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Soundcheck's Ultimate Summer Mix

We debut our crowdsourced summer playlist -- featuring seasonal classics and unexpected gems.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 - 02:30 PM


All this week, Soundcheck has been asking listeners and readers to make picks for the "ultimate summer song." And as you can see from the amazing comments below, we got a ton of great song suggestions. So many, in fact, that we put them in this handy Spotify playlist. 

What’s the greatest summer song ever? Leave a comment below, tweet us at @Soundcheck, or leave us a voicemail at 866.939.1612, and we'll add it to the list!



Earlier this week, Soundcheck host John Schaefer reflected on a classic summer song -- and on the song that's become his summer classic. Read his blog post below! 

Since 1972, the last day of school has had its own anthem: Alice Cooper's “School’s Out.” Radio stations would play that song frequently around the end of the school year and there would always be someone -- often whole groups of kids -- singing “School’s out, for summer / School’s out, forever” as they left the playground after that last day of class.

That was when you knew it was really summer.



In a career full of canny moves, this may have been Alice Cooper’s most brilliant: instead of trying to enter the crowded market of, say, Christmas songs, he found another big annual event that had no song -- and provided one. With “School’s Out,” he created an endless summer classic.

(And actually, we have to credit the late Glen Buxton, Cooper’s guitarist, too: That opening guitar riff was so immediately arresting, and has become so iconic, that the music notation for the riff is on Buxton’s headstone.)

But once the excitement of leaving school for the year subsided, the other side of summer vacation cropped up. For some kids, like me, summer meant being away from friends for long stretches; none of my friends lived in my neighborhood. And once you reached high school, summer could mean finding a job. Or worse, not finding a job. So I often had an ambivalent feeling about summer.

And that’s why my summer classic is not “School’s Out” but a much more recent song by The Hold Steady.



“Constructive Summer,” the opening track from the Brooklyn band's 2008 album, Stay Positive, is a summer song, but not for kids: “Me and my friends are like the drums on ‘Lust For Life.’” Hold Steady songs are often full of references to other songs -- here a great, summery tune from Iggy Pop and David Bowie.

Another line goes right to the default for young adults facing a summer of no prospects in a mill town: “We drink along in double time / might drink too much but we feel fine.” (That worked for me growing up in Queens, too.) All of this is sung to a great driving rhythm, perfect for tooling down the highway with the windows down. This is a song that acknowledges the blankness and tedium that summer can bring, and decides “We’re gonna build something this summer.”


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Comments [63]

Nellie from New York

The Joe Cocker version of "Summer in the City." You can feel the dirt and grit on the back of your neck.

Jun. 04 2014 09:34 PM
John from Brooklyn, NY

One of my favorites is the Isley Brothers very soulful cover of Seals and Crofts, "Summer Breeze." This is one case where the cover is way way better than the original.

Jun. 02 2014 01:49 PM
joanne Theodorou from NYC

Chad and Jeremy's "Summer Song"....simple, airy, breezy....easier times.
Takes me back to my younger days in 3 notes....lovely.

Jun. 01 2014 11:20 AM
KCdirector from NYC

I am very fond of Bruce Springsteen's Girls in Their Summer Clothes. He captures something about the promise of endless summer romance in that song...

May. 30 2014 09:48 AM
Tom NJ

Don't forget "Hot Fun in the Summertime" by Sly and the Family Stone

May. 30 2014 12:54 AM
David from NYC

Can't leave out Johnny Cochran's "Summertime Blues" or the Beachboys's "I Get Around".

May. 29 2014 10:53 PM
Laura from Montclair, NJ

"Fooled Around and Fell In Love" by Elvin Bishop.

May. 29 2014 09:38 PM
Rich from NJ

Heat Wave. Martha and the Vandellas. There are precious few tunes that can be clearly recognized by the first two bars. Heat Wave is clearly one of these.

May. 29 2014 02:06 PM
Rich from NJ

Heat Wave. Martha and the Vandellas. There are precious few tunes that can be clearly recognized by the first two bars. Heat Wave is clearly one of these.

