songs about summer

It was written by Stevie Nicks, and the rest of the band was purportedly hesitant about recording the song (keyboardist Christine McVie described Nicks’s first draft as “boring”), but they ultimately consented. 8: The Go-Go’s: ‘Vacation’.

It’s a reminiscence (“autumn leaves must fall”), but that only adds another layer of beauty to that time shared. Try another? Everyone—well, a lot of people, anyway—deserves that one big summer romance.

(It's a retort track to Jay-Z's and Alicia Keys' NYC anthem "Empire State of Mind."). Seger & Co.’s title track is a reminiscence of a warm-weather Michigan romance from way back when, in which the young lovers head “out past the cornfields where the woods got heavy” to do their thing. Released in August 1969, “Hot Fun in the Summertime” by funk trailblazers Sly and the Family Stone dropped at the height of the band’s career, after its legendary performance at Woodstock earlier that summer. It's a good thing they did: “Dreams” went on to become the band’s only Billboard No. Originally sung in a classical soprano range, “Summertime” has been reinvented in many modes, including Janis Joplin’s achingly desperate 1968 account. What’s more summery than a good old fashioned barbecue? Katrina and the Waves’ 1985 radio hit isn’t literally about summer at all; it’s about the excitement of awaiting a visit from someone you love (and the thrill of knowing that he or she loves you in the first place).

(Bonus points: Thirty-plus years later, it was used excellently in Wes Anderson’s, How could a list of the best summer songs ever and not include this surf-rock staple? This sunny tune served as the title song for Donovan’s third album and marked a departure from the acclaimed Scottish singer-songwriter’s previous folk offerings. A typical first response would be apprehension—from the man with the Band-aid on his face? In 1964, the British pop duo Chad & Jeremy offered arguably the best song about just that to date with this folk-tinged tune about breezes, sweet summer nights and soft kisses. Some summer songs capture the thrill of a summer love, while The Go-Go’s sing about when it fades away, all set to a peppy beat. This track might open with the reggae icon singing, “Sun is shining, the weather is sweet / Make you want to move your dancing feet,” but it’s more likely to inspire you to lay outside with a frosty beverage in hand than get down. This is 1966 anthem is probably the only tune on the list that doubles as a tongue-in-cheek protest against high progressive taxation: “The taxman’s taken all my dough, and left me in my stately home,” sighs Ray Davies’s bon vivant narrator, adding, “And I can’t sail my yacht, he’s taken everything I’ve got.” Wry and funny, “Sunny Afternoon” is also one hell of a summer tune. Teeming with key shifts, complex harmonies and unorthodox instrumentation (it features a cello, a jaw harp and an electrotheremin), this Beach Boys classic was a feat of both composition and production. This chilled-out ode finds O'Shea Jackson (Ice’s given name) recounting a particularly nice day over the smooth groove of the Isley Brothers’ “Footsteps in the Dark.” The second single from the gangster-rap icon’s third solo album, it’s arguably his best-known song and best suited for backyard barbeques and cruising slow with the windows rolled down. Need a soundtrack to your summer?

Billboard Hot 100, as well as No. It’s a departure from the celebrated producer’s signature heady amalgamation of dance and rave influences, but a masterfully executed one and a guaranteed recipe for good times.
(Fish don’t jump on Catfish Row, and the living sure as hell isn’t easy.) From its languid melodies to Davies’s hypnotic vocals, we might as well all be “lazin’ ”—or “blazin’,” depending on how you hear it—“on a sunny afternoon in the summertime.”. “Heat wave, nothing to do / Woke up in my clothes having dreamt of you,” sings Lindsey Jordan mournfully, before she and the rest of the band kick things up a notch to achieve an enjoyable, ’90s-indie vibe.

By the time he does, there’s no escaping the groove. One of the finest examples of lyrics that made no sense making perfect sense (“I saw your girlfriend and she was eatin’ her fingers like they’re just another meal”), this slacker anthem broke hearts and starred on mixtapes for many a summer after its 1992 release.

