Life Is a Highway

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"Life Is a Highway"
Life Is a Highway Tom Cochrane.jpg
Single by Tom Cochrane
from the album Mad Mad World
Released September 20, 1991[1]
Recorded 1990
Genre Rock, heartland rock
Length 4:26
Label Capitol
Songwriter(s) Tom Cochrane
Producer(s) Tom Cochrane, Joe Hardy
Tom Cochrane singles chronology
"String Module Error: Match not found"
"Life Is a Highway"
"No Regrets"

"Life Is a Highway" is a song written by Tom Cochrane, from his 1991 album Mad Mad World. The song was Cochrane's most famous song, becoming a number one hit in his native Canada. The song also peaked at number six on the Billboard charts in the United States in 1992. The song has been covered by Rascal Flatts for the Cars soundtrack, as well as by Chris LeDoux, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Home Free.


In an interview with The Canadian Press, Cochrane said the song was originally envisioned several years before its release as "Love is a Highway", but was shelved while he was still working with his band mates in Tom Cochrane and Red Rider during the late 1980s.[2]

Following a trip with his family to Eastern Africa, where he helped to raise awareness and money for the World Vision famine relief organization, he revisited the song with advice from his friend John Webster, an instrumentalist on Mad Mad World. In an interview with The Canadian Press to mark the song's 25th anniversary, Cochrane said Webster encouraged him to revisit the demo recording, which only had mumbled vocals and improvised lyrics, but not the song's well-known chorus.[2] Eventually that version was released on the 25th-anniversary reissue of the album as "Love is a Highway".

While his trip to Africa was influential to a notable portion of the Mad Mad World album, it was especially formative to the final version of "Life is a Highway". Cochrane says he was trying to unpack the poverty he witnessed on his trip, which he found "shocking and traumatic". He later said the uptempo spirit of the song came from looking for something positive to "hang the experience on."[2]

Most of the vocals on the track were recorded in the small studio in his backyard.[citation needed]

"It became a pep talk to myself ... saying you can’t really control all of this stuff, you just do the best you can", he told The Canadian Press in an interview.

"All the details of going into a country like Mozambique, which was in a protracted civil war at the time, you can’t be distracted with all of that."

Places mentioned in the song are Mozambique, Memphis, Khyber Pass, and Vancouver.

The song was Cochrane's only Top 40 hit in the United States. In Canada, three other singles from the album charted.[citation needed]


Music video[edit]

The original video for "Life Is a Highway" was produced by Albert Botha who went on to line produce two films for Saturday Night Live, Superstar starring Molly Shannon and The Ladies Man starring Tim Meadows. The video was shot in Alberta's Badlands, near the town of Drumheller. Many of the shots are in familiar locations along the Dinosaur Trail, including Cochrane playing guitar amid the Hoodoos and the couple, Kait Shane and Brennan Elliott running around the car while it rides the Bleriot Ferry across the Red Deer River. It also has an older man (gas station attendant), a couple (tall man, short wife), and two women from an Anabaptist religious order (Alberta has a population of Hutterites). The car which is featured in the music video is a 1965 Chevrolet Impala Super Sport.

The plot for the video is a pastiche of the 1991 Canadian dark comedy, Highway 61. The song was originally offered by Capitol Records to the film's director, Bruce McDonald, to use in the film. McDonald declined the offer, saying the song was "too poppy".[citation needed]

The Family Guy episode "The Woof of Wall Street" features a few clips of the video throughout the episode.

Rascal Flatts version[edit]

"Life Is a Highway"
Single by Rascal Flatts
from the album Me and My Gang and Cars: The Soundtrack
Released June 6, 2006
Format Digital download
Recorded 2006
Genre Rock, Heartland Rock
Length 4:36
Label Lyric Street, Walt Disney
Songwriter(s) Tom Cochrane
Producer(s) Dann Huff
Rascal Flatts singles chronology
"Me and My Gang"
"Life Is a Highway"
"My Wish"

In 2006, American country band Rascal Flatts recorded a cover of this song for the Pixar animated film Cars, which was released on June 9, 2006. The song sold a large quantity of digital downloads, leading to a #7 peak on the Billboard Hot 100 (one position lower than the Tom Cochrane original). In addition, the cover was placed as a bonus track on later versions of the album Me and My Gang, and also was included on their Greatest Hits Volume 1. This version also won the "Favorite Song from a Movie" award at the 33rd People's Choice Awards.