May. 29 2014 02:06 PM

I'm with Dylan of Northport - "Light My Fire" takes me right back to that summer and Jim Morrison's brooding sensuality. The Loving Spoonful's "Summer in the City" comes in a close second - I still hear it every hazy, hot, and humid day in NYC.

May. 29 2014 02:05 PM
Wonderama from Brooklyn

My criteria is just a song that was a hit during a summer. A song you could not get away from at the beach, back before anyone wearing headphones. A soundscape of dozens of radios tuned to the same station with heads a nodding all around.

1976 The Boys Are Back In Town - Thin Lizzy.
1987 Silent Morning - Noel.

May. 29 2014 01:52 PM
CJ from Boonton, NJ

A song that always says "Summer" to me, is Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains the Same" off of their album Houses of the Holy. Sing out Hare Hare, Dance the Hoochee Coo!

May. 29 2014 01:51 PM
Katy from East Hampton NY

Ray Lamontagne's For The Summer is one of my favorites, but there are so many!!

May. 29 2014 09:25 AM

Animal Collective's - "Summertime Clothes" places you into a sweltering summer evening and then gives you reason to enjoy it

May. 29 2014 08:36 AM
Susanh from Sofia, Bulgaria

Absolute top #1 hot days summer song for me: Gimme Some Lovin', Spencer Davis Group with the young Stevie Winwood on vocals. Smokin'.

May. 29 2014 03:44 AM
Deborah Plotz-Pierce from NYC

Summertime from Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin. Nothng is more moving!

May. 29 2014 12:50 AM
Atlas from little rock, ar

American Girl, by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. He'll yeah.

May. 28 2014 11:22 PM
perri6 from Brooklyn

What immediately comes to mind is Hot Fun in the Summertime by Sly & the Family Stone

My second thought: You're All I Need To Get By by Method Man and Mary J. Blige. The New York Times reported about this in "The No. 1 Summer Song of Love". I can't believe that was nearly 20 years ago!

May. 28 2014 10:54 PM
Gregorio Pietro from Staten Island

Except for the first song, these are in no particular order of liking but, they do represent some FAVES on my SUMMER Playlist. Hope you will check them out and other songs of the upcoming season, even if the word isn't in the title:

Summertime by Billie Holiday

Summer by Buffalo Tom
Summer Cannibals by Patti Smith
Summer Days by Bob Dylan
Summer Nights by Van Halen
Summer Running by Billy Idol
A Summer Song by Chad and Jeremy
Summer Song by Joe Satriani [G3: Live in Concert]
Summer, Highland Falls by Billy Joel [Live at Shea Stadium]
Summertime by Booker T and The MG's
Summer Wine by Nancy Sinatra And Lee Hazlewood
Summer Breeze by Seals and Croft

- from the Musiquarium of DeRotography, nYc

May. 28 2014 10:47 PM

My ultimate summer time song is whatever inspires me to roll all the window's down, crank the volume up and dance while I'm driving.

May. 28 2014 10:03 PM
Sean from Greenpoint

I'm going to throw the Drums' 'Let's Go Surfing' from 2009 into the mix.

May. 28 2014 09:49 PM
Dylan DeFeo from Northport, NY

I, for one, feel like the ultimate summer song of summer songs is "Light My Fire" by The Doors. Not only does it have unique hooks and licks (such as the Bach-inspired Vox organ introduction played by the late, great Ray Manzarek), but a catchy chorus and driving rock beat that gets people up and dancing! The lyrics aren't complicated but are seductive and unique, the guitar slinking in between it all. In 1967, when the Summer of Love was on the rise and things were beginning to spark up socially, politically, and consciously, the song fit perfectly in the context of the time and epitomized what that summer was all about. When I hear "Light My Fire", regardless of the season, it always evokes the summertime in my mind and all the freedom and possibilities that accompany it!

