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Best Summer Songs Ever: An Essential Summertime Playlist

The best summer songs conjure both eras and emotional to offer a mix of nostalgia and escapism. Time to sit back and unwind with this essential playlist.

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For those of us who don’t live in tropical splendor all 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 “song of the summer” became an official superlative used by critics, 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.

The 1975 Merchandise
The 1975 Merchandise

Ever since the Billboard Hot 100 was christened in 1958, each summer’s seasonal hits 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 1958’s greaser classic ‘Summertime Blues’, by Eddie Cochran, or the 1991 block-party anthem ‘Summertime’, by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, every era has thrown up classics worth of inclusion among the best summer songs.

While you’re reading, listen to our Best Summer Songs Ever playlist here.

Best Summer Songs Ever: 10 Essential Summertime Jams

10: Bob Marley: ‘Jamming’

Reggae icon Bob Marley remains the unequivocal king of sun-soaked island fare. From ‘Sun Is Shining’ to ‘Could You Be Loved’, Marley’s music has a magical effect on anyone’s dopamine levels. But ‘Jamming’ remains the quintessential summer cut, despite some of its more conscious-raising lyrics going over the heads of your pool-party attendees.

9: Chicago: ‘Saturday In The Park’

This 70s hit from soft rockers Chicago not only evokes the feeling of the season but can make you feel the warmth of summer even on the Windy City’s coldest day. Inspired by a day spent in New York’s Central Park, Chicago songwriter and singer Robert Lamm paints the picture of a perfect summer day. Can you dig it?

8: The Go-Go’s: ‘Vacation’

Some summer songs capture the thrill of a summer love, while The Go-Go’s sing about when it fades away, all set to a peppy beat. Featuring the hallmark Go-Go’s sound, with girl group stylings and surf guitars, ‘Vacation’ is an infectious plea to “get away” and beware of summer flings.

7: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince: ‘Summertime’

For a song that’s about sitting back and relaxing, Will Smith manages to pack in an impressive set of summertime activities, from hitting the court to cruising in the car, attending family barbecues and washing his car down. Featuring one of the most laidback grooves in rap, the Kool & The Gang-sampling anthem sounds like a block party in a bottle.

6: Eddie Cochran: ‘Summertime Blues’

The majority of summer songs are about cutting loose, hitting the streets and other winsome activities, but Eddie Cochran created a song for all those who have to work for the man all season long. In 1958, the rockabilly icon created an anthem for anyone who’s had to toil away their best summer days, tapping into the teenage angst that was bubbling just below the surface.

5: The Isley Brothers: ‘Summer Breeze, Parts 1 & 2’

No knock on soft-rock duo Seals And Croft, who crafted one of the most perfect summer songs with their 1972 hit ‘Summer Breeze’, but The Isley Brothers’ rendition takes the song to a whole other level. On one hand, the sublime simplicity of the original is what makes it such a great summer anthem, but the brothers’ soulful rendition expands the groove and turns the daytime radio hit into a sundown jam.

4. Sly & the Family Stone: ‘Hot Fun In The Summertime’

Sly and co deliver exactly what the title promises with this psychedelic soul gem. Following the success of their historic Woodstock performance, the group pull out all the stops, from soaring strings to doo-wop harmonies and hammering piano on this funkified summer jam.

3: The Beach Boys: ‘California Girls’

What other band has embodied surf, sand and sun more than The Beach Boys? Any number of their recordings can rank among the best summer songs of all time. From their 1965 album Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!), however, ‘California Girls’ was Brian Wilson and Mike Love’s teenaged ode to the West Coast’s female populace. With its shuffling organs and crooning harmonies, ‘California Girls’ created the exoticised ideal of American sun-tanned youth and emerged as one one of the most enduring summer songs in the process.

2: Marvin Gaye: ‘Got To Give It Up, Part 1’

As the story goes, after relenting to his label’s insistence to go disco, Marvin Gaye turned out a summer jam that eclipsed anything else on the charts. A reluctant dancer himself, Gaye convinces both himself and the wallflowers of the world to hit the dancefloor with his infectious groove. The singer recruited friends and family alike to create a party atmosphere in the studio, resulting in a song that raged its way to No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

1: Martha & The Vandellas: ‘Dancing In The Street’

When Martha Reeves sent out her “invitation across the nation” to get people on their feet, she had no idea it would evolve into a civil-rights anthem. Thanks to the one-two punch of famed Funk Brother James Jamerson on bass and Marvin Gaye on drums, ‘Dancing In The Street’ became one of the best summer songs on record in 1964 – and lost none of its infectious energy in the decades that followed.

Ringo Starr - Zoom In
Ringo Starr - Zoom In
Ringo Starr - Zoom In
Format: UK English


  1. Stephen Cleary

    May 21, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    ‘Our Last Summer’ – Abba

    • Random Cow

      March 26, 2018 at 2:54 pm


  2. Francis Duprat

    May 21, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    what about “ON the beach” by Chris Rea

  3. Roy Jenner

    May 22, 2016 at 8:28 am

    Sinatra — Summer Wind.

    • Joanna

      July 30, 2020 at 6:52 pm

      The “Summer Wind” is the coolest summer song ever.

  4. Patrick Longworth

    May 22, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Summer Nights by Survivor!

  5. Harvey

    May 22, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    “Summertime” by Janis Joplin. Why it is not on this list I find unbelievable.

  6. Paul

    May 22, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    Blue sky by The Allman brothers band.

