Life is a Highway (Capitol, 1992)
Life Is a Highway is an original song by Tom Cochrane, from his 1991 album, Mad Mad World. The song became a number one hit in his native country of Canada. Cochrane has stated that Life Is a Highway was originally conceived in the 1980s as “Love is a Highway” while he was still a member of Red Rider, but was shelved at that time because he felt the unfinished song was unusable. 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, an instrumentalist on the Mad Mad World album. 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 on the 25th-anniversary reissue of Mad Mad World under the original title Love is a Highway. He later said the uptempo spirit of the song came from looking for something positive to “hang the experience on.” Most of the vocals on the track were recorded in Cochrane’s small home studio. The song was Cochrane’s only top 40 hit in the United States, reaching number six on the Billboard Hot 100. In Canada, the song stayed at number one for two weeks. In Australia and New Zealand, the single peaked at number two in both countries. Elsewhere, it became a top 40 hit in Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden.