Summer in Songs: A Playlist for a Change of Pace

For a change of pace, Creative Circle presents this summer playlist by a CC candidate. Listen, sway, recharge and, most of all, enjoy!

What is it about summer? Through the years, it has captured the imagination of those in the music industry with lyrics and melodies.

For example, the Lovin’ Spoonful start out by lamenting about the “back of my neck gettin’ dirty and gritty” in “Summer in the City.” John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John share starkly differing memories about how they met and spent their “Summer Nights” together in the movie Grease. Perhaps Mongo Jerry put it best when he crooned: “In the Summertime, when the weather is hot, You can stretch right up and touch the sky.” Whatever it is about this season, top hits galore revolve around it.

For a change of pace, Creative Circle presents this summer playlist. Listen, sway, recharge and, most of all, enjoy!

1. “Heat Wave” – Martha and the Vandellas
2. “Summer Breeze” – Seals & Crofts
3. “Suddenly Last Summer” – The Motels
4. “All Summer Long” – Kid Rock
5. “Sun Is Shining” – Bob Marley
6. “Cruel Summer” – Bananarama
7. “Hot Fun in the Summertime” – Sly and The Family Stone
8. “Watermelon Sugar” – Harry Styles
9. “Summer Fever” — Donna Summer
10. “Walking on Sunshine” – Katrina and The Waves

1. “Heat Wave” — Martha and the Vandellas
Martha Reeves and company offer a pulsating tribute to love and summer in this classic hit. This popular 60’s vocal girl group characterizes the feeling of desire as “a heat wave, burning in my heart.” The infectious beat and Motown vibe catapulted this tune to #1 on the Billboard Hot R&B chart in 1963. It stayed in that top spot for four weeks as the trio sang: “Now that funny feeling has me amazed, Don’t know what to do, my head’s in a haze, it’s like a heat wave.” More than 50 years later, in 2017, Billboard placed this original rendition of the song in the #12 position in its 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time. “Is this the way love’s supposed to be?” Guess so!

2. “Summer Breeze” — Seals & Crofts
A vast change in tempo from the prior song, “Summer Breeze” is as soothing as it is harmonious. As such, its poetic aura reflects the words of the chorus: “Summer breeze makes me feel fine, Blowin’ through the jasmine of my mind.” Recorded by many other artists going forward, this soft rock version comes in at #19 on Rolling Stone’s “Best Summer Songs of All Time.” The Isley Brothers made a rendition of it, which became a hit too. The gentle essence of this tune resonates with fans from the 1970s to the present. “See the curtains hangin’ in the window, In the evening on a Friday night, A little light a-shinin’ through the window, Let me know everything’s all right.”

3. “Suddenly Last Summer” — The Motels
Can summer seem eerie? When a new wave band from Berkeley, CA, writes and sings about it, it can and does. Created and videoed in a film noir genre, this tune borrows its name purely by chance from the title of a work by southern playwright Tennessee Williams, who died in the same year and month this single was released, February 1983. Now that’s eerie. Its lyrics suggest how quickly time goes by, in an instant or “suddenly,” as in “A place for a moment, An end to a dream.” The chorus offers a haunting and quizzical refrain: “One summer never ends, One summer never begins, It keeps me standing still, It takes all my will, And then suddenly, Last summer.”

4. “All Summer Long” — Kid Rock
A rhythmic, country-infused recording, this 2008 hit tells the story of a special experience over the course of one summer. In feel-good fashion, Kid Rock reminisces about a warm-weather love from days gone by. “It was 1989, my thoughts were short my hair was long, Caught somewhere between a boy and man, She was seventeen and she was far from in-between, It was summertime in Northern Michigan.” This was a recipe for fun, which they had while “Singing sweet home Alabama all summer long.” Legions of fans had fun with this tune too, which earned this artist his first Top 10 Country Hit. A group of talented people collaborated on “All Summer Long,” including Robert James Ritchie AKA Kid Rock.

