Summer Breeze Seals & Crofts 1972
When it peaked on the Billboard charts in 1972, "Summer Breeze" focused on a sense of simplicity and clarity in a time of Vietnam war and big cultural shifts. With its soothing combination of soft guitar, banjo, vocal harmony and toy piano, as well as its reflective lyrics, Seals & Crofts's first hit single is a crucial component of any mellow summer soundtrack.
Summertime Billy Stewart 1966
Perhaps one of the most widely covered tunes, "Summertime" epitomizes the season's lighthearted ethos. Billy Stewart's 1966 crossover rendition, which is embellished with jazzy horns, bluesy guitar, and funky, scatting vocals, peaked at No. 10 on the Hot 100.
Summertime Blues Eddie Cochran 1958
Eddie Cochran knows how much it sucked to be a teenager, even back in 1958. His slightly rebellious hit "raised a holler" about just how much of a bummer it is to have to work all summer instead of frolicking with your girl and your friends. The tune, appropriately featured in the 1980 film "Caddyshack," may claim there's no cure for the summertime blues, but we'd guess it sure beats sitting in school.
Suddenly Last Summer The Motels 1983
For those with any nostalgia for the decade of Pac-Man and leg warmers, The Motels' "Suddenly Last Summer," which peaked on the Hot 100 in 1983, will satisfy any craving for '80s summer music. Over a catchy drum beat and spacey guitar, the emotionally distraught Martha Davis explains in a hot, dusty voice that though the seasons change, that doesn't mean the summer has to end.
Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days Of Summer Nat King Cole 1963
Nat King Cole's rhyme happy 1963 hit is an oldie but goodie in the truest sense of the phrase. Well into the rock era, it peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100. Between the charm of Cole's warm voice and the "soda and pretzels and beer" he sings about, it's no wonder this tune is still familiar decades later.
Under The Boardwalk The Drifters 1964
In the summer of 1964, the Drifters saw their dreamy tune about catching some shade and some steamy good times literally under the boardwalk at the beach spent lots of quality time on the Hot 100. The tune has become a summer staple covered by many, including Bruce Willis and the Tempations.
“Summer Rain” by Johnny Rivers (1967)
“All summer long, we spent dancin’ in the sand,” sings rock & roller Johnny Rivers on this urgent, romantic 1967 hit, “And the jukebox kept on playin’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” While your teenage, sandy embraces may have been soundtracked by something far more modern, it’s a blissful head trip to imagine yourself in the middle of this song.—Sophie Harris
“In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry (1970) A giddy, unguilty pleasure of a one-hit-wonder track, this 1970 best-seller bounces with a feeling that positively radiates effervescent summertime fun. 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.—Steve Smith
“Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams (1985) The facts might be a little fuzzy—Bryan Adams was only nine years old in the actual summer of ’69—but it’s a safe bet that the Ontario song man was speaking from experience when he looked back on the twin pleasures of rock and romance in this 1985 roots-pop staple. 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.—Hank Shteamer
School’s Out for Summer” by Alice Cooper (1972) These days, shock-rock godfather Alice Cooper’s idea of summertime fun is hitting the links at some tony country club. 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.—Steve Smith
“That Summer Feelin’ ” by Jonathan Richman (1984) No one does wistful nostalgia and pure, unadulterated joy quite like Jonathan Richman, the reformed punk godfather turned wide-eyed purveyor of childlike wonder. Still, there’s a knowing edge to Richman’s recollections: “That summer feeling’s gonna haunt you the rest of your life.”—Steve Smith
“Summertime Blues” by Eddie Cochran (1958) “I’m a gonna raise a fuss, I’m a gonna raise a holler,” Eddie Cochran sings in this ode to the pressures of summertime unemployment and its pressures. The Who would go on to record a titanic cover live at Leeds, while Blue Cheer’s crunchy version amounted to nascent heavy metal, but the original has a rockabilly twang all its own.—Steve Smith
“Summertime” by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (1957) “Summertime” is a gorgeous lie. As written by George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward for the seminal 1935 American folk opera Porgy & Bess
, it’s a lullaby sung by a poor young mother in the slums of South Carolina, assuring her child of a tranquil world that is nowhere around them. (Fish don’t jump on Catfish Row, and the living sure as hell isn’t easy.) Originally sung in a classical soprano range, “Summertime” has been reinvented in many modes, including Janis Joplin’s achingly desperate 1968 account. But it’s hard to beat the warm, soothing version that Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong recorded for their 1957 Porgy & Bess
album. Curled in the warm voices of these peerless vocalists, you’re transported to a gentler place, with the Daddy and Mammy of jazz standing by.—Adam Feldman