For those of us who don’t live in tropical splendour year-round, the arrival of summer brings with it a certain set of seasonal enjoyments: from holidays spent by the beach to sunning yourself in the backyard – all of which are soundtracked by the warm, airy sound of the best summer songs.
Before the ‘Song of the Summer’ became an official superlative by the music industry, it was merely measured by an instinctive feeling. What makes a great summer song? Well for a start it’s all about the vibe, the feel, every bit as much as it’s about the lyrics.
Ever since the Billboard Hot 100 was christened in 1958, the seasonal hits of each summer have stood as a snapshot in time. A nostalgic mix of memory and sunshine that transport you back to the summers of your youth. Whether it’s Nat King Cole’s feel good, ‘Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days Of Summer’ in 1963 or the official block party anthem ‘Summertime’ by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince in 1991, there’s a summer song for every era.
For some, it’s all about escapism. From the steel drums of Bob Marley’s ‘Jamming’ to the Bossa Nova rhythms of ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ by Stan Getz, João Gilberto and Astrud Gilberto, each creates an atmospheric vibe that’s geared towards maximum relaxation when it’s too hot to move. Other times it’s about celebrating the buoyant and boundless energy of a sunny day on quintessential hits like: Martha & The Vandellas’ ‘Dancing In The Streets’, Katrina And The Waves ‘Walking On Sunshine’ or ‘Hot Fun In The Summertime’ by Sly & The Family Stone.
Speaking of reggae, while Marley is the unequivocal king of sun-soaked island fare, there are endless other summer-ready tunes that stoke good vibrations including Black Uhuru’s ‘Chill Out’, 10cc’s ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ and Aswad’s poppy cover of Tina Turner’s ‘Don’t Turn Around’.
Another hallmark of summer songs is summer loves. They burn hot, bright and fast just like the season, but are immortalized in song. From Richard Marx’s ‘Endless Summer Nights’ to Mungo Jerry’s lascivious skiffle song, ‘In The Summertime’ and the more indie, ‘Girl’ by Beck, these fleeting dalliances inspire some of the best songs.
While some great summer songs are less lyrically explicit about summer, others embrace the theme head on with endless variations. There’s ‘Long Hot Summer’ by The Style Council, Eddie Cochran’s ‘Summertime Blues’, ‘Summer In The City’ by The Lovin’ Spoonful’…you get the idea.
Not all summer songs are about ‘Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows’. Some capture the bittersweet feeling of summers gone by are more reflective in nature. Whether it’s The Motels’ mysterious, new wave hit ‘Suddenly Last Summer’, or the beautiful harmonies of ‘A Summer Song’ by UK folk-duo, Chad & Jeremy, these are best saved for the end of a summer playlist, so you don’t bum everyone out at your party.