A few years ago I was in a tiki bar with a gaggle of geek friends. It was your average sort of joint with loud people and even louder music. The fountain smelled like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, stale and chlorinated but oddly comforting. The drinks were strong and had umbrellas. But a funny thing happened. “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas started blaring from the jukebox and as the opening notes played, I could see several people in our group cock their heads and smile slightly at Supernatural’s anthem. We exchanged knowing looks and fell into an intense discussion about the Winchesters.
The songs that have played in the background for the past nine years of Supernatural are an integral part of the series. In the season five finale, Chuck the Prophet talked about Dean Winchester’s beloved 1967 Chevrolet Impala. He called it “the most important object in pretty much the whole universe.” It’s been a constant throughout the series. The vehicle once belonged to John Winchester, and Dean keeps his baby partially as a connection to his father. The music is part of that.
In season four’s “Jump the Shark,” Dean tells Sam, “I mean I worshipped the guy [John Winchester], y’know: I dressed like him, I acted like him, I listened to the same music.” And he still listens to that music. It’s as much a part of who he is as the Impala. Dean does move forward and go about the family business of saving people and hunting things, but he regularly longs for the past. He fondly looks upon his childhood spent wandering from place to place going after demons and worse. Music is a tangible, visitable piece of personal history with which he can cling to John Winchester and little Sammy. The concept is introduced in the pilot of the series when Sam rags on Dean about his cassette tape collection. “Black Sabbath? Motorhead? Metallica? It’s the greatest hits of mullet rock.”
Besides being a concrete part of Dean’s character and memories, the music throughout the series often works thematically to create memorable moments for the audience as well. The songs sometime tie directly into the monsters the Winchesters are fighting–Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” played in season one’s “Faith,” just as Sam and Dean figured out they were facing a reaper. Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog” was played in the preview for “Crossroad Blues” in season two when we encountered hellhounds for the first time.
Other times the songs reflect what’s happening in the scenes or how Sam and Dean are feeling. “Carry On Wayward Son” was first used in the penultimate episode of season one, “Salvation.” It played over “The Road So Far” clip montage and has ostensibly become the theme song for the series. Kerry Livgren’s lyrics were written almost expressly to describe the Winchesters. They keep fighting against evil but at the cost of personal happiness and an apple pie life. They deserve a break and peace, and the continued use of the Kansas song makes me hope we’ll see them find it.
A few other scenes are burned into my brain because of the accompanying music. The last moments of the season one finale featured the Winchesters – all three of them – rushing to the hospital. Dean’s serious injuries were enough of a cliffhanger, but suddenly a semi truck came out of nowhere and slammed into the Impala. “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival played through the credits, and every time I hear the song I vividly recall the shock I felt when I watched the episode years ago. That sense of overwhelming ominousness.
Fast forward to season two when Dean and Sam were on the run from the FBI and Special Agent Henriksen. The agent was determined to capture the brothers, and they only barely escaped his grasp. Styx’s “Renegade” started playing as the episode’s coda, and it was the perfect complement to the brothers’ predicament as they realized their dire situation.
And who can forget when Dean and Sam had a Bon Jovi sing-along in “No Rest For The Wicked?” It was a necessary moment of levity and just what the audience needs to see between the Winchesters.
Even music from the bloopers has become synonymous with the series. No Supernatural fan can listen to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” without picturing this scene:
The music chosen for Supernatural makes the hits harder and the lighter moments funnier; the tunes are just as important to the series as the Winchesters or that nostalgia-loaded Impala. Scroll to the comments and tell us about your favorite musical moments from Supernatural.