What music defines summer for you?
As we head into the official start of the summer season, with plans to head to the beach, a favorite RV/Camping spot in the woods, a mountain lodge, or a summer road trip, it seems that summer always has a soundtrack for us.
The music that defines summer for you probably starts with what was popular when you were in your teen and college years.
Even though I lived in a small town in central PA in my teens, hundreds of miles from an ocean and beach, for me summer music will always be The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean.
It didn’t matter that many of their songs didn’t describe what my summers were like. What mattered is that their songs described the summers in my head.
Surfing songs were huge hits in the summers of the early 1960s. Jan and Dean’s “Surf City USA” and “Ride the Wild Surf”, and the Beach Boys “Surfin USA” and “California Girls” were played at our local swimming pool and even though there wasn’t a surf, we were in the water doing our summer thing.
Beach Boys tunes like “Be True to Your School” were for every teen no matter where we lived. School pride is huge for teens. I loved my high school and have lots of great high school memories.
My best friend was Barbara Ann Miller and we sang along with the Beach Boys hit “Barbara Ann” at the top of our lungs! … Ba Ba Ba …Ba Barbara Ann.
But summer music wasn’t all surf and beach. Lots of artists during that time recorded hits that are still summer anthems today.
Martha and the Vandellas’ hit “Dancin in the Street” and the Lovin Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” are two that make my summer music list. Sly and the Family Stone did “Hot Fun in the Summertime”. The Doors released their signature hit “Light My Fire”, Cream had a hit with “Sunshine of My Love”, and the Rolling Stones hit the top of the charts with “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”.
No matter what age we are, the music of our summers, especially the teen and college years, will always be able to take us back to times when life was simple and fun.
As I got older, summer music took a different direction. It related more with what I was doing than what I was listening to. It was music played at outdoor concerts and venues of symphony orchestras. For years that meant packing a picnic supper and blanket and going to Oregon Ridge, the summer home of the Baltimore Symphony. Summer music became Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”, John Williams first “Star Wars Overture”, and Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” played at Fourth of July Celebrations.
It became the music of John Philip Sousa and George Gershwin featuring “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “Rhapsody in Blue” played at community concerts in parks. There was a little ragtime with Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” and ”Maple Leaf Rag” and Irving Berlin’s “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”.
Then at some point I shifted again and summer music became the blues and honky tonk with discoveries like John Sutton and Lil Dave Thompson. My husband found some fabulous boogie woogie musicians like Silvan Zingg, and Luca Sestak.
For many of our years in Florida we were lucky to have a local live music venue called Bowery Station. It closed in 2020 during Covid -19 but til then it featured a revolving door of musical talent from local musicians and bands to solo performers that came from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, and the Florida Keys.
Probably my favorite of these was a local group from Panama City that did Jimmy Buffet music. Nothing better than sitting in a packed tiki bar style venue singing and dancing along with “Margueritaville” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. In fact, here in the Forgotten Coast of Florida where I live we have our own group of “Coral Reefers” – those die-hard Jimmy Buffet fans who create their own brand of the Jimmy Buffet life.
Last summer was a bluegrass music summer for us. My husband and I went to several festivals when we discovered the group Echo Valley. We became groupies and followed them around at their performance venues from July through October and even to one indoor performance in December.
This amazing group of five sisters and one brother, all in either their 20s or 30s, play violin/fiddle, guitar, mandolin, bass, and banjo. Sister Emily won the 2021 Pennsylvania State Fiddler competition as well as taking Grand Champion at the 2018 Maryland State Fiddle competition. Her playing is amazing! My favorite true bluegrass fiddle piece is “Orange Blossom Special” and Emily plays it better than anyone I’ve ever heard with the exception of the Charlie Daniels Band.
As I write this I know that this summer will not be one of live music performances for me, but rather a summer focused on health. But I can choose to make my summer music whatever I am in the mood for on any given day, even though it won’t be a live concert. And music is something good I can do for my attitude, which is good for my health.
Check the local event listings where you live and you’ll probably find lots of live music to enjoy this summer. From bands at community festivals to street concerts in cities, to outdoor venues for symphony orchestras, music and summer just seem to go together.
“A little bit of summer is what the whole year is about.”John Mayer
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