Rocking the Summer Vibes: The Definitive List of 40 Best Songs to Amp Up Your Season
The onset of summer signifies the start of enjoyable journeys under the sun, visits to the beach, and the need to cool off in the pool due to rising temperatures. These experiences become even more thrilling with an energetic summer music collection.
You’ll require tunes to play at maximum volume while you lower the car windows completely, songs to energize you for a night out with friends, and songs to accompany you as you bask in the sun on the beach. Even songs that evoke memories of past summers can be an enjoyable journey down memory lane.
Which song claims the number-one spot on our list? Look at Rock’s top 40 summer songs to enhance your poolside enjoyment or wherever you spend your summer.
40. “Good Day Sunshine,” The Beatles (1966)
Paul McCartney effortlessly delivers sunny melodies with “Good Day Sunshine,” one of his most upbeat tunes. The opening piano chords, Ringo Starr’s snare roll, and the ebullient chorus harmonies create a sunny atmosphere. George Martin’s rollicking piano solo adds to the whimsical nature of the song. It leaves you wanting more.
39. “Suddenly Last Summer,” The Motels (1983)
“Suddenly Last Summer” holds its own meaning for Martha Davis, inspired by her mother’s suicide and the changing seasons. Despite sharing a name, the song has no relation to the play or film. Davis constructed it from her own memories, finding completion in a recollection of the last ice-cream truck of the season.
38. “Long Hot Summer Night,” The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)
Jimi Hendrix weaves a captivating tale amidst drummer Mitch Mitchell’s rhythmic backdrop. Despite a cold winter storm in his heart, his missing love reappears, pledging to return soon. Accomplished musician Al Kooper adds piano to the song and receives a gift from Hendrix—a Fender Stratocaster—as a token of appreciation.
37. “Kokomo,” The Beach Boys (1988)
The Beach Boys are famously associated with summer, and their 1988 hit “Kokomo” took them beyond California. Although Kokomo isn’t real, the song suggests it’s an island near the Florida Keys. It topped the Billboard chart and earned them a Grammy nomination, becoming their final Top 40 hit.
36. “Dancing Days,” Led Zeppelin (1973)
Inspired by a record they heard in Bombay, Led Zeppelin performed “Dancing Days” outside Mick Jagger’s Stargroves home. They loved it so much that they saved it for their next album, “Physical Graffiti,” as “Houses of the Holy” sounded too similar.
35. “Summertime Rolls,” Jane’s Addiction (1988)
“Summertime Rolls” stands as the unreservedly amorous focal point of Jane’s Addiction’s debut studio album. Positioned between the hyperactive “Standing in the Shower … Thinking” and the grandiose “Mountain Song,” this track provides a six-minute retreat to an idyllic summer day.
34. “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1993)
“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” isn’t the typical summer anthem for fun vacations and family gatherings. The marijuana references and the protagonist’s weariness in the chorus create a slightly spaced-out and unhappy atmosphere. Ultimately, the song serves as a tribute to yearning for summer rather than a celebratory tune.
33. “Blister in the Sun,” Violent Femmes (1983)
“Blister in the Sun” has endless fan theories about its meaning, but Violent Femmes songwriter Gordon Gano dismisses them. The song’s lasting appeal comes from its catchy folk-punk sound, clever drumming, and satisfying chorus. Gano believes people don’t love it for deep lyrics.
32. “Magic,” The Cars (1984)
The Cars’ 1984 song “Magic” repeatedly mentions “summer” and is a catchy ’80s new wave pop hit. Written by Ric Ocasek, it reflects on a summer romance and peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, boosting Heartbeat City’s multi-platinum sales.
31. “Summertime Girls,” Y&T (1985)
“Summertime Girls” is a big and anthemic summer song with layered harmonies and catchy guitar riffs. It gained airplay on radio and MTV in 1985 and was featured in the movie Real Genius. Though it’s a bit of an outlier for San Francisco’s Y&T, it remains a fun summer getaway.
30. “Blue Sky,” The Allman Brothers Band (1972)
The Allman Brothers’ “Blue Sky” charms with its simple, gender-neutral lyrics expressing joy and gratitude. Dickey Betts intentionally made the song relatable to all by omitting gender-specific lines. With captivating guitar solos, it’s a perfect summer anthem for road trips.
29. “Good Times,” Chic (1979)
“Good Times” found new life when the Sugarhill Gang used a Chic sample in their genre-breaking hit “Rapper’s Delight.” Niles Rodgers surprised audiences by seamlessly blending the two songs during concerts. But the catchy chant of “Clams on the half shell, and roller skates, ROLLER SKATES!” remained uniquely Chic’s.
