’90s grunge hit, Soul Asylum’s frontman Dave Pirner told Spin, “Somehow I flipped the lyrics into a metaphor about depression.” He continued, “It’s almost embarrassing when I think about how personal it is. The things that were happening at that time in my life were really questioning my own mental health.”
“C’mon ‘N’ Ride It (The Train)” by Quad City DJs (1996)
No song about a train could get us as hyped as this one. Dynamic metaphors, a vibrant dance video and a lyrical reference to The Little Engine That Could make this Quad City DJs jam stand out from the rest.
“Train Kept a Rollin’” by Aerosmith (1974)
A rad guitar solo opens this song about a train that kept rollin’ all night long. Originally recorded by Tiny Bradshaw in 1951, “Train Kept a Rollin” got a sexed-up classic-rock makeover courtesy of Steven Tyler in 1974.
“Train Ride Home” by lofi.samurai (2018)
A lo-fi atmospheric tune perfect for activities along the lines of studying, vibing and chilling. Completely instrumental aside from a cheeky interlude about ice cream, this one’s a deep cut.
“Trainwreck” by Banks (2016)
The video for Banks’ dark electro-pop anthem about heading the wrong way trying to get away is like a sexy episode of Black Mirror.
“Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight & The Pips (1973)
This ’70s R&B classic — about a man who doesn’t find the stardom he was looking for in L.A. and heads back to Georgia — won the Grammy in 1974 for best R&B vocal performance.
“Night Train” by Jason Aldean (2012)
Aldean’s romantic, twangy jam about getting cozy with “a fifth of Comfort” and a blanket under the stars makes snuggling in a field by the train tracks actually sound appealing. Nothing like warmth and whiskey to spark the mood.
“Love Train” by The OJs (1972)
Another end of the Vietnam War-era cry for peace, “Love Train” encourages everyone from China to Israel, Russia to England to get onboard and embrace each other. It’s impossible not to smile along with this infectious groove.
“Midnight Train to Memphis” by Chris Stapleton (2017)
Chris Stapleton’s rich voice delivers a little country rock and roll about spending 40 days in prison, and “Forty nights to sit and listen/ To the midnight train to Memphis.”
“Last Train Home” by Blink-182 (2016)
From Blink’s 2017 album California, Mark Hoppus told Kerrang that the song was partially inspired by The Sympathizer, a story about a communist double agent in Los Angeles after the Vietnam War.
“Midnight Train” by Sam Smith (2017)
At the mysterious midnight hour, a mournful lover walks away from a relationship that just isn’t working anymore. Smith’s tender and honest vocals make a heartbreaking confession on “Midnight Train”: “I choose me, and I know that’s selfish love, you are a dream/ And I can’t thank you enough, but I give another piece of me away every waking day that I’m with you.”