May. 28 2014 09:31 PM
Big E

Here's a quirky summer hit that I remember fondly: 1971's Never Ending Song of Love by Delaney & Bonnie. Just listened to it on YouTube (very likely for the first time in stereo). Very nice Appalachian roots sound. Excellent production without being overly produced.

May. 28 2014 09:20 PM
Ann E. from New York City

Hot Fun In the Summertime was my immediate thought but, my first and always 1966 double bill are Summer in the City and Sunshine Superman. Both released in July and decades of joy for a then 9 year old. All Summer Long is my honorable mention.

May. 28 2014 09:13 PM
Ann from Spring Valley, NY

Okay, it's not a song, but I'm a piccolo player, and the summer wouldn't be complete without signaling the launch of the 4th of July fireworks with the Stars and Stripes Forever piccolo solo just as I feel like passing out from the heat in front of 5,000 people. On the other hand, maybe it is a song. I remember marching around with the kids in my neighborhood singing "be kind to your web-footed friends" at the top of our lungs, and then getting into water fights. I'll bet everyone who heard us wished we were all in summer school.

May. 28 2014 09:01 PM

Asbury Park (4th of July) better known as Sandy (springsteen)

May. 28 2014 08:53 PM
Geronimo from Maplewood

Summer's about the dog days of simmering heat, people. So how about "Too Hot" by The Specials, or "1865 (96 Degrees in the Shade) by Third World. Or if you want to go en español, there's always "Mucho Mejor (Hace Calor)" by Los Rodriguez. Real hot, hear me when I say, in the shade.

May. 28 2014 08:43 PM
AJ from Brooklyn

Jack 'n Diane, John Cougar Mellencamp. 2 American kids grow in' up in the heartland...

May. 28 2014 08:36 PM
Susan from Brooklyn

I second some already mentioned:

Hot Fun in the Summer Time
Summer in the City
Sunny Afternoon
School's Out

May. 28 2014 08:29 PM
Cynthia McManus from New York, New York

My all time favorite summertime song is "All Summer Long" by the Beach Boys. It reminds me of haow I spent my summers during my teenage years. Life was so much simple then.

May. 28 2014 07:56 PM
Paul Schleuse from Binghamton NY & NYC

Rufus Wainwright, "California"

May. 28 2014 07:54 PM
lowell,Linda from hunt ny 11743

Summertime Duane Eddy. A real oldie ,but timeless in its expression of both the highs and lows of teen summers. Aint no cure for the summertime blues............Still remember those opening guitar riffs, and ache

May. 28 2014 07:41 PM
jz from Brooklyn

A great summer song need not be ABOUT the summer - for me, it's always been that song that seems to click as the hot weather comes and defines that summer in your memory -
Two songs that come to mind:
You're All I Need To Get By - the cover version by Method Man and Mary J. Blige. This slinky, almost menacing-sounding track seemed to travel from block to block, coming from cars, open apartment windows, and boom boxes in the summer of 1995.
Doo Wop (That Thing) - in the summer of '98, this song was ubiquitous. Cue the open fire hydrant.

May. 28 2014 07:33 PM
Fred from Brooklyn

"Summer Song" Dave Brubeck, Louis Armstrong vocals

May. 28 2014 07:31 PM
dave hinchliffe from Huntington

I still love Mongo Jerry's 'In the Summertime"

May. 28 2014 07:17 PM
Rick O'Connell from Little Neck NY

The Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon" with its great
boozy sing along chorus about summer,
drinking and general enjoyable dissipation.

May. 28 2014 07:07 PM

Make mine some P-Funk: how about "Flash Light"? Is there a better windows-down jam?

May. 28 2014 06:54 PM
Mike from Morristown, NJ

In the 1990's the song Three Strange Days by School of Fish was what got played to bookend the Summer. Me and my friends played it over and over on both Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day Weekend while hanging out at the Jersey Shore. It doesn't mention Summer explicitly, but it does have a part about floating on the ocean, and it fit the mood of a long weekend on the beach just out of college.

