On the Road Again (Willie Nelson song)

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"On the Road Again"
Single by Willie Nelson
from the album Honeysuckle Rose
Released August 1980
Format 7"
Recorded Fall 1979
Genre Country rock
Length 2:38
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Willie Nelson
Producer(s) Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson singles chronology
"Midnight Rider"
"On the Road Again"
"Family Bible"

"On the Road Again" is a song written and made famous by country music singer Willie Nelson.

The song, about life on tour, came about when the executive producer of the film Honeysuckle Rose approached Nelson about writing the song for the film's soundtrack.[1] "On the Road Again" became Nelson's 9th Country & Western No. 1 hit overall (6th as a solo recording act) in November 1980, and became one of Nelson's most recognizable tunes. In addition, the song reached No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No. 7 on the Adult Contemporary chart.[2] It was his biggest pop hit to that time and won him a Grammy Award for Best Country Song a year later.

Background and writing[edit]

In 1980 Nelson starred on his first leading role on the film Honeysuckle Rose, about an aging musician who fails to achieve national fame and has an ice cream fight with his family, who also are part of his band that travels throughout the United States while playing in different venues.[3] Shortly after signing the contract, Nelson was approached during a flight by the executive producer of the movie, who requested him to write a song about life on the road to use as the theme song.[4][5] Nelson quickly wrote the song on a barf bag.[6] The tune featured a "train beat".[7] [8]

Release and reception[edit]

The song was released with Nelson's 1980 album Honeysuckle Rose, reaching the first position on Billboard's top country albums, while it ranked twenty on the Billboard Hot 100.[9] Nelson received a Grammy Award for Best Country Song, while he was nominated for Best Original Song during the 53rd Academy Awards.[10] In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it No. 471 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[11] In 2011, "On The Road Again" was inducted to the Grammy Hall of Fame.


The song has also featured in several other films and TV series including South Park, Shrek, Shameless, Family Guy, Forrest Gump, The Littlest Hobo, Monk, Open Season 3 which features Nelson rehearsing the song with his band.

A live version of the song is featured in 2008 video game Guitar Hero World Tour, while the studio version was released for Rock Band via the Rock Band Country Track Pack.

The song appears in a 2016 TV commercial for the Volkswagen Passat with Willie making a cameo appearance driving along side the car in an older model of Volkswagen.

Parodies and covers[edit]

Jerry Reed sang part of "On the Road Again" in his hit "The Bird": "The life I love is makin' money with my friend...".

The song was parodied by the comedy musical group Da Yoopers as "Road to Gwinn" (a reference to Gwinn, Michigan) on their 1986 album Yoopanese. On the 1983 CBS game show Press Your Luck, Whammy sings a parody of the song on a horse, singing "Got your bucks again. I can't wait to get your bucks again...". This Whammy animation was used during the final months of the show's run in 1986.

In 2006, the American punk band Me First and the Gimme Gimmes released a cover of this song on their album Love Their Country.

In 2007, Deana Carter released a new version of the song featuring a duet with Willie Nelson in her album The Chain. It was released as single, but failed to land on the chart.

A Swedish version, with lyrics by Keith Almgren, called "Jag ser mig om" (Eng. "I look around") has been recorded by Anne Kihlström on the album Förgät mig ej in 1984, and also by Paula Jarl on a single and by Bennys on an album in 1987.

In 1981, Alvin and the Chipmunks covered this song as part of their Urban Chipmunk album. The song is sung by the Chipmunks as Dave is taking them on a road trip, but Alvin wants to go home and sings about what he misses about home, much to Dave's annoyance. Near the end of the instrumental bridge, Dave threatens to turn the car around back to school if he doesn't sing the right words, which Alvin does.

The Kidsongs kids sang this song in their 1994 video "Country Sing-Along".

Graeme Allwright adapted the song in French as "Comme un vrai gamin" in his 1992 album "Lumière".

Buckcherry covered this song in late 2009.

Conan O'Brien performs the song as "My Own Show Again" during his 2010 Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour, changing the lyrics to reflect how he can't wait to return to hosting a television series after leaving The Tonight Show earlier in the year.[12]

Canadian musician Neil Young released a cover of this song on his 2014 album A Letter Home.[13]

"Forever Country", a promotional single released in 2016, features the song as a medley with "I Will Always Love You" and "Take Me Home, Country Roads".[14]


Chart (1980) Peak
Australian Kent Music Report[15] 64
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 2
Canadian RPM Adult Contemporary Tracks 3
US Billboard Hot 100[16] 20
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[17] 1
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[18] 7
U.S. Cashbox Top 100 22

See also[edit]

  • Whitburn, Joel, "Top Country Songs: 1944-2005," 2006.
  • Whitburn, Joel, "Top Pop Singles: 1955-2006," 2007.


  1. ^ [1] "On the Road Again," from the "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time," Rolling Stone, November 2004.
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 178. 
  3. ^ Deming, Mark 2012.
  4. ^ Corcoran, Michael Joseph, p. 80.
  5. ^ Rolling Stone staff 2004.
  6. ^ Cartwright, Gary 2000, p. 276.
  7. ^ Berry, Mick; Gianni, Jason, p. 63.
  8. ^ Thomas, Willie 1995, p. 9.
  9. ^ Jurek, Thom 2012.
  10. ^ Hilburn, Robert 1986, p. 14.
  11. ^ Rolling Stone staff (2) 2004.
  12. ^ Scott Sepich (April 13, 2010). "Conan O'Brien Revives Edgy 'Late Night' Vibe at First Live Show". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 14, 2010. 
  13. ^ Greene, Andy (18 April 2014). "Neil Young's New Covers Album Available Right Now: Surprise!". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  14. ^ Finan, Eileen (September 16, 2016). "The Story Behind Country Music's Epic Mash-Up! Plus: Hear Blake, Carrie, Miranda and 36 Other Stars Sing 'Forever Country'". People. Retrieved 21 September 2016. 
  15. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  16. ^ "Willie Nelson – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Willie Nelson.
  17. ^ "Willie Nelson – Chart history" Billboard Hot Country Songs for Willie Nelson.
  18. ^ "Willie Nelson – Chart history" Billboard Adult Contemporary for Willie Nelson.


  • Cartwright, Gary (2000). Turn Out the Lights: Chronicles of Texas in the 80's and 90's. University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292711990. 
  • Corcoran, Michael Joseph (2005). All Over The Map: True Heroes Of Texas Music. University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292782495. 
  • Deming, Mark (2012). "Honeysuckle Rose (1980)". Allmovie. Rovi Corporation, Inc. Retrieved March 26, 2013. 
  • Hilburn, Robert (1986). "The Landmark Career of the Red-Headed Stranger". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 98 (41). ISSN 0006-2510. 
  • Jurek, Thom (2012). "Honeysuckle Rose". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved March 26, 2013. 
  • Rolling Stone staff (2004). "On the Road Again". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media LLC. Archived from the original on April 1, 2008. Retrieved March 26, 2013. 
  • Rolling Stone staff (2) (2004). "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media LLC. Archived from the original on January 10, 2007. Retrieved March 26, 2013. 
  • Thomas, Willie (1995). Jazz Anyone.....? MAKING Music A Simple Language systems for Jazz. 3. Alfred Music Publishing. ISBN 9780769230160. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Theme from The Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol' Boys)"
by Waylon Jennings
Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single

November 8, 1980
Succeeded by
"Could I Have This Dance"
by Anne Murray