To truly make a list of “Summer Songs” could easily have become an endless endeavor. There are songs that epitomize the spirit of summer, like Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” or Chicago’s “Saturday In The Park”, while the Beach Boys entire library could easily be construed as a soundtrack of the summer season. Regardless, this list has been narrowed to songs which specifically use the word “Summer” in the title. While some say “Driving fast with the top down” summer, others say “Chilling on the porch with a glass of lemonade” summer, with all sorts of summer interpretations in-between.
No, not every summer song is included here on this list by a long shot… but there’s always next summer.
“Summertime” by Billy Stewart
Summertime was composed by George Gershwin – with lyrics by DuBose HeyWard – in 1935 for the show “Porgy and Bess”. It quickly becabe a jazz standard recorded by such artists as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Bing Crosby, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Sidney Bechet just to name a few. It continued to resurface through the years, recorded by dozens of artists from The Zombies and Ray Charles to Paul McCartney and Sublime. Billy Stewart’s radical interpretation of the song reached the Billboard top ten in both the R&B and pop categories in 1966.
“Summertime, Summertime” by The Jamies
The Jamies (Tom and Serena Jameson) were an a-capella group, sometimes classified as do-wop, who first recorded and released “Summertime, Summertime” in 1958, then later in 1962, reaching the Billboard Top 40 on both occasions. Although the song itself was re-recorded by a handful of other artists, it is The Jamies version that is regarded as the most popular, and most commercially successful.
“Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days Of Summer” by Nat King Cole
Reminiscent of a Polka/Minstrel style (insert Philadelphia Mummers string band), Nat King Cole’s “Lazy-Hazy-Crazy” song is a short ditty that sings of pretzels, beer, picnic baskets, drive-ins and girls in bikinis on the beach. This fun tune reminds us of a simpler time, while still representing what summer is all about.
“Summer” by War
Unlike the previous track by Nat King Cole, this tune is much less timeless with it’s lyrics saying things like “listening to the 8-track” and “rapping on the CB radio”, deeply rooting it in a time gone by… those ancient 1970’s. It’s slow and easy tempo invite you to sit back, kick your sandals (or flip-flops) off and sip on a cool drink on the beach or in the park. Although the song never reached any notable commercial success, it’s still a great summertime classic.
“Summertime Blues” by Eddie Cochran
Although re-recorded and released by mega-groups The Beach Boys and The Who, Eddie Cochran’s version of Summertime Blues (written by Eddie himself) is still the most popular, making Rolling Stone’s “Top 100 Songs of All Time” list. Summertime Blues peaked at #8 on the Billboard charts in September of 1958. The humorous lyrics eveke the age old teen no-win summer scenario of no money, no date vs. work late, no date. Some things never change.
“In The Summertime” by Mungo Jerry
Recorded and released in 1970 by British pop band Mungo Jerry, “In The Summertime” charted at #1 in twenty six countries. By far one of the silliest tunes on this list, the humorous girl-getting lyrics advise “If her daddy’s rich take her out for a meal, if her daddy’s poor just do what you feel”. Pure nonsensical fun.
“Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince
The Fresh Prince of West Philadelphia, a.k.a. Will Smith rhymes about school being out, being in Philly in the park, popping the water plug and making sure you dress right before you hit the basketball court… because there’s girls there. “Summertime” samples another great summertime song called “Summer Madness” by Kool & The Gang.
“Summer of 69” by Bryan Adams
Canadian rocker Bryan Adams reached #6 on the Billboard charts with this now classic summer song. Adams shows his harder edged lyrics to be “not what you think they are”, and in a 2008 interview admits that 69 has nothing at all to do with the year, “Just listen to the last line in the song and you’ll get my meaning” says Adams. I think we “get it” Bryan.
“Summer Nights” by John Travolta & Olivia Newton John
Someone should have told Danny and Sandy that it’s a bad idea to kiss-and-tell. In 1978, this duet rocketed to the top of the charts (with the help of a hit major motion picture), and became forever a part of American pop culture. All summer ingredients included like beaches, lemonade, and makin’ out under the dock (or the boardwalk, depending on the seashore).
“Summer In The City” by The Lovin Spoonful
Summers aren’t just spent on beaches and at campsites, as The Lovin Spoonful’s “Summer In The City” suggests. All kinds of sound effects were thrown into this recording like car horns and jackhammers to give it that authentic “city sound”. Charting at #1 in 1966 (the same year as Billy Stewart’s “Summertime”), “Summer In The City” was a gritty take on an urban summer.
“Summer Girls” by LFO
LFO is an acronym for the late 1990’s boy band Lyte Funky Ones, who – other than this summer song which went certified platinum – didn’t leave much of a mark. Many people identify this as the Abercrombie & Fitch song, as the brands name is repeated several time throughout the lyrics. Regardless, as campy as the tune may be with it’s pop culture references, it had the necessary pieces to become a pop hit. And what says summer more than cute guys singing about cute girls?
“Summer Wind” by Frank Sinatra
Old Blue Eyes hit the jackpot with this summer song, and it remains a DJ favorite at weddings as a sure-fire floor packer for young and old alike. When the summer wind came blowing in from across the sea, it was whisked away from Wayne Newton who first recorded the song to forever be part of Frank’s library of classic standards. It peaked at #25 in 1966,and being our third summer hit from that year clearly suggests that 1966 was “A Very Good Year” for summer songs.
Have a great summer everyone!