Everyone has a soundtrack to their summer whether it be the playlist from the backyard barbecue, the tunes you turn up to 11 when cruising with the windows down, or those songs discovered in the summertimes of your youth whose warm feeling never faded away.
With the summer sun once again baring down on us it was time to revisit my own personal summertime standards ranging from the obvious but inarguable, to the deep cuts of my collection and everywhere inbetween. In lieu of me physically handing you a burned CD-R with “#1 Summer Jamz” scrawled on it in Sharpie, here’s a taste of my summer soundtrack
1) Doin’ Time – Sublime (1996)
Admittedly I wasn’t a big enough fan of Sublime to ever own their CD myself; true to the era I just burned a copy of my brother’s CD. That and the fact this song leads off with “Summertime and the livin’s easy” explain why it was a regular in my summer rotation but also why for the longest time, I thought the title was actually “Summertime” (not "Doin' Time"). Somehow as a distracted suburban youth I’d glossed over the fact that all the rest of the lyrics were about your girlfriend cheating on you while you’re in prison or it may have occurred to me. I guess relatability isn’t required to reach summer anthem status if the music is catchy enough.
2) Little Drops of Summer – Lil Cap’n Travis (1999)
If I didn’t tell you this song came out in the late 90’s, it’s xylophone intro and the slow choral “bom bom”s of it’s background vocals would have you think it was released in 1964 and Lil’ Capn’ Travis had once opened for the Beach Boys in concert. It’s dreamy melody paired with lyrics of lost summer love instantly transport me into any one of several Wonder Years episodes where Kevin doesn’t get the girl, yet you know everything is going to be alright anyway. Regardless of the time of year, “Little Drops of Summer” has become an all-time favorite of mine. If there’s one song on this list you hit play on, make it this one.
3) Summertime – DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince (1991)
For my money, Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince authored the definitive summer song when they put out “Summertime”. It’s like a recipe for the perfect summer day- basketball at the park, grilling with the fam, and the glory days of flirting with girls at any opportunity to name just a few choice ingredients. The song almost feels self-aware, knowing that by naming off every classic summer tradition it’s becoming one itself. The association is so strong that if it comes on shuffle during any other season something just feels wrong. Given that I was 9 at it’s release “Summertime” didn’t make it onto my radar til several years after it had been out, but I remember well that “where have you been all my life” feeling the first time I heard it that only truly great music can trigger.
4) Summer in the City – The Lovin’ Spoonful (1966)
I grew up with a healthy dose of oldies in my life and many of those were introduced to me during summer family roadtrips via my parents' compilation cassettes. "Summer in the City" was on one such tape, so that combined with the song's theme make this one doubly “summery” for me. Having lived in Texas 95% of my life, perhaps no lyric has ever been as relatable as "Walking on a sidewalk hotter than a match head".
5) Wounded - Third Eye Blind (1999)
Summer is one of, if not the most often reoccurring theme in 3EB’s music so I always get the urge to throw on their albums when the calendar turns to summer months. That tendency is even stronger because in 2000, their album “Blue” spent half of the summer in my car’s CD player and the “next track” button was rarely needed. It’s tough to pick one specific song off "Blue" that encompasses the feel of summer better than the next, but “Wounded” is a personal stand-out that definitely lent itself to some teenage angst, top-of-the-lungs, yell-singing.
6) In The Summertime - Mungo Jerry (1971)
You’d be hard pressed to name a song as fun and care-free as this one and what better embodiment of the summer than exactly that. Long after I already loved this song, it gained a further boost in summer fun points when it was used in Wedding Crashers, coincidentally a big summer movie of 2005 that has been one of my favorites comedies ever since (in the scene where Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams go bike riding for those wondering). Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime” is as timeless as it is infectious, and if you ever meet someone who doesn’t like this song, punch them in the face, because they are likely a pod-person.
7) Just Can’t Wait - Stroke 9 (2002)
In title alone “Just Can’t Wait ” captures the anticipation of summer and all the fun implied. It's lyrics reminding that Summer is a time of endless possibilities, romantic and otherwise, set to the driving guitar riff made the song a go-to energizer for me. The opening line “Another summer coming and the feeling it brings, another reason to avoid all the permanent things” served as advice and at times even consolation to me in my 20’s. A reminder to not to be tied down in something that wasn’t worth it; that with the right attitude, the promise of something new and exciting is better than settling. Freedom is what summer is all about and this song was a personal of Declaration of Independence.
8) Boys of Summer – Don Henley (1984)
I guess I’m a sucker for "summer love gone wrong" songs, but “Boys of Summer” tells it’s story like vividly recalled summer memories and that has made it a relatable and enduring classic for 3 decades now. On top of backing music that pulls off the rare feat of simultaneously sounding both 80’s and timeless, the songwriting is so strong that I feel like I’m the jilted, protagonist in that lakeside town every time I hear it. Unlike most of the Eagles catalog, I’ve never gotten sick of this Don Henley solo tune and I don’t see it ever happening.
9) Men In Black – Will Smith (1997)
“Really? Will Smith, twice?!” I know, I know, but it only makes sense that the former king of the summer box office would sneak onto a summer playlist given the popularity of both the movie and song that share the MiB title. Men In Black was the summer movie for me, they promoted they hell out of it, I was excited for it, it lived up to my expectations, and the Men In Black theme song playing repeatedly on the radio just made me want to go see it again. I remember my brother getting the MiB soundtrack on cassette as a birthday present that July of 1997 and thinking “We are gonna wear that thing out!”- And we did.
10) Loungin’ (Remix) - LL Cool J featuring Total (1996)
In 1996 back when MTV still played music, this video was in their summer rotation- though not heavily enough for my taste. I was, to put it lightly, enamored with the gorgeous girl in the video and watched it any time I could, even recording it on a VHS incase I didn’t catch it on air that day. (I was 14, you’ll get no apologies here.) While the visual accompaniment of LL’s video girl made the music video the optimal way to experience the song, I did also legitimately like the music a lot. LL’s full album “Mr. Smith” was the first CD I ever shelled out my own money for, and did so solely in pursuit of this song. Come to find out the version of “Loungin’” on the CD was the original, not this remix, (a common problem for fans of 90’s Hip-Hop & R&B) which was a pretty devastating to someone who had no steady stream of income. Despite wasting my hard earned $13, I have nothing but positive summer memories of the song (and the video) and still count The Loungin' remix high on my list of favorite R&B songs.
So that’s it, I hope I helped bulk up your summer playlist with some new or forgotten summertime gems.
What are your favorite summer jams?
Let us know!
(....Unless the answer is LFO - “Summer Girls", in that case just keep it to yourself.)