For some reason, when people throw the term “singer songwriter” around, they tend not to think about country singers. Country rock, sure, like Ryan Adams, but not Johnny Cash. And not Roy Clark. Clark helped bring along country/rock performers like Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell, and wrote hits by the likes of Bobby Bare, Vince Gill, Jimmy Buffett, Ricky Skaggs, and dozens more. So, it’s fitting he gets a GOAT. And since he was born on November 6, 1941, we’re celebrating him today.
“LA Freeway” was first recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker in 1972, but Roy wrote it. And it’s one of the best songs ever written about traffic. (I’d say it’s the best, but Hendrix’s Crosstown Traffic is also awesome.) “If I could just get off of this L.A. freeway without getting killed or caught…” It crosses the rubicon of country and rock (and folk) seamlessly, and, back in 1972, it was one of the earlier songs to do so and maintain much more of a country than a rock edge. The Rolling Stones, Gram Parsons and others were starting forays into country rock, but for them the emphasis was always on the rock side.
The song is often credited as the jumping off point for Clark’s career.
So, this is my 23d entry into my own list of the best songs of all time. Where does it fall on the list?
Towards the bottom, but being the 21st best song ever is still quite respectable:
19. Ironic by Alanis Morissette (1995) (link)
20. Rockit by Henry Hancock (1983) (link)
21. L.A. Freeway by Roy Clark (1972)
22. 99 Red Baloons by Nena (1983) (link)
23. Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum (1969) (link)
Covers: The Bill Hearne version is awesome, and the other ones show it’s almost impossible to make a bad cover of this tune. Steve Earle just revived it again on his 2019 album.