Author: Michael Darling
Well friends, it’s almost the end of the year, which means summer is just around the corner. So, to celebrate the upcoming break and all the fun that comes with it, here are eight songs for the summertime.
1. “Summertime” Billy Stewart. Many singers have recorded this George Gershwin aria from the composer’s Porgy and Bess. Janis Joplin did an amazingly torchy version of it during her time with Big Brother and the Holding Company. However, soul singer Billy Stewart delivered a hard charging version featuring an intense horn section that is a pretty crazy recording.
2. “Summer Days” Bob Dylan. Imagine if Bob Dylan were to do a good ol’ fashioned four on the floor rockabilly song. Well, imagine no more and just listen to this Love and Theft track. The music is a straight up boogie, but the lyrics are pure Dylan, complete with surrealistic imagery, puns and a subtle Great Gatsby reference.
3. “A Summer Song” Chad and Jeremy. This baroque pop song from the 60s uses simple vocals and instrumentation to say a lot. The music conveys both the lightheartedness of summer and also the longing for the same season when the rain is falling in the winter. It’s hard to believe the instrumentation amounts to little more than a guitar, a few strings and an occasional horn popping in every so often.
4. “4th of July” X. “The King of California” Dave Alvin was a member of legendary L.A. roots punk band X for exactly one album, See How We Are. This song was the lone song of his that the band recorded and it is a great one. As usual John Doe and Exene Cervenka’s vocals create a brilliant sad harmony. The match up of their two voices really drives home the story of a couple setting off indoor fireworks on Independence Day.
5. “Summertime” DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. By popular request, here’s one of Will Smith’s early rap songs. It’s a pretty easy-going number built around a Kool and the Gang sample. In fact, for this song the music needs to be easy going as Smith flows about the fun and joys of a relaxing Summer day and night.
6. “That Sunday, That Summer” Nat King Cole. We turn from the Fresh Prince to a musical King. On this nostalgic song, Cole reminisces about the perfect day when he and his lover fell in love. To compare it with another summer song, Frank Sinatra’s “‘Summer Breeze” is about the loss of a summer romance, while this song is about one that’s still going strong.
7. “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” Bruce Springsteen. On this cut from the Boss’ 2007 album Magic, the narrator can’t help but watch as the title characters pass him by. The beautiful wall of sound melody provided by the E Street Band gives a breezy undercurrent to the narrator’s melancholy as he sits in a small town diner.
8. “All Summer Long” The Beach Boys. I couldn’t let myself do a summer song list without including the definitive band of the season, the Beach Boys. This song isn’t so much a celebration of a summer to be but a triumphant victory lap after a great season. On this record, Mike Love sounds like the only person to ever be happy to see the summer end. But he has his reasons; the narrator’s had a fun summer. So, ’til September, here’s hoping that you’ll be having fun all summer long.
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