Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Life is a Highway

Written and first recorded (as “Love is a Highway”) by Tom Cochrane (ca. 1980s, released 1991).
Hit version by Tom Cochrane (CAN #1 1991 |US #6/UK #62/AUS #2/NZ #2 1992).
Other hit versions by Chris LeDoux (C&W #64 1998), Rascal Flatts (US #7/C&W #18/CAN #10 2006).

From the wiki: “‘Life Is a Highway’ was written by Canadian musician Tom Cochrane. Cochrane recalls “Life Is a Highway” was originally conceived in the 1980s and demo recorded as ‘Love is a Highway’ while he was still a member of the band Red Rider, but was shelved at that time because he felt the unfinished song was unusable. However, following a trip with his family to Eastern Africa with the World Vision famine relief organization, Cochrane revisited the song on the advice of his friend, John Webster.

“In a 2017 interview with The Canadian Press to mark the song’s 25th anniversary, Cochrane said Webster encouraged him to revisit the demo recording, which at that point only had mumbled vocals and improvised lyrics, but not the song’s well-known chorus. ‘(The song) became a pep talk to myself… saying you can’t really control all of this stuff, you just do the best you can,’ he says. Cochrane says he was trying to make sense of the poverty he witnessed on his trip, which he found ‘shocking and traumatic.’

“Eventually, the original demo version was released in 1991 on the 25th-anniversary reissue of Mad Mad World under the original title ‘Love is a Highway’. In the meantime, Cochrane re-recorded “Life is a Highway’ for his second studio album, Mad Mad World (1991). The new arrangement became a #1 hit in Canada in late 1991. Released in the U.S. and elsewhere in 1992, ‘Life Is a Highway’ also peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in August 1992 (becoming Cochrane’s only U.S. hit) and reached the top three in Australia and New Zealand the same year.

“In 1998, Chris LeDoux covered ‘Life Is a Highway’ for his album One Road Man. Changes include the intro, the timing of vocal entrances on the chorus, and location names between the first and second chorus. LeDoux’s version was released as a single the following year and peaked at number 64 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart during the week of June 12, 1999, and remained at the spot for nine weeks.

“In 2005, the country band Rascal Flatts recorded a cover of the 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 Cochrane’s original version). 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 Greatest Hits Volume 1 and Twenty Years of Rascal Flatts: The Greatest Hits. This version also won the ‘Favorite Song from a Movie’ award at the 33rd People’s Choice Awards.

Tom Cochrane, “Life is a Highway” (1991):

Chris LeDoux, “Life is a Highway” (1998):

Rascal Flatts, “Life is a Highway” (2006):

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