Listening to music as we floated in a swimming pool on a recent hot summer day, Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” started playing. We were all shushed so that Daughter could enjoy the song without distraction, as she lip-synced along. I smiled. I could appreciate the moment. Long a fan of Fleetwood Mac myself and having had the opportunity to see them live in Houston in 1990, I could remember when the song originally came out in 1975. My friend Julie and I listened to it repeatedly that summer while hanging out at her family’s lake house in Indian Hills, having been introduced to it by her older sister Sally. Written by Stevie Nicks and featured on the band’s self-titled album, it topped numerous charts, including Billboard’s Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary’s Top 10. In 2021, it was listed at No. 163 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” I found it interesting that a 48-year-old song meant as much to my daughter as it did to me so long ago. But songs have a way of doing that – especially the summer songs of our youth when we have nary a care in the world and nothing but time. Floating in the cool, relaxing water, I closed my eyes and began thinking of summers past and the music that I equate with summertime.
Regardless of how old I may be or how much time has passed, whenever I hear “Baker Street,” the 1978 release by Gerry Rafftery, I’m immediately transported back to a certain summer when my friend Jennifer and I rode our bicycles all over Memorial Point. It was the same summer that she taught me how to seine fish with a net. Another 1978 release, “Dog & Butterfly” by Heart, reminds me of summertime trips to Astroworld with my friends Jennifer and Stephanie and playing skee-ball in the arcade.
Later that same summer, we were all caught up in the whirlwind of “Grease,” the movie starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. It has an especially fun song, “Summer Nights,” the duet sung by the two stars. The dueling verses backed up by the supporting characters as well as the doobie doobie doo, shoo bop bop choruses make this a perennial summertime favorite.
Other summertime selections that I’ve always enjoyed include the 1966 Lovin’ Spoonful hit, “Summer in the City,” and the 1970 Mungo Jerry hit, “In the Summertime.” Another good summer song that I consider a classic is “Summer Breeze,” released by Seals & Crofts in 1972. “Summer breeze makes me feel fine … Blowin’ through the jasmine in my mind.” How can you not like that lyric?
One of my favorite summer songs is “The Boys of Summer,” the 1984 hit written and performed by Don Henley, someone that I consider close to being a musical genius. The song is a metaphor for lost youth and the passage of time. If I close my eyes while listening to it, I’m transported right back to the beach and can feel the wind in my hair and the sea salt on my lips and skin. “Out on the road today I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac … A little voice inside my head said, ‘Don’t look back, you can never look back.’”
“Summer of ‘69,” by Bryan Adams, also released in 1984, is a good summer song. It, too, evokes a retrospective feeling – reminiscing and imagining what might have been. “Oh, when I look back now, That summer seemed to last forever, And if I had the choice … Yeah, I’d always wanna be there, Those were the best days of my life.”
Two summer songs that are both upbeat, catchy and fun are “Under the Boardwalk,” the 1964 hit by The Drifters, and “Sea of Love,” a 1984 hit by The Honeydrippers. I’ve always loved both of these summer songs. “Sea of Love” usually stops me in my tracks and gives me little butterflies in my stomach, similar to the feeling you get when you’re falling in love. I think it’s the combination of Robert Plant’s vocals sounding like melted butter, along with the old-school orchestration which, to me, is reminiscent of big band music from the 40s and old movies from the 50s.
Another song I equate with summertime is “Good Times,” the 1979 disco hit by Chic, one of the most sampled tunes in music history. I still find it fun today, with its infectious bassline. And any wedding DJ worth his salt should have this one on his playlist. As soon as the first two bars are played, the guests will be flocking to the dance floor to get their groove on. “These are the good times.”
While I’ve barely scratched the surface regarding my favorite songs of summer, there are two more that I must mention. One is “Lovely Day,” released by Bill Withers in 1977. What a perfectly joyful song. “Then I look at you, And the world’s alright with me. Just one look at you, And I know it’s gonna be … A lovely day.”
The other is Justin Timberlake’s 2016 hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling” that served as the theme song for the movie “Trolls.” I never saw that movie and I don’t usually listen to Top-40 stations. Therefore, the upbeat fun song had gone completely under my radar until I discovered it in 2021. That summer we went on a little weekend getaway to the Hill Country with our friends Julie and Louis and their daughters. On the way, I shared with Hubby and Daughter that I’d discovered a new song that I loved and that it was going to be my summer anthem. Everyone got quite the kick out of my “new” summer anthem actually being five years old.
I hope this little jaunt prompts you to take a trip down memory lane, thinking of your own songs of summer. There are so many from which to choose. In the immortal words of Fleetwood Mac, “You can go your own way … Go your own way.”