The 100 Best Summer Songs

July 12, 2017

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 and carefree songs of summer.

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 CouncilEddie 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.

Tell us what your quintessential summer song is and follow our playlist of The 100 Greatest Summer Songs.

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  1. dan

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

    1. Mike Shulman

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

  2. BOB

    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

  3. chief flapper

    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

  4. Iris

    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

  5. val

    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

  6. Ray Goodrich

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

  7. Thomas Dorazio

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

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