More than any other season, we equate summer with music — outdoor festivals abound, boomboxes blast, and everyone you know has their “essential summer playlist” on heavy rotation. While we definitely have thoughts on the new tracks and indie standbys you should be blasting this summer, we got a bit nostalgic after listening to NPR‘s decades-spanning songs of the summer playlist on repeat this past week. Accordingly, we’ve collected a few “songs of the summer” from the ’60s and ’70s that we think still resonate today, and totally deserve a place on your 2012 summer fun mixtape or a little bit of airtime at your weekend backyard BBQ. Click through to have a listen, and if you’ve got your own ideas on the matter, chime in and add to our list in the comments.
The Lovin’ Spoonful, “Summer In The City” (1966)
Okay, okay, so the jackhammer sounds and VW Beetle horn blows probably don’t sound as fresh as they did in 1966, but as far as we’re concerned, this rough, sultry song is the epic embodiment of heat emanating from the pavement. Except, you know, in a good way.
Mungo Jerry, “In the Summertime” (1970)
If you don’t smile when you hear the dulcet tones of Ray Dorset singing this cheery tropical song about the carefree days of summer, you probably don’t have a soul. That’s right, we said it. After all, whether the hot weather has you thinking about women, drinking, or just smiling and relaxing, Mungo Jerry’s got a shoutout for you.
Donna Summer, “Bad Girls” (1979)
Let’s face it: the bad girls come out in the summer, no matter what year it is. Though this song was inspired by a cop mistaking one of Summer’s assistants for a prostitute, you don’t have to be scantily clad to appreciate it. Somehow, the track just feels like hot nights on crowded streets, which is something any young girl (or boy) in the city knows a little bit about. Toot toot, beep beep!
Ray Charles, “I Can’t Stop Loving You” (1962)
Sure, the backup singers sound a little hokey in 2012, but try playing this at the end of the night at your rooftop party and see if you’re not rewarded for it. Not that we’re insinuating anything.
The Animals, “House of the Rising Sun” (1964)
Though the Animals turned this track into a hit in the summer of ’64, it’s a traditional folk song that goes back decades, if not centuries — the first known recording is from 1934. Our thinking: it’s stuck around for this long, it’s likely to stick around a little longer. One listen to all that trembling blues wailing, and we think you’ll agree.
Nancy Sinatra And Lee Hazlewood, “Summer Wine” (1967)
If you’re a fan of Lana Del Rey, may we suggest Nancy Sinatra as a highly superior alternative. She has all the dreamy instrumentation, lilting phrases and pouty sex appeal, except we totally believe her. Just ignore the strange James Bond theme in the background.
Martha & the Vandellas, “Dancing in the Street” (1964)
Required listening if you plan on dancing in the spray of an opened fire hydrant this year. Also, Motown is totally hip right now. And always.
The Troggs, “Wild Thing” (1966)
For some reason, “Wild Thing” comes with its own special brand of magic. To wit: no matter what year you play this song — ten years ago or ten years from now — everyone will sing along. It’s just one of those tracks. After all, we all wanna know for sure. What sentiment could be more enduring than that?
The Rolling Stones, “Honky Tonk Woman” (1969)
Look, we know several kids — kids! — who say the Stones are their favorite band, so we think it’s safe to say that they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. They are the “World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band,” after all.
Aretha Franklin, “Respect” (1967)
Yeah, this song is just never going to get old. Respect.