Summer is finally here. As George Harrison wrote, it’s been a “long cold lonely winter,” but now we get to celebrate our favorite season, the time when the sun warms our skin and all feels right in the world.
To celebrate this very welcome season, I’ve compiled a list of 7 songs that I feel best capture the feel-good vibes of summer. Click on the links to hear these tunes that I hope will warm your heart as much as the suddenly present summer sun.
Perhaps the most perfect sound of summer is harmony-driven folk-pop, and this 1972 classic totally captures everything good and pure about that genre. It doesn’t even matter that we have no idea what Jim Seals and Dash Crofts meant when they referenced the “jasmine in my mind.” It all sounds chill and perfectly crafted for those warm summer nights.
If you are a fan of The Karate Kid, you are familiar with this funky 1983 hit that played while Ralph Macchio’s character Daniel LaRusso epically failed to fit in at his new high school. Based on its key placement on the soundtrack to The Karate Kid, “Cruel Summer” instantly established itself as a symbol of summer’s dog days, the ones when nothing goes right for you and nobody is there to help.
A smooth classic from the tumultuous year of 1969, “Hot Fun in the Summertime” was the welcome handiwork of funksters Sly and the Family Stone. The song was released mere months after the band’s legendary performance at Woodstock. Its happy-go-lucky melody blended perfectly with Sly Stone’s soulful vocal, creating a tune that is still capable of bringing all the good vibes we associate with summer.
Alice Cooper and his band of rough and ready renegades perfectly captured the excitement and raw energy of the last day of school before summer break. “School’s Out” still makes those of us far removed from our school days feel frisky, as if anything can happen during the crazy days of summer.
The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” somehow captures the simple feel-good vibes of summer while featuring odd key shifts, complicated harmonies, and unconventional instrumentation. If the beach were to have a sound, it would be this 1966 masterpiece. Regardless of the season, “Good Vibrations” is undoubtedly a classic piece of songwriting, as evidenced by the fact that it landed at No. 6 on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
You have no choice. When “Walking on Sunshine” comes on, your body will react. You will sing. You will dance. You will clap. While Katrina and the Waves’ 1985 hit isn’t actually about summer, it does embody every good feeling that comes with the arrival of the sun, the surf, and the sand.
In his autobiography, I, Me, Mine, George Harrison details how he wrote “Here Comes the Sun” in Eric Clapton’s garden while anxiously awaiting the end of an exceptionally brutal winter. Decades have passed and the surviving Beatles are now approaching the winters of their lives, but we will always have their music. Luckily, every time the clouds start to give way to the warmth of the sun’s rays, we will hear “Here Comes the Sun” in our heads.