There have arguably been more songs recorded about summer than any other season. Maybe it's because we all get just a little bit pagan in the summer, celebrating the sun like it may never rise again. Maybe it's because, for fans and music makers alike, summer was responsibility-free in our youth, or as Alice Cooper sang, "No more pencils/No more books/No more teachers' dirty looks." Or maybe the word summer is easier to rhyme than winter. (We're only coming up with "splinter." For summer there's "bummer" and … well, never mind that point.)
Let's face it — summer's just the feel-good time of year, and music is part of what makes us feel good. So, to help you feel good for summer, here's our summer GRAMMY playlist.
"Dirt Road Anthem" (iTunes>)
Jason Aldean, Best Country Solo Performance nominee, 2011
Unfortunately, summer isn't all fun and games. Those feeling melancholy can find solace in Aldean's "Dirt Road Anthem." All Aldean needs for a good time is to load up the old truck for a drive down his favorite dusty road, and some cold ones to reflect on better days. The song topped Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart last July.
"Warm Breeze" (iTunes>)
Count Basie, Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Big Band, 1982
Basie, who would die just two years after this GRAMMY win, turns in a balmy performance of this tune, which was written and arranged by longtime collaborator Sammy Nestico. The rolling horns come in like waves on the beach.
"California Girls" (iTunes>)
The Beach Boys, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, 2010
The official band of summer (in our marketing-crazed times, there'd be a sponsorship deal in a title like that), the Beach Boys celebrate the golden West Coast girls of summer. Sort of the innocent opposite of Don Henley's "The Boys Of Summer" (see further below).
"Keep On The Sunny Side" (iTunes>)
The Carter Family, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, 2006
The Carter Family may have invented country music as we know it today, but rather than the achy breaky songs country would become famous for, this tune was all about hope, even if times were cloudy and stormy. It's a summer song of a different era, but no less joyous than a Beach Boys song about cars and girls.
"Summertime Blues" (iTunes>)
Eddie Cochran, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, 1999
Of course, when you're a teen and out of school for summer, the world is supposed to be your proverbial oyster … unless you need to fish for them. What's got '50s rocker Cochran blue? Working all summer just to try to earn a dollar. Summer isn't always all sun and fun, but don't tell the Beach Boys.
"Theme From A Summer Place" (iTunes>)
Percy Faith And His Orchestra, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, 2000
One of the all-time great pop instrumentals, this tune takes a cool dip in an ocean of emotion-drenched strings, and rightly so. The film from which it's taken is a tale of young love and parental hypocrisy set on a summer vacation in Maine. Says Sandra Dee when Troy Donahue asks if she's afraid of him: "Yes. That and some other new feelings that I can't explain." Ah, young summer love.
"The Girl From Ipanema" (iTunes>)
Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto, Record Of The Year, 1964
Perhaps the quintessential summer song, this tune brought the soft waves of Rio and the lilting rhythms of the summery samba to a worldwide audience. Each time we hear this song, we just go "aaaah." The song was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 2000.
"The Boys Of Summer" (iTunes>)
Don Henley, Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male, 1985
OK, sometimes summer's a bummer, or at least a metaphor for a bummer. Leave it to Henley, who with the Eagles turned the sun-drenched California sound into a dark, cautionary warning bell, to supply our list with the least upbeat summer song. Here, summer is a metaphor for all those moments in life we can't recapture. In the words of Henley: "Nobody on the road/Nobody on the beach/I feel it in the air/The summer's out of reach." We hope your summer isn't out of reach.
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group, 1991
Before he got jiggy wit it, Will Smith (then known as the Fresh Prince) and his cohort hit No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Summertime" in 1991. The Fresh Prince's definition of summer madness covered all the requisite summer themes and then some — cruisin', grillin', kissin', maxin', relaxin', and waxin'.
"Summer In The City" (iTunes>)
The Lovin' Spoonful, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, 1999
While many summer songs celebrate sand and surf, the John Sebastian-led the Lovin' Spoonful, hailing as they did from New York, sing an ode to the hot urban night scene. During the day, the stifling weather may get the group dirty and gritty, but "at night it's a different world/Go out and find a girl/Come on, come on and dance all night/Despite the heat, it'll be alright."
"Hot In Herre" (iTunes>)
Nelly, Best Male Rap Solo Performance, 2002
It's summer, and it's "Hot In Herre," (or in here, in hear, or maybe even in herr …). Whichever spelling or pronunciation you prefer, this celebration of fame and its perks finds Nelly so hot he wants to take his clothes off. We're sure he has swim trunks under there.
"California Gurls" (iTunes>)
Katy Perry Featuring Snoop Dogg, Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals nominee, 2010
California native Perry, with the help of fellow SoCal star Snoop Dogg, gives her side of the story in "California Gurls," and tells you what they're all about — "Daisy dukes, bikinis on top/Sun-kissed skin, so hot." That sounds like a recipe for a beachy Southern California summer day. The song was hot enough to top the Billboard Hot 100 in summer 2010.
"Watermelon Man" (iTunes>)
Mongo Santamaria, GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, 1998
Hey, who doesn't like watermelon in the summer? And there's more than one reason to hail Santamaria for this track — he took it to No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963.
"Summer Song" (iTunes>)
Joe Satriani, Best Rock Instrumental Performance nominee, 1997
You can almost feel the heat blast off the sidewalk pavement in this up-tempo ode to summer. A veritable carnival for guitar lovers, Satriani employs plenty of hot six-string pyrotechnics in "Summer Song"— harmonics, wah-wah-drenched pentatonic phrases, whammy bar dives, liquid legato runs, and hammer-ons and pull-offs. (Playlist addicts wanting a different seasonal side of Satch can check out "Tears In The Rain.")
"'Til Summer Comes Around" (iTunes>)
Keith Urban, Best Male Country Vocal Performance, 2010
Possibly one of summer's biggest fans, Urban reminisces on a long-lost summer love on this track, proclaiming that he's "so frozen in this town/'Til summer comes around."
"You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" (iTunes>)
Stevie Wonder, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, 1973
Nothing says "I love you" better than telling someone you're the sun they revolve around. (Well, except "I love you," but that's way too obvious and a lot less melodic than this classic.) Wonder also wrote the inverse to this song with the melancholy "I Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer," so, to paraphrase Joni Mitchell, he's seen summer from both sides now. The song was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 2002.
What song will you feel the heat with this summer? Drop us a comment and let us know.