by Kevin Burton
Ready or not, here’s summer!
Today’s official beginning of summer coincides with our usual Tuesday music discussion on Page 7 to bring you songs about summer.
Summer started at 4:14 am Central Time today, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. But most people have a different definition of summer a different calendar rhythm.
Students look forward to the no-school aspect summer as much as or more than the warm weather. Don’t kid yourself, teachers do too. Everybody does. Who doesn’t love summer?
Summer speaks to freedom, nice weather and growth, possibilities that in the heat of the moment, seem endless.
Summer is sunny and songs about summer usually are too. That’s why I’m warming to the topic.
When you’re talking summer and music, don’t you have to start with “Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas?
Co-writer Mickey Stevenson told Songfacts that the idea for dancing came to him “while riding with Marvin Gaye through Detroit. During the summer the city would open the fire hydrants and let the water out in the street so they could play in the water to cool off. They appeared to be dancing in the water.”
The opening vamp is celebratory and one verse in we get to the ideas of summer and dancing. What a way to get the party started.
“Doesn’t matter what you wear just as long as you are there!”
Other songs that leap to mind:
You have to love the dual reality spelled out in “Summer Nights,” performed by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in the movie “Grease.” You have the differing male and female agendas and priorities on display with a backdrop of freedom without responsibility.
Add some responsibility to that Grease group and you end up with Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.” His need to work gets in the way of his fun but the song itself is a toe-tapper with no hint of bad feelings.
You put summertime and blues together and most times that summer feeling wins out.
What could be more inviting than “Summer Breeze” described in the 1972 top 10 hit by Seals and Crofts, with the late great Jim Seals singing lead?
“July is dressed up and playing her tune.
And I come home from a hard day’s work,
and you’re waiting there, not a care in the world.”
“Summer breeze makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind.”
“Summer in the City,” the only number one hit by The Lovin’ Spoonful tells the story of the steaming hot hustle of summer days with cars honking and jackhammers on the track. “All around, people looking half dead walking on the sidewalk hotter than a match head.”
But the summer nights are a different story, told by lead singer john Sebastian.
“Hot Fun in the Summertime,” by Sly and the Family Stone is a laid back for them, mostly un-funky tribute to summer days “when I had most of my fun.”
Never noticed before this that the lyric says ungrammatically “them summer days’ and immediately corrects to “those summer days.”
Many songs mention “those summer days” or “those summer nights” without further explanation because none is needed.
Some of the songs mentioned on the website www.timeout.com have a different summer feel, such as “(Sittin On) The Dock of the Bay,” by Otis Redding and “Under the Boardwalk” by the Drifters.
The website mentions “Heat Wave,” another favorite by Martha and the Vandellas, “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers, “Vacation” by the GoGo’s “Walking on Sunshine,” by Katrina and the Waves and “Saturday in the Park,” by Chicago.
My wife mentions “California Girls” by beach boys, which evokes summer without mentioning it by name. Most anything by the Beach boys could qualify. The website mentions “Good Vibrations.”
How about “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan?
I think of Billy Joel’s Brenda and Eddie from “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” “riding around with the car top down and the radio on” and think, don’t forget your Boston CD.
The Burtons’ favorite car top down song, “Ballroom Blitz,” by Sweet.
All these things and more speak to rock and roll and summer. And it all starts (officially) today. If you’re ready now, summer’s here and the time is right.