May. 28 2014 06:40 PM
Jonathan Goldman from NYC

Billy Stewart singing Summertime

May. 28 2014 06:26 PM

C'mon New Yawk! What else but Summer in the City - Lovin' Spoonful?

May. 28 2014 06:18 PM
Karen sarappo from Summit nj

"The Boys of Summer" by Don Henley

May. 28 2014 06:18 PM
EJ from NYC

"It's Summertime" by the Jamies.

May. 28 2014 06:11 PM
JoanL from Brooklyn & Woodstock

I'm with Andrea from Phladelphia--"Dancin' in the Streets" Martha and the Vandellas

May. 28 2014 06:07 PM
David T from NYC from New York City

Hey 'Ya!

May. 28 2014 06:07 PM
sean from NY

Jay Z's 'Dear Summer' is luscious.

May. 28 2014 06:03 PM
poblin from Seattle

Summertime Rolls by Jane's Addiction.

May. 28 2014 05:59 PM
Donna from New York

"There's a Summer Place" sung by the Letterman. It was a great make-out tune: it was languorous just like those summer nights,

May. 28 2014 05:56 PM
Terry Shea from New York, NJ

The Warmth of the Sun, The Beach Boys and Light My Fire, by The Doors only because it was huge in the summer of 1967 and so always reminds me of summer.

May. 28 2014 05:54 PM
Kat from Norwalk,CT

Can we have Ultimate by Eras? You can't beat The Spoonful's "Summer In the City" with that jackhammer in the background - but then there are the Beach Boys....they always mean Summer to me...Eddie Cochrane's "Summertime Blues" ...the Contours "Do You Love Me".."Cool Jerk" by the Capitols.....Joe Cuba's "Bang Bang"...see what you started?


May. 28 2014 05:53 PM
Andrea from Philadelphia

"Dancin' in the Streets" Martha and the Vandellas
"Hot Fun in the Summertime" Sly and the Family Stone

May. 28 2014 05:49 PM
Sandy from Brooklyn

Frank Sinatra's "The Summer Wind" has a perfect languorous, hot August quality.
And, I 'second' Henley's "Boys of Summer" - beautiful chord changes.

May. 28 2014 05:35 PM
Wendl K from Manhattan

Percy Faith's Theme from a Summer Place

May. 28 2014 05:33 PM
Stacey from LA

Summertime- DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince!

May. 28 2014 05:32 PM

Mungo Jerry, "In the Summertime" blows Will Smith's "Summertime" out of the water.



But the common theme is hanging with friends, riding around, ogling fine women, and sipping alcoholic drinks.

May. 28 2014 05:27 PM
Erika from Brooklyn

Boys of Summer by Don Henley - always makes me feel like I'm on my way to the beach...

May. 28 2014 05:26 PM
Marge from NY

In the Summertime by Mungo Jerry

May. 28 2014 05:23 PM
Karen from Washington DC

Sealed with a Kiss

May. 28 2014 05:22 PM
Steve Halpern from New Orleans

My choice is like a cool summer breeze - The Summer Wind

May. 28 2014 05:13 PM
Stu from The Bronx

Under The Boardwalk
Rain On The Roof

May. 28 2014 05:10 PM
Erica from Brooklyn

This summer, I'm jamming to Michael Jackson's "Love Never Felt So Good." Going to learn how to Chicago 2-step to this one!

May. 28 2014 01:53 PM
Alonzo from St. Louis

"Summer Madness" Kool and the Gang (live version)

May. 28 2014 01:26 PM
Eric Tucker from Cross River NY

"Summer in the City"Lovin Spoonful

May. 27 2014 09:31 PM
tom LI

Ultimate? Oh boy thats ridiculously hard. Its more a genre, than any ONE song. Hair bands great for windows down driving to the beach. Go back to senior summer, and its Little Feat, Waiting for Columbus - all of it!

But Van Halen's, Beautiful Girls ranks up there in the top 10. "Got my toes in the sand, drink in my hand...all I need is a beautiful girl..."

May. 27 2014 08:31 PM

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