A Spotify Playlist of Summer Songs
Since I am trying out Spotify, I will attempt to share a playlist there for the first time: click to load my Spotify playlist if you have an account. I make no claim that these are the best summer songs of all time (you would need “Summertime Blues,” “Dancing in the Street,” and “Heat Wave” in that case). They are just some that I’m digging right now. I’m eager to hear your suggestions, too.
For those who aren’t yet on Spotify, here’s the playlist in a more-traditional way of sharing — via YouTube:
The Beach Boys, Surfer Girl: How could any list of summer songs not include a Beach Boys song? In fact, I could easily constitute the list with all Beach Boys numbers, including other melancholy numbers like “In My Room.” This song is all about pining all summer for a girl from afar, an elusive surfer girl, over the classic pop ballad chord progression and a bed of plaintive Four Freshman-like harmonies.
War, Summer: OK, let’s stop wallowing for a minute and just enjoy summer with this one from the band War. I am a child of the 1970s, so more than a couple of my picks are from that era. War sings of many of the cultural highlights of the ’70s: “Riding around town with all the windows down/Eight track playing all your favorite sounds.” Later they sing about vans and CB radios. It was like they had a direct line to my 11-year-old fantasy world. It has such a good latin-funk groove that you can’t help but chill.
Sly & The Family Stone, Hot Sun in the Summertime: From 1969, the genre-smashing Sly & the Family Stone, offering a nostalgic look back at summer’s past, but still celebratory of summers present. Sly could ease off of the funk pedal now and then with a big blast of horn-driven pop like this one.
Lou Rawls, You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine: Some songs just remind you of summer, even if the lyrics have nothing to do with the theme. This Gamble & Huff smash was released in 1976. Every time I hear it, it brings me back to summer of that year. I was 10, growing up on the north shore beaches of Long Island. This Latin-funk-tinged slab of Philly soul was number one in July 1976. It poured forth out of every little Panasonic transistor radio on the beach, wafting over the gentle breakers on the jetty.
Frank Sinatra, The Summer Wind: Frank Sinatra once said that Lou Rawls had “the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game.” Which leads me to a Sinatra number. I have sung this song at weddings, piano bars at Frank’s Steakhouse, and the Paddock, not to mention karaoke joints around the world. What a lyric by Johnny Mercer: “Like painted kites, those days and nights, they went flying by/The world was new beneath a blue umbrella sky.” And what a powerful and breezy Nelson Riddle arrangement of a Henry Meyer composition! It swings, baby!
João Gilberto, Meditação: The bossa nova stylings of Antonio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto make for deeply satisfying summer listening. Gilberto is credited as founding this style, which take the beat of the samba but brings it to a stripped down, mellower context. Depending on the translation from the native Portuguese, these songs can achieve the same Zen effect of Haiku, with nature, solitude, and meditation common threads that run between the art forms.
Chet Baker, There Will Never Be Another You: Ever since Bruce Weber used beach imagery captured the spirit of Chet in his documentary about him, Let’s Get Lost, I have associated Chet with summer. Perfect music for the first cocktail of the day. Listen, sip, and the stress from Bourne-Bridge-traffic melts away.
The Rolling Stones, Memory Motel: Growing up on Long Island, we heard the story about this being written at and/or about the motel of the same name out in summer spot, Montauk. This ballad screams 1970s summer and is one of my all-time fave Stones numbers. “When I asked her where she’s headed for/’Back up to Boston, I’m singing in a bar.'”
Elvin Bishop, Fooled Around and Fell in Love: Elvin Bishop was one of those guitarists who had an act under his own name but had his biggest hit with a guest vocalist, Mickey Thomas, a top blue-eyed soul singer who went on to become the lead singer in Jefferson Starship. This smash was peaked at number three on the charts in May of 1976 but was all over the radio that summer, hence its effective placement in movies like Boogie Nights and Summer of Sam. It has that “burned out at the end of a hot summer’s day” feel to me, driving home all sunburned at the beach.
Grateful Dead, U.S. Blues: As I said, I am apologetically a child of the 1970s, and this is an shameless summer anthem, filled with images of Americana, name-dropping the likes of P.T. Barnum and Charlie Chan, flag waving and bits of other old-timey summertime fun.