George Harrison had no idea how right he was when he sang of a “long cold lonely winter” in “Here Comes the Sun.” It’s been that and so much more.
Now, after several months of a seemingly constant gray isolation, summer has arrived. Finally.
To celebrate the highly anticipated arrival of summer, I thought it’d be fun to share 10 of my absolute favorite summer songs. I hope they bring you as much joy as they do me.
“Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful tells of sweltering days in an urban setting. It features urgent rhythms, fun lyrics, and even real street sounds such as car horns and jackhammers. A truly timeless summer classic.
Nothing says summer like feel-good harmony-driven folk-pop, and “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts embodies that genre more than any other tune. This 1972 hit somehow actually captures the feeling of a welcome warm and gentle breeze. Summer instantly happens every time “Summer Breeze” comes on.
This is easily the most melancholic of all the summer songs on my list. In it, Don Henley mourns both a summer love that slipped through his fingers and the ditched ideals of the Baby Boomer generation. The line about seeing “a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac” says it all.
Released in August 1969, “Hot Fun in the Summertime” by funk trailblazers Sly and the Family Stone climbed to No. 2 spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 on the Billboard soul charts in the autumn of 1969. Honestly, how did this one not reach No. 1? Mixing a happy-go-lucky melody with lead singer Sly Stone’s soulful vocal stylings, “Hot Fun in the Summertime” needs only 2 minutes and 39 seconds to completely capture the many joys of summer.
Joy, joy, joy! Martha and the Vandellas’ 1964 hit “Dancing in the Street” contains all the booty-shaking joy you could want in a summer song. And with lyrics like “across the nation” and “around the world,” it’s clear that the gals wanted everyone to unite in feeling the joy.
In his 1985 hit “Summer of ’69,” Bryan Adams sings of two things I love most about summer: rock and romance. This bouncy gem of a tune remains the ultimate ode to the endless optimism adolescents feel as school ends and a carefree summer begins.
New York City’s Central Park was the inspiration for Chicago’s 1972 hit “Saturday in the Park.” The feel-good tune is still one of the band’s signature songs. Just try not singing it if you happen to be in the park on a warm summer afternoon.
“Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys (1966)
Wow. Where to start with this one? “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys is a classic in so many ways. With its groundbreaking instrumentation (it features a cello and an electro-theremin), its innovative harmonies, and its sunshiney good vibes, “Good Vibrations” is the ultimate soundtrack to summer.
“Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves (1985)
I dare you to try to listen to “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves and not bop your head, tap your foot, or even break out in dance. It’s impossible. This 1985 radio hit isn’t actually about summer at all, but it doesn’t really matter. The song’s frantic drums, big brass notes, and sing-along chorus make us feel as though we’ve stepped into an eternal summer sunshine.
George Harrison wrote “Here Comes the Sun” at the tail end of a particularly dark and dreary period in his life. Half a century later, we are all still better for it. This classic remains the absolute best song to kick off summer and, in certain years, end a pandemic.