Summer love songs we’ll never forget.
By Lori Acken, ReMIND Magazine
Summer. It’s all about the senses. Balmy breezes and icy swimming holes. The smell of suntan lotion and burgers grilling. And tunes that make the swooniest of seasons truly memorable — especially songs about summer love, the headiest emotional wallop of all.
Though it’s hard to pin down the first summer-love smash, lots of folks might hand the title to “Theme From A Summer Place,” penned for the 1959 film starring Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue as teens in the throes of forbidden summer romance. Recorded as instrumental and vocal versions, either incarnation can still make a willing soul believe that “There are no gloomy skies/When seen through the eyes/Of those who are blessed with love.”
Music buffs’ passion for summer love songs reached a fever pitch in the 1960s as the Beach Boys rose to fame with their timeless tunes of summer idyll (and sometimes heartbreak), and Elvis Presley and Frankie and Annette made beachy movies the cinema’s hottest ticket. The title track of the Beach Boys’ iconic 1963 Surfer Girl album is a hopeful homage to a little wave rider who made singer Brian Wilson’s heart come all undone, leaving him longing to take her riding in his Woody and make all her dreams come true.
Released in the smoldering heart of summer in 1963, “Heat Wave” — Martha and the Vandellas’ boppy, chart-topping paean to a romance so smokin’ hot that Martha’s not sure if it’s sweet love or the devil in her — remains a top choice for folks who like their love songs with a danceable beat. And since we’re speaking of the devilish side of summer romance, “Under the Boardwalk” — the Drifters’ 1964 homage to carnival rides, beach eats and getting busy in the sand while people strolled above you — remains synonymous with the season and PG-rated summer lovin’, even if you never set foot on those boards.
Also extolling the virtues of love in the great outdoors, Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl” arrived in June 1967, as musical tastes turned from pop to folk and soul. Morrison’s most commercially popular song, the summer smash celebrated “makin’ love in the green grass” and frolicking “all along the waterfall” with a cocoa-eyed cutie.
And no summer playlist would be complete without “Summer Nights,” a hammy tune originally penned for the stage production of Grease but made iconic when John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John recorded it for the box-office-smash 1978 film adaptation. Tell you more? The song proves that even a cool-cat greaser can get swept away by bowling, strolling and making out under the dock with his willing summer love.
An instant classic when it debuted in June of ’85, Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69” recalls a love he thought would outlast the fickle devotion of his high-school bandmates. Like all great summer loves, it didn’t. But those were still the best days of his life.
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