"Drift Away" is a song by
Mentor Williams written in 1970 and originally recorded by John Henry Kurtz on his 1972 album Reunion. Mentor Williams was a country songwriter, and John Henry Kurtz was an actor and
swamp rock singer. It was later given to soul singer
Dobie Gray for whom it became a surprise international hit and the best known version. In 1973 the song became Dobie Gray's biggest hit, peaking at #5 on the
Billboard Hot 100 and certified gold by the
RIAA. It was the final pop hit for
Decca Records in the United States.
A new version by
Uncle Kracker, with Gray, became a major hit in 2003.
A country version was recorded by
Narvel Felts in 1973. Felts' version — which changed the lyrics "I wanna get lost in your rock and roll" to "I wanna get lost in your country song" — peaked at #8 on the Billboard' Hot Country Singles chart in mid-August 1973, about three months after Gray's version reached its popularity peak. This song marked Narvel's first success in the country scene, as he was known from the late 1950s as a rockabilly singer.
Michael Bolton covered "Drift Away" and released it as the second single from his 1992 covers album, Timeless: The Classics, in December 1992. His rendition became the only hit version of the song in the United Kingdom, where it reached number 18, and also charted in Ireland and New Zealand.
Uncle Kracker released a cover version from his second studio album, No Stranger to Shame (2002), in January 2003. This version, which featured Dobie Gray singing the bridge and singing backing vocals and final verse with Kracker, reached number nine on the Hot 100. The song was in the year-end top 20 just like the original 1973 version. It spent a then-record-setting 28 weeks atop the
adult contemporary chart in the US. It also peaked at number 25 on the
New Zealand Singles Chart.
The music video was directed by Bronston Jones. Filmed in Kracker's hometown of
Detroit, it shows him performing the song on stage to an audience (Dobie, during his parts, comes in to perform) and Kracker working at a garage (owned by his brother), unloading and stacking tires. Scenes also feature him walking alone on snowy railroad tracks, and singing on an empty stage in the garage. His mechanic's uniform is labeled "Matt," a reference to his real first name, Matthew.
The Rolling Stones recorded a cover of the song during the sessions for their It's Only Rock 'n Roll LP in 1974, but it did not appear on the finished album. It was finally given an official release in October 2021 as part of the Tattoo You reissue.
The Heptones recorded a reggae version which is included on many compilation CDs.
Street Corner Symphony also sang a version of this song as their
swan song on the season 2 finale of the NBC series The Sing-Off; that version is arranged by
Deke Sharon.Bon Jovi usually played the song live in 1987: a version was recorded as part of a Westwood One radio live series concert.
Dolly Parton and
Anne Murray performed the song together in 1976 on Parton's variety show Dolly!, though they sang the lyrics of the Felts' version ("I want to get lost in your country song").
Country music star
Lynn Anderson (who was the partner of Mentor Williams, who wrote the song) recorded a gospel version that was rewritten by Williams for her 2015
gospel album, Drift Away, which would become her final album.