‘The Girl from Ipanema’ by Astrud Gilberto, João Gilberto and Stan Getz (1964)
Composed in 1962 by bossa nova pioneers Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes, this wistful air – a longing look at a beautiful girl as she walks off to the sea – has become a staple of lounge culture, covered more often than almost any other song in pop history. Yet the definitive version remains the one that made it famous. In this musical ménage à trois, the melody is first delivered in Portuguese by João Gilberto, in a honeyed croon; then by his wife, Astrud, singing artlessly in English (with lyrics by Normal Gimbel); and thirdly by Stan Getz’s gentle, gauzy tenor sax.
‘Summer Madness’ by Kool & the Gang (1974)
Madness isn’t exactly the emotional state that this gorgeous, easygoing 1974 instrumental track evokes; instead, it’s the perfect soundtrack for a sultry afternoon spent hiding in an air-conditioned chamber. Its swooning synth, shimmering piano and hazy-day melody have been sampled countless times, notably for DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince’s ode to backyard barbecuing, ‘Summertime’ but more than that, the track has served as inspiration for pretty much every chill-out act worth its downtempo groove, from Air to Zero 7.
‘In the Summertime’ by Mungo Jerry (1970)
A giddy, unguilty pleasure of a one-hit-wonder track, this 1970 bestseller bounces with a feeling that positively radiates effervescent summertime fun. Because of one lyric in particular – ‘have a drink, have a drive/go out and see what you can find,’ the tune also rather interestingly surfaced in a UK public service campaign against drinking alcohol whilst driving.
‘School’s Out for Summer’ by Alice Cooper (1972)
These days, shock-rock godfather Alice Cooper’s idea of summertime fun is hitting the links at some exclusive country club. But back in 1972, Cooper and his rough-and-tumble band perfectly captured the rowdy spirit of the last day of school, which Cooper rated as second only to Christmas as the most important day on the calendar.
‘Wipe Out’ by the Surfaris (1963)
A high-pitched laugh, a drum fill that inspired thousands of kids to annoy parents at the dinner table and an instantly recognisable guitar riff: This is how you start a song. Interestingly, ‘Wipe Out’ was originally penned as a last-minute B-side – only to became arguably the most recognisable surf-rock cut ever. And 50 years after it’s release, it still sounds fun as anything that is likely to idly pass through your headphones during a hot summer day in the emirate.
‘Hot Fun in the Summertime’ by Sly and the Family Stone (1969)
Released in August 1969, ‘Hot Fun in the Summertime’ by funk trailblazers Sly and the Family Stone dropped at the height of the band’s career, after its legendary performance at Woodstock earlier that summer. It even landed the group the No. 2 spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, as well as No. 3 on the Billboard soul charts in the autumn of 1969. And how could it not? The song’s happy-go-lucky melody, coupled with frontman Sly Stone’s soulful tone, makes for a tune that perfectly encapsulates the mood of every summertime to come in a just a two-and-a-half-minute time span.
‘Summertime Blues’ by Eddie Cochran (1958)
‘I’m a gonna raise a fuss, I’m a gonna raise a holler,’ Eddie Cochran sings in this ode to the pressures of summertime unemployment. The Who would go on to record a titanic cover version live at Leeds, while Blue Cheer’s crunchy examply amounted to nascent heavy metal, but we think that the original has an undeniably rockabilly twang all its own.
‘The Boys of Summer’ by Don Henley (1984)
Maybe the most wrenching of all the ‘Where did we go wrong?’ baby-boomer anthems, this 1984 triumph finds the Eagles kit man mourning not just the summer love that got away but the dashed ideals of an entire generation. Some might chuckle at those synthetic seagull caws and dated drum-machine tones, but anyone who claims not to feel a chill when Henley recounts seeing ‘a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac’ probably needs a pulse check. This is beachside existentialism 101.
‘Summertime’ by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (1957)
‘Summertime’ is a gorgeous lie. As written by George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward for the seminal 1935 American folk opera Porgy & Bess, it’s a lullaby sung by a poor young mother in the slums of South Carolina, assuring her child of a tranquil world that is nowhere around them. Originally sung in a classical soprano range, ‘Summertime’ has been reinvented in many modes, including Janis Joplin’s achingly desperate 1968 account. But forget all of that. It’s just too hard to beat the warm, soothing version that Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong recorded for their 1957 Porgy & Bess album. Curled in the warm voices of these peerless vocalists, you’re transported to a gentler place, with the Daddy and Mammy of jazz standing by.
‘Summer in the City’ by the Lovin’ Spoonful (1966)
The Lovin’ Spoonful begins its brilliant rock portrait of urban mood swings in a prelude of pent-up anticipation. Three quick pullbacks on the musical slingshot, each followed by a bang of drums like a backfiring car – and then it’s straight into the fast lane, with hard-driving verses that barely come up for air. In tautly evocative language, the song limns a Jekyll and Hyde portrait of a city split into sweltering days (‘All around, people looking half dead/ Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head’) and cool, exhilarating nights of buzzing activity. Real street sounds (car horns, a jackhammer) add texture to the midsong musical interlude, which lets the song catch its breath before launching back to the urgent rhythms it renders so urgently.
‘Summertime’ by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (1991)
You don’t have to live in the Los Angeles sunshine, dress like the Fresh Prince or even remember the 1990s especially well to recognise this song as the ultimate summer jam. Delivered by 1990s hip-hop pop heroes Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff, this dreamy ode to the fairest of the seasons checks off pretty much every summer essential, from shooting hoops on the street, to dancing at a barbecue and reminiscing about former friends – but the real joy of ‘Summertime’ is that it’s so easy. ‘Time to sit back and unwind,’ trill the breezy singers at the chorus. We thought you’d never ask.