  7. Kevin Thomas

    May 22, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    Blue Sky the Allman brothers Band. Great summer song.

  8. Tommy Asplund

    May 22, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    “Summer in the city” by ABBA

  9. dan

    May 22, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    great list but how in the world did “beach baby” by first class and “summerfling” by kd lang not make the list.

    • Mike Shulman

      August 7, 2017 at 4:53 pm

      Beach Baby my favorite summer song & Things We Did Last Summer, Summer Breeze by Seals & Croft, Pina Colada Song, not listed.

  10. Ted Johns

    May 22, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    Hot Summer Day by It’s A Beautiful Day and Summer Breeze by Seals and Crofts

  11. Marilyn

    May 23, 2016 at 3:00 am

    Everybody Loves the Sunshine by Roy Ayers, Golden Lady by Stevie Wonder

  12. John

    May 23, 2016 at 4:58 am

    Where’s “Under the Boardwalk”???

    • Davey

      September 9, 2019 at 4:16 pm

      YES! and how about “Lazy Summer Night”(4 Preps), “Here Comes Summer”(Jerry Keller), or “That Sunday, That Summer”(Nat King Cole)?

  13. vaughnj

    May 23, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    What about “Lonely Summer” b/w “Slow LocoMotion” by The Four Buddies? ? ? ?

  14. Leprchn36

    June 11, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    I’d include “Starless Summer Skies” by Marshall Crenshaw; but no one asked me.

  15. dan

    June 15, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    can’t hear a thing

  16. BOB

    June 16, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    Summer of 69 -Bryan Adams,love it when he sings it at gigs
    In the summertime -Mungo Jerry
    Summertime (from Porgy and bess) -Jack Jones
    Summerwind- Frank Sinatra
    here comes summer- Jerry keller

  17. Chris

    June 21, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    One rare but one of the best summer songs is The Pretty Things-Summertime

  18. chief flapper

    June 22, 2016 at 11:19 pm

    All Summer Long-Beach Boys
    LoveLand-Charles Wright and The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band
    Friends- Beach Boys
    Summer in the City-Lovin’ Spoonful
    A Summer Song- Chad and Jeremy
    California Nights- Lesley Gore
    If you Will-Cold Blood
    I Drove All Night- Cyndi Lauper
    Sunset Grill-Don Henley
    Florida Room & Walk Between the Raindrops-Donald Fagan
    Summer Wind-Frank Sinatra
    I Get the Sweetest Feeling-Jackie Wilson
    Sittin’ in the Park-Billy Stewart

  19. Luke

    July 7, 2016 at 6:11 am

    Summer Heat by Chunk! No, Captain Chunk

  20. Rayboy

    July 9, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    Where’s Mr Blue Sky??? It ain’t summer without Mr Blue Sky!!

  21. Peter Avella

    July 10, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    Hear come,s summer Craig Douglas.

  22. Iris

    August 12, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Like Ice in the Sunshine Beagle Music Ltd.
    Happy Hawaii ABBA
    Walking on Sunshine Katrina and the Waves
    Let your love flow Bellamy Brothers
    Rio Maywood
    Sunshine Reggae Laid Back

  23. Michael

    August 14, 2016 at 11:16 am

    “The Heat Is On” by Agnetha Faltskog

  24. Bernie

    June 25, 2017 at 10:39 am

    The Most Wonderful Summer of My Life

  25. Bill Collins

    July 13, 2017 at 1:54 am

    Summer Means Fun–Bruce and Terry
    The ultimate summer surfin’ song ’63

  26. Jane

    July 13, 2017 at 3:44 am

    Under the Boardwalk.

  27. Gerald Benecke

    July 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    Surfin USA & California Girls – Beach Boys

  28. val

    July 13, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    Saw a lot of my favorites although the list was a little too long and seemed forced with some of the selections. Others have noted some oversights. I would add the Doors “Light my Fire” that may not have had a ‘summer’ reference but was played from spring thru summer. Below are my favorites from the Best Songs list –
    Summer in the City
    Sunny Afternoon
    Summer Rain
    Dock of the Bay
    Sloop John B
    Summer Nights
    Sunshine Superman
    Under the Boardwalk

  29. Ray Goodrich

    July 15, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    Spanky / Our Gang – Lazy Day
    Hermans Hermits – Sunshine Girl
    Dino Desi / Billy – Under A Beach Boy Moon

  30. Geir Asheim

    July 21, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    San Francisco – Scott McKenzie

  31. Graham

    July 21, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    Theme From A Summer Place by Jackie Rae (a vocal version)

  32. Alberto

    July 22, 2017 at 8:27 am

    JJ Grey & Mofro: The sun is shining down

  33. Bob

    August 26, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    Nothing from the “king of summer music” Jimmy Buffett! What’s a summer play list without Margaritavillle??

  34. Geir

    August 26, 2017 at 11:56 pm

    San Francisco. Scott Mckenzie

  35. Stan

    August 29, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    As a diehard Deadhead, let me offer a couple of Grateful Dead summer classics: U.S. Blues & Sugar Magnolia.

  36. Thomas Dorazio

    August 31, 2017 at 12:42 am

    No Paper Sun by Traffic? Released in the Summer of Love 1967! Also Bummer in the Summer by Love, same yeat

  37. Rubens

    July 21, 2020 at 12:23 pm

    Summer sun. By jamestown massacre

  38. Joanna

    July 30, 2020 at 6:55 pm

    What about “See You in September”? “Summertime? “A Summer Place”?

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