There's something about a summer song that means every time you hear it — 10, 20, even (ahem) many more years later — it all comes flooding back. The sun. The sprinklers. The bikinis (yours or someone else's). Often there's a camp in the background, or a beach, or a car — and with any luck, the top is down.
Basically, you can take the year you were born and fast-forward 12-18 years, and that's the summer your special song came out.
When I asked people on Facebook to tell me the song that always means summer to them, I yelped when a few folks voted for "In the Summertime" by Mungo Jerry. Yes! That song is more powerful than a whiff of Coppertone! If you don't know it (because you're not about 97 years old), go directly to YouTube, and start grooving out: "In the summertime, when the weather is hot, / You can stretch right up and touch the sky." (Reading it now, I realize IT DOESN'T EVEN RHYME! What a lazy writer!)
But no matter. Mungo got away with it because summer isn't uptight. It's not school. And the song was so darn catchy. I was ready to bounce it to the No. 1 slot on my list when I noticed a few folks voting for "Summer in the City."
Of course! That Lovin' Spoonful hit is even more perfect. But gosh, there were 200 replies, and some will resonate more than others, so, here we go:
Pamela Paresky, director of the Aspen Center for Human Development, votes for "anything by the Beach Boys." Agreed!
But journalist Patrick Rizzo was a little more precise: Just "Good Vibrations." "I have no idea why," Rizzo wrote, "except it was playing that summer when I first screwed up the courage to hold a girl's hand."
Surely, that is reason enough.
Teacher Gary Wellbrock votes for "Back in the USA" by Linda Ronstadt. "It was a summer song meant for driving in a convertible with the radio blasting. It's freedom, youth, and boundless energy wrapped in a pulsing beat that propels you forward. It's also roller skating, French fries, and friends. It's my teenage years, which I can look back upon with a positivity brought about by time." Maybe that's the key to ALL these memories: The golden haze they acquire.
For Jake Ehrenreich, talk show host and star of "A Jew Grows in Brooklyn," the quintessential summer song is "Wake Up Little Suzy" because that's what his camp blasted to wake the kids up.
Repetition is also key: For Amber Kitavi, the trigger is Britney Spears' "Oops! ... I Did It Again." "It played constantly the summer I did driver's ed." For art historian Martha Hollander, it's "Hey Jude" because it was always on the jukebox at the hamburger shack on the beach.
Summer hangouts are clearly memory joggers, too. Hence "Under the Boardwalk," "Up on the Roof" and that all-purpose summer backdrop, California. This explains my friend Ira Cohen's favorite, "California Dreamin'" — even though it takes place "on such a winter's day." Hmm.
Lots of other summer standouts deal with the feel of the season itself: Seals and Crofts' "Summer Breeze," "Here Comes the Sun" by ye olde Beatles and Jimi Hendrix's "Long Hot Summer Night." And let's not forget Bananarama's "Cruel Summer," a favorite of Drexel professor Alex Ortega's (and mine!).
And then there's the wistfulness — think of Frank Sinatra's "Summer Wind." For Jason Maoz, "Sealed with a Kiss" is his trigger, because, "To me, as a teenager, summer always meant separation — from family, from school buddies, from first relationships and crushes."
The end of the summer means separation, too. But don't worry; someday, many moons (and suns) from now, you'll catch a lick of music, and it'll all come rushing back ...
Minus the name of that girl or guy you said you'd never forget.
Lenore Skenazy is president of Let Grow, founder of Free-Range Kids and author of "Has the World Gone Skenazy?" To learn more about Lenore Skenazy ([email protected]) and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: JillWellington at Pixabay