I-95: Road songs with a #@!%ing twist

The classic American road song gets (at least) the PG-13 treatment when it’s about I-95.

By Kenny Malone
kmalone@miamiherald.com 

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ABOVE: One of the 1,000 vinyl copies originally made of August Campbell’s “The I-95 Song.” (Photo by Kenny Malone. Record courtesy of Kathy Heinly)

They write songs about roads: “Route 66,” “Highway 61 Revisited.” Dusty, old roads with iconic signage that belongs on a pair of blue jeans.

“When you talk about … the road as an attractive proposition, usually it’s open and it’s drivable,” says composer Carlos Rafael Rivera, who teaches American creative music at the University of Miami Frost School of Music. “I-95 is a little bit of the opposite. So I can see how songs would be written in a negative way about it.”

"Negative" is, perhaps, kind.

Case in point: August Campbell’s twangy ballad: “The I-95 Song (The Asshole Song).” Recorded in 1983, it became regionally famous on The Neil Rodgers Show.

The song’s premise is built into its spoken-word preamble:

Well I was drivin’ down I-95 the other night/Somebody nearly cut me right off the road/I decided it wasn’t gonna do any good to get mad/So I wrote a song about him instead/It goes like this…

In 1982, Kathy Heinly was one of four people who paid $125 to help Campbell record “The I-95 Song” and print 1,000 vinyl copies.

Heinly, now a retired 66-year-old who wears thick-rimmed glasses and is a tour guide at Vizcaya, doesn’t remember the whole song anymore. But she remembers just enough…

"I-95 is a commuter’s road,” says Bobby “BBG” Goldman of the Broward-born BlueHouse Band. “It becomes part of your job. And that’s why ‘it’s a living hell.’”

In 2007, BlueHouse released “Who’s In The House?” featuring its own anti-ode track, “I-95.”

When asked if he remembered where he wrote the song, BlueHouse frontman Rob Alter said: “Well I do remember — I remember just easing into a lounge chair on the island of Maui. Where the hell do you think I was when I wrote it!? No, I was driving down I-95!”

Alter, like Campbell, simply could not write about I-95 without getting explicit. One verse, from the radio-friendly version, reads, in part: “I-95. You’ll [Car Horn] your pants, I-95.”

"If you drive on 95 without thinking a naughty word," said Alter, "you’re really not with it."

BELOW: The BlueHouse Band broke up since releasing their 2007 album, but its members agreed to perform the first-ever acoustic version of “I-95” for us. Goldman is on the spoons. Rob Alter sings and plays guitar. (Richie Goldman, the band’s third member, was out of town.)

BELOW: Hear the entire WLRN-Miami Herald radio story below.