Top 10 Summer Songs of All Time

summer break beach party

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Summer songs are the soundtrack to fun in the sun. These are 10 of the best summer pop songs that instantly bring to mind surf, sand, and driving with the top down. Include any or all of these classics at the core of your summer songs playlist.

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John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John - "Summer Nights" (1978)

What says summer more than a summer romance and gossiping about it with friends? This classic from the Grease soundtrack is one of the songs that survived from the original Broadway musical. The lead characters Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson brag about their summer romance in their own unique ways with their friends. When released as a single in the summer of 1978, it hit the top 5 in the US and spent seven weeks at #1 in the UK. The American Film Institute ranked "Summer Nights" as one of the top 100 movies songs of all time in 2004.

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DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince - "Summertime" (1991)

Lay back with friends in the summertime to "sit back and unwind." DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince went all the way to #4 with this ode to the mellow speed of summer fun. It is their biggest pop hit. The pair also took home a Rap Grammy Award for the song. "Summertime" was released following the first season of Will Smith's starring role on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It had looked like the musical careers of DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince Will Smith were fading in popularity. "Summertime" made them bigger than ever and was their only top 10 hit. It was certified platinum for sales. 

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Lovin' Spoonful - "Summer In the City" (1966)

The folk pop band Lovin' Spoonful went all the way to the top of the pop singles chart with this classic celebration of the difference between the world of summer nights and the heat of the day. Among the city summer sounds included in the song are the horn of a Volkswagen Beetle and a jackhammer. The lyrics originated as a poem written by Mark Sebastian, younger brother of group member John Sebastian. "Summer In the City" was Lovin' Spoonful's fifth top 10 pop hit following the dual #2 charting songs Daydream" and "Did You Ever Have To Make You Mind." It was their only single to go all the way to #1.

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Kid Rock - "All Summer Long" (2008)

Kid Rock caught the attention of pop fans with this song that musically amounts to a mash-up of Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama." Lyrically it is all summer nostalgia. Even though it went to #3 in pop radio airplay in the US, the song only went to #23 on the Billboard Hot 100, because it was not made available to purchase via digital download. "All Summer Long" served as a theme song for the 2009 World Cup. The song is also considered a precursor for future blends of country music and hip hop in the country rap genre.

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Beach Boys - "Surfin' USA" (1963)

The Beach Boys are summer music to many pop fans. "Surfin' USA" is only one of their many songs that celebrate summer as a lifestyle. The song is set to the melody of Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen," and he was eventually given sole songwriting credit. In 2015, Beach Boys member Mike Love claimed that "Surfin' USA" was one of many songs by the Beach Boys that he helped write but failed to receive credit. In the course of the song, such famous surfing spots as Redondo Beach in Los Angeles, California, La Jolla in San Diego, California, and Waimea Bay in Hawaii are mentioned. "Surfin' USA" reached #3 on the pop singles chart in 1963 and then was re-released in 1974 and landed in the pop top 40 again peaking at #36.

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Bananarama - "Cruel Summer" (1984)

So... for some summer isn't all fun and games. That's particularly true when the heat is so high it's oppressive and you are desperately longing for a romantic partner. This song was not an immediate success, but its inclusion in the movie The Karate Kid generated interest and "Cruel Summer" became Bananarama's top 10 pop breakthrough in the US. Prior to "Cruel Summer," Bananarama scored four top 10 pop hit singles in the UK. The song became a top 10 smash on both sides of the Atlantic peaking at #8 in the UK and #9 in the US. Bananarama did not return to the US pop chart until three years later when they went all the way to #1 with "Venus."

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Cars - "Magic" (1984)

The Cars have a slightly different twist on summer romance in this classic pop hit they took to #12 on the pop singles chart. The video depicts its own kind of magic when lead vocalist Ric Ocasek literally walks on water at a summer pool party. "Magic" was the second of five top 40 pop hit singles from the album Heartbeat City.

The accompanying music video is filmed at the home of Paris Hilton's mother Kathy Hilton when she rented her house to the band. The special effect of Ric Ocasek walking on water was created by using a plexiglass platform just under the surface of the water in the pool.

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Eddie Cochran - "Summertime Blues" (1958)

Rock 'n roll singer-songwriter and guitar innovator Eddie Cochran taught us all that working a summer job can be a drag. However, it is difficult to do much without some money in hand. Eventually, the lyrics depict taking the problem of "Summertime Blues" to higher authorities, again with no luck. "Summertime Blues" peaked at #8 on the US pop chart in 1958. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Rolling Stone ranked it as one of the top 100 songs of all time. Eddie Cochran died tragically at age 21 in 1960 in a traffic accident while touring in the UK, but his legacy lives on in this favorite summer hit.

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Go-Go's - "Vacation" (1982)

Another song to illustrate some of the drawbacks of summertime. Summer vacation can mean separation from that special someone. However, in the hands of the Go-Go's it all sounds like perky pop fun anyway. "Vacation" was the group's second top 10 pop hit and the first commercial cassette single in the US. It was the first single released from the album of the same name and went to #8 on the pop singles chart. It was the second and final top 10 pop hit single by the group. "Vacation" also crossed over to the dance chart and reached the top 20. 

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Seals and Crofts - "Summer Breeze" (1972)

This ode to the simple pleasures of summer evenings was the breakthrough pop hit for the soft rock duo of Jim Seals and Dash Crofts. One distinctive sound in the instrumental background of the original studio recording is the tinkling of a toy piano. "Summer Breeze" climbed to #6 on the pop singles chart and #4 on the adult contemporary chart. It was the first of three top 10 pop hit singles by the duo. Jim Seals is the older brother of England Dan Seals—of the duo England Dan and John Ford Coley—who had four top 10 pop hits in the late 1970s.