Sheryl Crow To Snoop Dogg: 11 Summer Solstice Songs To Start The Season
Whether you're living it up in the sun or waiting out the sweaty dog days of summer, the daylight lasts longer on June 21 in the Northern Hemisphere than any other day of the year. We know this day as the summer solstice, and it marks the official start of the season of beaches, vacations and camping, a reason for celebration if there ever was one.
The sun has served as a consistent muse for songwriters through the centuries, and it continues to shine its way into the lyrics, videos and festivals that shape today's music. From infectious sunny pop hits to the moody music that makes summer love so bittersweet, many of the world's greatest songs are solar powered.
With this in mind and in honor of the summer solstice, we've compiled a playlist to keep your long day burning bright and take you into the year's shortest night.
Sheryl Crow, "Soak Up The Sun"
Released in April 2002 on Sheryl Crow's C'mon, C'mon, which went on to be nominated for Best Rock Album at the 45th GRAMMY Awards. The song "Soak Up The Sun," our summer focus here, was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Crow won that year for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for "Steve McQueen," but by July "Soak Up The Sun" had reached No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 and helped to define maximum summer with its discipline of appreciating the rays. No matter how bad things are, enjoy the sunlight, as her lyric says, "While it's still free." — Phillip Merrill
Joseph Arthur, "In The Sun"
Immediately catchy, accessible and cool, Joseph Arthur scored his biggest hit with "In The Sun," the lead-off track from his third album, 2000's Come To Where I'm From. Produced by GRAMMY winner T Bone Burnett, the song announced Arthur's unique songwriting talent to a much wider audience. Right from the opening line of "I picture you in the sun wondering what went wrong," it's a redemptive story — the kind Arthur tells best — of forgiveness revolving around the idea that no matter what, the sun will rise again. — Nate Hertweck
Katy Perry Featuring Snoop Dogg, "California Gurls"
Who could forget the bubblegum pop of Katy Perry circa 2010? Enter "California Gurls," an homage to the Golden Coast that featured Snoop Dogg. The hit earned a GRAMMY nod for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals at the 53rd GRAMMY Awards, and with lyrics that call out summer icons such as palm trees, bikinis, martinis, sun-kissed skin, the beach, and popsicles, it rightfully earned a "summer anthem" designation. As Snoop Dogg raps, "Summertime is everything," and who knows that better than California gurls? — Renée Fabian
Cream, "Sunshine Of Your Love"
Their 1967 sophmore album, Disraeli Gears, took Cream to a pinnacle of psychedelic acid rock and brought the band a Best New Artist Of The Year nomination at the 11th GRAMMY Awards. In 1999 the album was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, and the band went on to receive the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. The classic riff in "Sunshine Of Your Love" was inspired by Jimi Hendrix, who later covered the hit himself. It's said that the lyric, "It's getting near dawn and lights close their tired eyes," began it all, written while waiting for the sun to rise. — P.M.
Lana Del Rey, "Summertime Sadness"
Sometimes there's a lot of pressure to be bright and happy all summer long, but let's face it. That's just not realistic. For those times when you're feeling a little morose even as the sun shines high overhead, Lana Del Rey has you covered with her 2012 hit, "Summertime Sadness." But don't be fooled. Despite the song's title and down tempo there's also a deep electricity to the track: "I feel it in the air/Telephone wires above/Are sizzlin' like a snare/Honey I'm on fire, I feel it everywhere/Nothin' scares me anymore." If we catch you driving down the highway at 99 like Del Rey in a dramatic, arms spread pose, we'll know exactly what you're listening too. — R.F.
Lucinda Williams, "Big Red Sun Blues"
Lucinda Williams not only has a way with words, but also an abundance of love and pain in her twangy, gravel-road voice that goes beyond words. Long before Time Magazine called her "America's best songwriter," Williams'1988 self-titled third album announced her arrival in a new space beyond country where Americana would put down its roots. The album also earned Williams her first GRAMMY win for Best Country Song for "Passionate Kisses," but it was the slide-guitar lament "Big Red Sun Blues" that had us howlin' at the sun with lines like, "The sun is hangin' in the sky/Sinkin' low and so am I," and still wondering, "How'm I gonna lose these big red sun blues," 30 years later. — N.H.
Donovan, "Sunshine Superman"
The No. 1 Hot 100 hit at the end of summer 1966, Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" presented an upbeat "you're going to be mine" anticipation, inspired by the morning sunshine. This positive attitude combined with its bouncy U.K. pop-rock joy was contagious. Some of the excellence of its original recording was contributed by John Paul Jones on bass and Jimmy Page on one of the song's electric guitars, both of whom went on to GRAMMY wins. May your sunshine make you feel just as good as Superman, too. — P.M.
Snoop Dogg Featuring Pharrell Williams, "Drop It Like It's Hot"
Ah yes, the perfect song, if you will, for when the sand is hot and the beer is cold. Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams took the common phrase (and dance move) and codified it in hip-hop history with their 2004 single "Drop It Like It's Hot." The track turned out to be a smash hit and it earned two GRAMMY nominations at the 47th GRAMMY Awards: Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group and Best Rap Song. In 2009 Billboard named the track the most popular rap song of the decade, which is a great reason to add it to your summer solstice playlist this year. — R.F.
Neurosis, "A Sun That Never Sets"
Oakland, Calif.'s legendary experimental heavyweights Neurosis have a rich — and complicated — history with the sun. Early in their career they chose to never perform underneath it, preferring the cloak of night for their epic, visually enhanced live set. They even released a brilliantly brutal album titled Enemy Of The Sun in 1993. All that changed when they faced the sun onstage for the first time at Ozzfest in 1996, and five years later, they'd made their solar amends and delivered "A Sun That Never Sets." Recorded by recent World Series of Poker seven-card stud champ and engineering wizard Steve Albini, the song's stark, haunting intro builds into a massive, sun-blazed sonic catharsis tailor-made for the celebrating solstice. — N.H.
Richie Havens, "Here Comes The Sun"
A song of benediction, "Here Comes The Sun" was one of George Harrison's transcendental contributions to the Beatles' 1969 album, Abbey Road. At a sensational opening performance made famous by the film Woodstock, shot at the 1969 festival and released the following year, Richie Havens and his acoustic strumming set the scene with the songs "Handsome Johnny" and "Freedom." Then his cover of Harrison's hit on his 1971 album Alarm Clock reached No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100, spreading good feelings everywhere it was heard. An evergreen classic covered by many great artists, Haven's folk authenticity made the song uniquely his own. — P.M.
The title track of this year's big day, "Solstice", sees Björk trade in her usual — and usually very unusual — brilliant sonic production in favor of a simple, sparse, poetic hymn. Taken from her 2011 album Biophilia, which Pitchfork claimed, "May be her most ambitious yet." This is really saying something when referencing one of our generations' most daring artists. In "Solstice," the Icelandic GRAMMY nominee reminds us, "You are a light bearer, a light bearer/Receiving radiance from others'/Flickering sun flame." Happy solstice, everybody! — N.H.