“Chevy Van” was one of the most popular songs of 1975. Sammy Johns’ million-selling single reached number five on the pop charts and was in heavy rotation on Top 40 radio. It later became a country radio station staple and has been covered by Waylon Jennings, Sammy Kershaw, and Eric Church.
The song’s story is simple enough. The narrator picks up a female hitchhiker and gives her a ride to her small hometown. She initially sleeps in the back, but then she seduces the driver before getting out. He’s okay with that, knowing he will probably never see her again. Think of her as the aural equivalent of a manic pixie girl who introduces him to the natural power of uncomplicated physical love. The sex is consensual, but there is something off about the power relationship between the male driver and his female traveler. He owns the titular “Chevy Van”. She has bare feet. He gets to move on. She is stuck “in a town that was so small, you could throw a rock from end to end”.
Singer-songwriter Chris Roberts covers the song as part of his forthcoming Lost and Found EP (24 September) and just released it as its first single. He calls the release part of his “rock ‘n’ roll/hippie/country magic” collection. That’s an apt description, as is the video for the song recorded by the Jam in the Van people. It’s shaggier than the original, but this makes the track more agreeable. The driver of the vehicle comes off as an innocent more than a predator. Times have changed. Roberts manages to capture the 1970s vibe and make old attitudes more acceptable in the present.
Hear this song on the PM Picks Spotify playlist.