A song comes on the radio and instantly your mind is taken back in time. Perhaps you smile, turn up the volume and replay some happy memories as you listen. I know this happens to me, especially when the song is a former hit from the summers of my youth. Growing up, I loved music and I was fortunate to be old enough in the sixties to fully enjoy the wonderful music that filled that decade. There is much to write about in this decade of music but for now I’d like to focus on some of my favorite summer songs. Some of them speak directly of summer and others I remember as huge hits that dominated the airwaves during the summer season. While “high fidelity” stereo systems were beginning to appear in the sixties, most of the time these songs were played on simple portable transistor radios or AM car radios. But these songs are so good they sound great on anything!
Here are twelve of my favorite summer songs. Along with my comments on why I love these songs, I’ve included some fun facts, courtesy of Wikipedia. I’ve tried to rank them in order of how strongly I feel they remind me of summer but, to be honest, they are all winners.
1. Under the Boardwalk – The Drifters: This 1964 summer hit is a no brainer for this NJ boy. The Jersey Shore and the Boardwalk are one in the same. Whenever I hear this song I’m immediately taken back to all of my enjoyable times at Point Pleasant, NJ. I loved to get to the boardwalk early on a Sunday morning, buy a cup of coffee, find a bench on the boardwalk and watch the day come to life as I sat and breathed in that salt air.
2. Surfing USA – The Beach Boys: This 1963 hit is my favorite surfing song and just sounds so good to hear in the summer. It just screams summer fun even though I never tried surfing!
3. Dancing in the Streets – Martha and the Vandellas: This song came out in the summer of 1964 and immediately captured the feel of summers in urban areas across the nation. I love the loud Motown beat.
4. I Can’t Stop Loving You – Ray Charles: I was a youngster back in the summer of 1962 when this song dominated the airwaves but I remember it well. Perhaps my parents turned up the volume when it came on the radio, which was often. It’s my favorite Ray Charles song and it’s just a beautiful song to listen to.
5. Groovin’ – The Young Rascals: This song was a number one hit for most of the summer of 1967. Back then, WABC, 77 on th AM dial, played the number one song every hour. I heard this song A LOT that summer.It reminds me of kicking back and just taking it easy on a warm, summer day when I hear it now.
6. San Francisco (Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair) - Scott McKenzie: This 1967 summer song was written by John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas to promote the Monterey Pop Festival that year. Besides being a pretty song, it makes me smile as it reminds me of the flower child / hippie movement that was taking off across the country.
7. Palisades Park – Freddy (Boom Boom) Cannon: This song, written by Chuck Barris, was a hit in the summer of 1962 and brings back fond memories of my summer nights at Olympic Park, in Irvington, NJ. It captures the fun mood of being in those amusement parks in the summer time.
8. Surf City – Jan and Dean: This summer of 1963 song was the first surf song to hit #1. It really makes me feel good to hear it as it describes summer fun. Brian Wilson actually wrote the first draft of this song.
9. Summer in the City – The Lovin’ Spoonful: This 1966 summer song really nailed the feeling of what it’s like to be in a hot city during the summer. I swear the back of my neck feels “dirty and gritty” when I hear this song! Written by Mark Sebastian (brother of John Sebastian), much of the lyrics from this song came from a poem Mark wrote, titled “Summer in the City”, and submitted to a literary magazine while attending Blair Academy in Blairstown, NJ!
10. I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) – The Four Tops: I can remember this song playing on the radio in the summer of 1965 like it was yesterday. I just love this song and it makes me feel so good when I hear it. I picture this song playing on transistor radios on beach blankets across the nation that summer.
11. Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime – Dean Martin: I always liked Dean Martin and this 1964 summer hit became his signature song. It was so popular that it actually knocked the Beatles off the number one position in August of that year. It’s a great love song with a pretty melody and classic Dean Martin.
12. See You in September – The Happenings: This 1966 summer hit always reminded me of how it felt to say goodbye to your school friends for the summer. Also hearing “See you in September” also reminded me that summer was going to be over and I would have to go back to school in September, which was NOT a fun thought for me!
There are many more songs that I could have added to this list. I know that you also have your own favorites and I would enjoy hearing what they are!
Photo source: Flickr / Roadsidepictures
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