After 15 years on the air, sci-fi phenomenon Supernatural bade us an emotional farewell in 2020, leaving fans with countless memorable quotes, a burning desire to drive a Chevy Impala, and perhaps more than anything, an appreciation for the prodigious powers of classic rock. Since the pilot episode, when AC/DC’s “Back in Black” first rang out through the speakers of Dean’s beloved muscle car, the soundtrack was always at the heart of Supernatural and remains one of the show’s greatest strengths. From Bob Dylan to Boston and everything in between, great music became just as important to the audience as it was to the Winchesters, helping to emphasize literal plot points but also complex emotional moments when a “single man tear” just couldn’t cut it. So, while the show may no longer be gracing our TV screens, let’s take a look back at the road so far and talk about some of Supernatural’s best needle drops and how they helped to make the show iconic.
For those in need of a quick recap (cue “Carry On Wayward Son”), Supernatural follows dangerously codependent brothers Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester on a never-ending road trip across America as they hunt all things, well, supernatural on a quest to find the demon that killed their mother (Samantha Smith). While the story was originally fairly simple as the brothers traveled from town to town saving people and hunting things, Supernatural’s “monster-of-the-week” formula was shed in later seasons in favor of angel wars, mind-blowing meta weirdness, and the occasional talking dog. Although the show was arguably at its best during the earlier seasons and definitely got more convoluted as the Winchester brothers got involved with all things heaven and hell, one thing that remained a common thread was the use of classic rock songs to underscore important moments.
Eric Kripke Was Adamant About the Integration of Classic Rock in ‘Supernatural’
Back in 2006, series creator Eric Kripke revealed at PaleyFest that classic rock was always intended to play a major part in Supernatural. Growing up a massive music fan, Kripke was adamant that his first major series prominently feature his favorite songs. To ensure that his badass monster show wasn’t littered with “anemic alternative pop,” he wrote a scene into the pilot episode in which Sam rifles through Dean’s cassette collection, which is, of course, filled with the likes of Black Sabbath, Motörhead, and Metallica. As we all remember from growing up, the driver picks the music while shotgun shuts their cakehole, and thus it makes sense that the use of classic rock was a non-negotiable.
‘Supernatural’s Soundtrack Often Reflected Important Themes
Beyond just adding to the general rock and roll vibe, some of the best musical moments in Supernatural helped to reflect the themes of certain episodes. For example, when a semi-driving demon mows down Sam, Dean, and their dad (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in the Season 1 finale, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” plays ominously over the scene, signifying all the horrors yet to come for the three Winchesters. Similarly, in Season 2, after Sam and Dean disguise themselves in SWAT gear to escape a shapeshifter bank job gone horribly awry, Styx’s “Renegade” solemnly sings out about a wanted man running from the long arm of the law. It’s also established that “Bon Jovi rocks, on occasion” in the Season 3 finale before Dean is torn to shreds by hellhounds, and the brothers sing “Wanted Dead or Alive” as Dean contemplates his mortality through the lens of a lonely rocker.
Even when the music wasn’t explicitly referencing themes in the episodes, classic rock was constantly integrated into Supernatural. In the devastating Season 5 finale when Dean rolls up to the final battle, he has “Rock of Ages” blaring out of the Impala, because if there’s anything that’s going to get you revved up before trying to prevent your possessed brother from jumping headfirst into hell, it’s a Def Leppard song. The boys would also often use rockstar aliases as their covers, and Agents Page and Plant never missed an opportunity to pay tribute to their favorite bands. Dean even used his expert knowledge of Blue Öyster Cult to help him solve a case in the Season 1 Episode “Hell House.” Basically, whether it was playing in the background or being referenced through inside jokes between the brothers, classic rock was always at the core of the show.
Kansas’s “Carry on Wayward Son” Became ‘Supernatural’s Unofficial Theme Song
While epic musical moments became commonplace on Supernatural, no song became more synonymous with the series than Kansas’s “Carry on Wayward Son.” First used in the recap montage in Season 1’s penultimate episode, the song was subsequently used at the beginning of every season finale during “The Road So Far” segment and quickly became one of the show’s staples. When Supernatural jumped the ultimate shark in Season 10 with their 100th episode “Fan Fiction,” the show paid homage to the iconic Kansas song when a rendition of it was done by the cast of “Supernatural: The Musical,” with Dean commenting that it’s a classic. The song was used once again in the series finale after Dean died one last time, and Sam went on to live the rest of a long life without his brother before reuniting with him in heaven.
Ultimately, after 15 seasons of mythology and melodrama, Supernatural is mainly remembered for its unparalleled brotherly bond and iconic music cues. As we watched Sam and Dean battle literal and emotional demons on their never-ending quest to avenge their mom and save each other from eternal damnation, any viewer knows that the show wouldn’t have been the same without the inclusion of countless classic rock songs. Whether we were singing along to Supertramp or admiring God (Rob Benedict) as he played a bizarre but beautiful rendition of “Fare Thee Well,” the soundtrack of the Winchesters’ lives turned out to be just as integral as the monsters they hunted, and made the family business all the more rock and roll.