America’s “Ventura Highway” Lyrics Meaning

“Ventura Highway” is a song based on two past experiences of its writer/vocalist. First is that he grew up in Omaha, Nebraska which for all intents and purposes for the sake of this track represents the backwoods. Thus in the first verse where we find him “chewing on a piece of grass”, this is meant to represent the time he spent on farms in Omaha as a child.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for America's Ventura Highway at

And the second experience is that once again as a child, the singer bore witness to the scenic California coastline while traveling through the state with his family. This is the occurrence which he is recounting in the chorus, being on “Ventura Highway in the sunshine” with the ‘wind blowing through his hair’ and such. In fact the most-metaphorical part of the passage, his reference to “alligator lizards in the air”, actually refers to the shapes of clouds he noticed during the aforementioned journey. But more to the point of this song, just as Nebraska is meant to epitomize a monotonous rural life, Ventura Highway, i.e. California, symbolizes a more-exciting, urban lifestyle, even if there is no direct mentions of the city itself.


In fact the actually storyline of “Venture Highway” is based on the singer having an internal debate, if you will. And what is he debating with himself? He’s wondering whether he should migrate to California. Or stated otherwise, in his heart he actually wants to reside in the Golden State. This is why in the first verse, we find him asking himself “how long you gonna stay here”. The adverb “here” apparently refers to Omaha. 

So conclusively we can say that this song is based on a somewhat common motif, as in one you would regularly find in pop music especially back in the those days. And that is the narrator being compelled to go to the exciting West (California). He wants to be in California, not only as an escape from a relatively-boring hometown but also in search of a different destiny altogether.

Lyrics of "Ventura Highway"

Facts about “Ventura Highway”

This is the lead single from America’s second album, which is entitled “Homecoming”. Warner Bros. Records released the track on 4 November 1972.

This song was written by, Dewey Bunnell, one of the members of America.  And it was produced by the entire group.

“Ventura Highway” peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also made an appearance on the UK Singles Chart. Also, it charted in a handful of other countries.

This track was famously sampled by Janet Jackson. She sampled it on her international hit “Someone to Call My Lover” (2001).

It should be noted that there is not an actual road named Ventura Highway in California. Rather what Bunnell actually based the lyrics on were his recollections of the famed California State Route 1, which is also known as Highway 1. And it should be noted that the highway in question stretches all the way into the city of Ventura, California.

9 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Actually there is a Ventura highway in Ventura California is called Ventura freeway I know because I live in Ventura

  2. Anonymous says:

    Although the lyrics have a meaning different than what the song means to me, I associated this beautiful song with my beautiful girlfriend during my freshman year in college (1972-73). When we broke up just about exactly 49 years ago, for a couple of years afterward it would pain me greatly to hear it when it came on the radio, which it did often.

    • Sir Winifred II says:

      The song portrays the singer, a daddy type driving (his pick-up truck with a surfboard in back) along PCH while smoking a ‘doobie’ and picking up a cute hunky hitchhiker as they get high and start seeing ‘ALIGATOR LIZARDS flyin’ around in the air, as they’re abducted by the lizards flying in Lizard-like spaceships, hence the singer hears them say “You! You’re going to go!” as the chords are raised a half step higher, signifying levitation leaving a purple liquid atomized fuel by product from the Ship. At least that’s how he explained it to us when I was unconscious after tripping and left in the lucky motel… room?

    • Robert says:

      Breakups can be a bitch with so many things triggering your memory

  3. Jimmy D says:

    When Prince created his iconic song and a feature film with the same Title, called:
    “PURPLE RAIN”. It caught my attention, it was a very big deal for Prince! Still, I knew that “PURPLE RAIN”, had first been penned in 1972, in the lyrics for the song “Ventura Highway.” : Long before Prince used it, America incorporated the phrase “Purple Rain” into a lyric, as they sing here:

    Wishin’ on a falling star
    Waitin’ for the early train
    Sorry boy, but I’ve been hit by
    “Purple Rain” , another cool piece in this connection, is that both Songs were Put Out, by Warner Bros. records. It’s a very interesting coincidence, it seems that the words “Purple Rain” are not used in any other song. ✌🏼

    In this context, the purple rain could be ambition, as the character in the song is ready to move on.
    I have always loved the song, it moved me, it brings out feelings of wanting to be there, a longing to one day sooner than later, experience for myself what it would feel like. When I was 23 yrs old, I got to ride my motorcycle on Ventura Freeway, no helmet required, it was a very special feeling.

    • Anonymous says:

      search the internet for “purple rain” and you will find a Biblical reference. He was “hit by purple rain”. Probably not a true religious experience for the writer, but more of an awakening.

  4. Greg Olinyk says:

    I’m now 76. I’d love this song as much as I did in the 70s. America the group made some beautiful music. Their songs and the memories of my friends from Wayback win have stayed with me.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Always brings back memories of a surfing trip up the coast and hearing this song as i drove past the sugar cane fields, with the window, down feeling the summer breeze.

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