A terrible movie was released in 1980 titled “Roadie,” starring some guy named called “Meatloaf,” who was a well-known rap performer during that time. Academy Award-winning actor Art Carney was also in it. The movie was a predictable flop, but the soundtrack album earned substantial attention because it contained several popular radio cuts. One of those tracks was Eddie Rabbitt’s huge crossover hit “Drivin’ My Life Away.”
Rabbitt and co-writers Even Stevens and David Malloy first got involved with the project after receiving a call from Steve Wax, a former Electra Records executive in charge of the movie’s soundtrack album. Wax needed the three men to come up with a song for the album, but he was very vague in his description of the film and didn’t even provide an explanation on how the song would be used in the movie. Wax instructed them that it had to be “a ‘driving’ kind of song, not particularly a truck-driving song or a car-driving song, but one that was simply about ‘driving’ in general.”
Rabbitt, Stevens, and Malloy took time out of work on Eddie’s “Horizons” album to fashion the song, using the roadies’ lifestyle as a guide. It took three days of intense effort at their 16th Avenue office in Nashville. The men discussed the roadies themselves, pondering who they were, what made them choose that kind of lifestyle, things like that. From there, they were able to form suitable lyrics for the tune. As they talked and wrote, they received inspiration for the melody by playing an old Bob Dylan cut called “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” from which they fashioned the basic guitar rhythm for “Drivin’ My Life Away.”
Co-writer David Malloy was also Eddie Rabbitt’s longtime producer and was at the helm when “Drivin’ My Life Away” was recorded. There was magic in the air that day. All the musicians were at the very top of their game, and Eddie nailed the song on the very first take. It turned out so well that both Rabbitt and Malloy campaigned for Electra to issue the song not only on the “Roadie” soundtrack album but on Rabbitt’s “Horizon” package as well. “Drivin’ My Life Away” effortlessly cruised into the #1 slot on Billboard’s country singles chart on August 23, 1980, and placed at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, landing Eddie in the upper rungs of the pop chart for the first time. His two immediate follow-ups also reached the pop Top Five: “I Love A Rainy Night” (#1) and “Step By Step” (#5).