The instrumental of the Rascal Flatts' cover version was prominently featured in the Top Gear: US Special, which aired February 11, 2007. The song is included on the soundtrack for Lego Rock Band. It topped the 2 million mark in paid downloads as of the chart dated March 28, 2009.[7] As of March 2013, the song has sold over 3 million copies in the US.[8]

On July 14, 2015, Scott Walker, Republican Governor of Wisconsin, launched his presidential campaign as Republican Party nominee in Waukesha, Wisconsin using the song. Cochrane requested that it not be used again.

Music video[edit]

The music video portrays the three band members pulling into a drive-in theater driving three vintage vehicles. The cars allude to three characters from the movie: Lightning McQueen, Doc Hudson and Mater. As the projector rolls, scenes from the Disney/Pixar movie Cars are shown as the band plays through the number. It was directed by Shaun Silva.


The Rascal Flatts version subsequently became a hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it peaked at number No. 7. Even though it was not officially released to country radio, many country stations played the song as an album cut, overlapping with their then-current country single "My Wish". The unsolicited country airplay brought "Life Is a Highway" to number No. 18 on the US Country Song chart. The song has sold 3.4 million copies in the US as of June 2016.[9]

Chris LeDoux version[edit]

In 1998, Chris LeDoux covered "Life Is a Highway" for his album One Road Man. The song is one of Chris' most popular. Changes include the intro to the song, the timing of vocal entrances on the chorus, and location names between the first and second chorus.

Music video[edit]

The music video for the song takes place on multiple roads and highways as well as a blue and red static themed room. When on roads and highways, there is a chance for Chris himself to appear on a television that is sitting on a sidewalk or grass, however, while the background behind Chris (that appears on the TV) is the same background as everything behind the TV itself, Chris does not appear to be standing behind the TV. In most locations, Chris is walking down a road as at the start of the music video. The video ends with Chris signing the chorus while appearing on a flap-down TV inside of someones car, then transitioning to Chris being once again in the static room and then walking out of it. After Chris leaves the room, the screen will slowly fade-out to black and the video will end.

Other covers[edit]

In 2007, Alvin and the Chipmunks covered the Rascal Flatts version for their video game Alvin and the Chipmunks, which also appeared in the 2011 video game Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.[13]


  1. ^ Amazon
  2. ^ a b c Friend, David (January 5, 2017). "Tom Cochrane reflects on success of 'Life is a Highway'". The Toronto Star/The Canadian Press. 
  3. ^ a b c d Charts - Life Ia a highway
  4. ^ "RPM 100 Hit Tracks of 1991". RPM. Retrieved November 23, 2017. 
  5. ^ "End of Year Charts 1992". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved December 3, 2017. 
  6. ^ "Billboard Top 100 - 1992". Archived from the original on 2010-01-17. Retrieved 2010-07-30. 
  7. ^ "Week Ending March 15, 2009: The Idol With The Most". Chart Watch. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  8. ^ Grein, Paul (March 20, 2013). "Week Ending March 17, 2013. Songs: The Great Chart Robbery Of 2013". Yahoo News Chart Watch. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  9. ^ Bjorke, Matt (June 28, 2016). "Top 30 Digital Country Singles Report: June 28, 2016". Roughstock. 
  10. ^ "Rascal Flatts Chart History (Hot Country Songs)". Billboard.
  11. ^ "Rascal Flatts Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  12. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 Year-End 2006". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved June 20, 2018. 
  13. ^ "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked". Official Website. Majesco Entertainment. Archived from the original on 13 March 2013. Retrieved 26 April 2014. 

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