5. “Sun Is Shining” – Bob Marley
“Sun is shining, the weather is sweet, yeah, Make you wanna move your dancing feet now, To the rescue, here I am, Want you to know, y’all, can you understand? Here I am.” That’s how this reggae music star frames the message to get out and enjoy the day while the “sun is shining.” Marley, a Jamaican singer, songwriter and musician, recorded, re-recorded, remixed and re-released this song several times. As a result, throughout the years, it went from relative obscurity to “one of the most popular” in his repertoire. Fun fact — Marley opened an outdoor concert in Lenox, Massachusetts, which had to be rescheduled twice because of inclement weather. As he started to perform “Sun is Shining,” the rain stopped instantly.

6. “Cruel Summer” — Bananarama
How could you depart the city and abandon me for the summer? That’s the question at the core of this song. It’s the reason this new wave British female trio resents being “here on my own” and bemoans “It’s a cruel, cruel summer.” What’s more: “The city is crowded, my friends are away… It’s too hot to handle, so I got to get up and go.” Translation: they’re not happy, but have to make the best of it while “trying to smile but the air is so heavy and dry.” (Note: dry air rather than humidity? Be happy.) The official video shows that, to pass the time, they work on cars, bop around, do some bad girl things, and, in their inimitable style, eat bananas.

7. “Hot Fun in the Summertime” — Sly and The Family Stone
The year was 1969 when Sly and bandmates recorded this iconic number. They did so shortly before performing it at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, which set their career into orbit. This single pays homage to summer’s popularity. After all, school is out and you can attend a “country fair in the country sun.” But the best thing about this tune is that it’s downright cool and, in the vernacular of the day, groovy. It rose to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart and #3 of the Billboard soul singles chart. And in the highly competitive year for new releases, it ranked #7 and sits midway on the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

8. “Watermelon Sugar” — Harry Styles
Put British vocal sensation Harry Styles together with luscious watermelon and what do you have? A winner! This recording, described as “horn- and guitar-driven rock, funk-pop, indie pop,” blends several styles. The idea for it comes from the American novel In Watermelon Sugar. Styles collaborated in writing this tune, which is from his second studio album, Fire Line, released in 2019. Fans around the world enjoyed the vibe, sending this song into the Top Ten in more than 20 countries. In the U.S., “Watermelon Sugar” marks the singer’s first #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100. The official 2020 music video takes place on a beach in Malibu, California; it features Styles, an abundance of bikini-clad sunbathers and slices of watermelon.

9. “Summer Fever” — Donna Summer
Here’s a two for one: Donna Summer singing about summer! It’s always a hot time for the disco queen as she lets loose on whatever musical magic she creates. This one is super hot, as in “Winds may come and the winds may flow, But there’s no wind can cool me of my fever, summer fever, Summer fever.” She’s referring to both the “time of love, time of year,” when “Temperature’s rising, our bodies near in fever, summer fever, Summer fever.” This song is a track on Four Seasons of Love, her fourth studio album, released in 1978. This collection achieved certified gold status and every single from it reached #1 on the disco chart. Catch the fever, summer fever!

10. “Walking on Sunshine” — Katrina And The Waves
What’s it like to be in love? According to Katrina and her three bandmates it’s like “walking on sunshine.” This recording comes from this British rock group’s album of the same name, which dates back to 1985 but lives on prominently in music land. It is the Waves’ best-known song and their first American Top 40 hit. The savvy four somehow managed to keep the full publishing rights to this piece, which typically are shared with the songwriter(s). The royalties they derived over the years have brought them loads of money, especially since the tune has been used as music in advertisements. And that arrangement, for sure, has given them the sense of “walking on sunshine… And don’t it feel good!”

Music does wonders for your mind and soul. Creative Circle sends this collection your way as a brief antidote. And with that said and done, get back to your assignments!


About the author.
You name it, she covers it. That’s the can-do attitude Sherry M. Adler brings to the craft of writing. A polished marketing and communications professional, she has a passion for learning and the world at large. She uses it plus the power of words to inform and energize stakeholders of all kinds. And to show how all of this can make a difference, she calls her business WriteResults NY, LLC.