45 Summer Songs You Better Have…Or Else

Posted May 28, 2012 by J Matthew Cobb in Features


“(Love Is Like A) Heatwave”
Martha & the Vandellas
#4 pop, August 1963 (Gordy)

One of the most memorable Motown records wound up being one of the best summer anthems of all time. When Martha Reeves belts out her gospel-fueled “yeah-yeah…oh-ohhhh, yeah” on the closing minutes while the Vandellas echoes their harmonic ad-libs, the velocity in the room changes into a rock ‘n roll gospel show. The Motown trio was only doing what they knew best.


“Good Life”
Kanye West feat. T-Pain
#7 pop, September 2007 (Roc-a-fella)

Sampling Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.” is always a cocktail recipe for summer success, but the rap superstar slows the tempo down and marinates the groove with hard bass, sweaty synths, cocky extravagance (“I go for mine/I’ve got to shine”) and nightlife ubiquity. Alongside the old school mix, the song’s finest summery lyric sticks out like a beach ball in the sand (“The good life, it feel like Atlanta/It feel like L.A., it feel like Miami/It feel like N.Y., summertime Chi, ahh/Now throw your hands up the sky.”).


“Light My Fire”
The Doors
#1 pop, June 1967 (Elektra)

Ray Manzarek‘s organ creates the ultimate soundtrack to nostaglic summery fun, while Jim Morrison‘s sex-drenched vocals entices its listeners into its thick web of seduction: “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher/Come on baby, light my fire/Try to set the night on fire.”


“Little Red Corvette”
#6 pop, March 1983 (Warner)

On “Little Red Corvette,” Prince’s wild expedition into innuendo madness is pleasantly kinky and downright poppy. It builds on the momentum of minimal instrumentation and a simple drum machine beat and then lifts into its divine chorus. After Prince was done imagining his one-night stand with “Corvette,” even telling her to slow it down, all the rebellious kids in ’83 wanted their parents to purchase them a red Corvette. Their parents knew better.


“Born to Be Wild”
#2 pop, July 1968 (Dunhill/ABC)

Rock revelers could easily put the pedal to the metal with Steppenwolf’s breakout ’68 hit. For extra heat, Harley sporting southerners and mid-west highway truckers crank up the volume to its country rock guitar riffs and the gutsy vocals of frontman John Kay. Probably the funkiest heavy metal blues rock highway anthem ever created.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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