According to the astronomical calendar, summer started on June 21. But according to the cultural calendar, it began on Memorial Day, and runs through Labor Day. That used to mean 14 weeks of picnics, barbecues, beach parties, outdoor sports and lots of group activities. This year, who knows how that will change? One thing that won’t change are the songs of summer. Every summer has it’s own distinctive soundtrack that reflects the moment and captures the memories.
So I went in search of the very best summer songs … Baby Boomer style, of course. For those of you with some time on your hands, here they are; plus, my two favorites down at the bottom. Did I miss one?
# 14. “In the Summertime” by Jerry Mungo — a funky beat from a British singer in 1970.
# 13. “Summertime Blues” by Eddie Cochran — a top hit from way back in 1958.
# 12. “Summer Nights” with Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta — from the 1978 movie Grease.
#10. “Surf City” by Jan and Dean — co-written by Jan Berry and Brian Wilson, topped the charts in 1963.
# 9. “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer” from Nat King Cole — how can you not sing along with this goofy song from 1963.
# 8. “Summer Wind” from Frank Sinatra — with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, it became a classic for the Chairman of the Board.
# 7. “Under the Boardwalk” from The Drifters — in 1964, “on a blanket with my baby’s where I’ll be…”
# 6. “Somebody to Love” by Jefferson Airplane, a touchstone for the 1967 Summer of Love.
# 5. “California Girls” by the Beach Boys — top hit from their 1965 album Summer Days.
# 3. “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper — the 1972 rant captures the sheer thrill of getting out of school for the summer, a feeling none of us will ever forget, no matter how old we are. This song also energized the popular 1998 Cameron Diaz comedy There’s Something About Mary.
# 2. “Stand By Me,” from Ben E. King — the Number 1 song of 1961, and theme song of the 1986 movie about four young friends searching for a dead body in the summer of 1959, starring Will Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell and Kiefer Sutherland as the “bad boy” older kid.
# 1. “Summertime” from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess — It’s been recorded by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and other greats, but my favorite version was rasped out by Janis Joplin, circa 1969.