“I can just feel that soft summer breeze,” sings the aptly nicknamed Empress of Soul in this cut about finally—finally—welcoming the warm weather, as strings swirl against a syruppy groove and, of course, the Pips doing their thing. We’re talking choice cuts by the likes of Dick Dale, the Ramones, Martha and the Vandellas, the Beach Boys, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Katy Perry and many others. Hot, it certainly is. Some might chuckle at those synthetic seagull caws and dated drum-machine tones, but anyone who claims not to feel a chill when Henley recounts seeing “a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac” probably needs a pulse check. And it only gets more intense from there, building a manifesto of what to take swigs at, including this gem: “Elvis was a hero to most / But he never meant shit to me / You see, straight-up racist that sucker was / Simple and plain / Mother fuck him and John Wayne / 'Cause I'm black and I'm proud.” And that’s the truth, Ruth. This democratic attitude took on civil-rights overtones when “Dancing in the Street” was appropriated as an unofficial anthem of the 1965 Watts riots in Los Angeles. These days, shock-rock godfather Alice Cooper’s idea of summertime fun is hitting the links at some tony country club. It’s a reminiscence (“autumn leaves must fall”), but that only adds another layer of beauty to that time shared. Few tunes can set off a backyard barbeque like this R&B classic by California soul band Maze. Nowhere is this more clear than on this 2010 single, all sunny surf-rock guitars with a gnarly pop-punk twist.

According to fellow Chicago founding member Walter Parazaider, Robert Lamm penned this 1972 single after a particularly inspiring jaunt through Central Park, while the band was in NYC recording their fifth studio effort, Chicago V. The song remains one of the outfit’s signature tunes and, as you maybe could have guessed, the perfect soundtrack for a sunny afternoon in the park.
Okay, so technically the lyrics reference rain, not sun, but just listen to that wispy guitar, warm, ambling bass and shimmering keys. Thanks for subscribing!

Check out our roundups of the, “I can just feel that soft summer breeze,” sings the aptly nicknamed Empress of Soul in this cut about finally—. Yes, summer is fun, but good gosh can it be melancholy, too.

Maybe the most wrenching of all the “Where did we go wrong?” baby-boomer anthems, this 1984 triumph finds the Eagles kit man mourning not just the summer love that got away but the dashed ideals of an entire generation. It took seven months, four different recording studios and over $50,000 to create this sunny masterpiece. Are you craving more lists of fantastic songs? Though Adams himself has tipped fans off to the cheeseball innuendo in the title, we prefer to think of this one in PG terms: an all-purpose ode to the endless possibility of three gloriously school-free adolescent months. But back in 1972, Cooper and his rough-and-tumble band perfectly captured the rowdy spirit of the last day of school—which Cooper rated as second only to Christmas as the most important day on the calendar. Because of one lyric in particular—“have a drink, have a drive / go out and see what you can find,” the tune also surfaced in a U.K. public service campaign against drunk driving. We’re talking choice cuts by the likes of Dick Dale, the Ramones, Martha and the Vandellas, the Beach Boys, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Katy Perry and many others. Cue it up the next time you’re in the mood for a little quiet contemplation in the sand. Sun, rain or hurricane, it doesn’t matter what the weather is doing, cue up this classic gem from revered soul man Bill Withers and you’ll agree that it is indeed a lovely day.

In 1964, the British pop duo Chad & Jeremy offered arguably the best song about just that to date with this folk-tinged tune about breezes, sweet summer nights and soft kisses.

Mind-blowing. Even if you don’t think you know this classic tune, you’ve likely heard it sampled by Mary J. Blige, Common, P.M. In this case, it’s not love that brings a sense of summer, but summer that brings a sense of love: an occasion for people “across the nation” and “around the world” to join in celebration. This song is deceptively simple—there aren’t many verses, and there’s a pretty long instrumental interlude right in the middle—but few tunes are as evocative of summer as this one. It was included in Abbey Road and, in tandem with his other contribution to the album, “Something,” established Harrison as a skilled songwriter on par with his revered bandmates. What’s going on?

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