28. “Hot in the City,” Billy Idol (1982)
Billy Idol brings the club experience to you in “Hot in the City.” The song captures the feel of a night out, starting slow and building up to a passionate climax. Inspired by Idol’s own experiences in New York City, it’s a great night whether you leave now or later.
27. “Rock Lobster,” The B-52’s (1978)
In the B-52’s’ surreal universe, parties involve earlobes falling deep, ocean visits feature giant clams and beach hangs include matching towels and exploring under docks. “Rock Lobster” isn’t the obvious choice for everyone’s summer playlist but for those who embrace their uniqueness, it’s the ideal choice for extraordinary summer adventures.
26. “In the Summertime,” Mungo Jerry (1970)
British band Mungo Jerry had several ’70s UK hits, but they were a one-hit wonder in America with the infectious 1970 tune “In the Summertime.” The song has a catchy melody with acoustic guitar, banjo, double bass, piano, and even a jug. Ray Dorset sings about carefree summer days when the weather is high.
25. “Soak Up the Sun,” Sheryl Crow (2002)
When winters are long and spring feels drizzly, the beginning of summer is the perfect time for a fresh start. Sheryl Crow co-wrote “Soak Up the Sun” to find joy in imperfect circumstances. The song’s video captures the essence of summer with surfers and beach bonfires.
24. “Hot Stuff,” Donna Summer (1979)
Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” isn’t about the weather; it’s a sizzling track that combines R&B, power rock, and disco beats. With her captivating vocals and a guitar solo from Jeff Baxter, the song earned Summer a Grammy Award. For more edgy vibes, check out her track “Bad Girls” next.
23. “Born to Be Wild,” Steppenwolf (1968)
“Born to Be Wild” embodies the primal thrill of hitting the open road. With captivating guitar riffs and an empowering call to action, it appeals to bikers, metalheads, and anyone seeking freedom.
22. “Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen (1975)
“Born to Run” tells a story of a protagonist’s passionate plea for love, but it represents the universal yearnings of restless youth seeking endless possibilities. Bruce Springsteen wrote it at 24, yet its resonance extends beyond youth. It serves as a reminder that we are all wanderers, destined to keep moving forward.
21. “Yankee Rose,” David Lee Roth (1986)
Roth launched his post-Van Halen solo career with “Eat ‘Em and Smile,” recruiting guitar hero Steve Vai and flashy bassist Billy Sheehan. He impressed with the patriotic and summer-perfect “Yankee Rose.”
20. “Beautiful Girls,” Van Halen (1979)
Van Halen’s sophomore album showcased their devilishly fun party-metal sound, giving the impression that even if you couldn’t be them, you could still join their company. “Beautiful Girls” outlines their frontman’s five-step plan for an endless summer: drink, smoke, sun, surf, and beautiful girls.
19. “Holiday Road,” Lindsey Buckingham (1983)
“Holiday Road” instantly brings to mind the Griswold family and their misadventures in their station wagon. Lindsey Buckingham’s expert blend of bouncy pop-rock, featuring ’80s drum sounds, and layered vocals, creates a musical embodiment of a West Coast kick.
18. “Nightswimming,” R.E.M. (1992)
“Nightswimming” by R.E.M. captures the tranquil essence of summer evenings. Accompanied only by piano and complemented by strings and a memorable oboe solo, the song evokes nostalgia for simpler times and the bittersweet awareness of summer’s inevitable end.
17. “Rockaway Beach,” Ramones (1977)
Despite being from cold New York City, the Ramones’ songs have a summery feel. Their biggest hit, “Rockaway Beach,” pays homage to songwriter Dee Dee Ramone’s favorite Queens beach. It’s a quick, two-minute Beach Boys-inspired track from their third album, Rocket to Russia.
16. “Summertime Blues,” The Who (1967)
Eddie Cochran couldn’t have predicted the diverse reinterpretations of “Summertime Blues” after his original recording in 1958. Blue Cheer added funk and Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” in 1967, while The Who’s rowdy version captured the trials of youth, like struggling to schedule dates and facing parental restrictions. Summers are complicated, but things get better.
15. “Summer Nights,” Van Halen (1986)
Reportedly Van Halen’s first song with Hagar, “Summer Nights” differs from 5150’s catchy pop hits. The band confidently embraces Eddie Van Halen’s stellar guitar riff, narrating an unforgettable aimless summer night.
14. “Lovely Day,” Bill Withers (1977)
Bill Withers’ early career delved into deep introspection, but he shifted to a lighter, sweeter vibe in his 1977 single “Lovely Day.” The breezy track showcases his elite vocal sustain over a gently funky bass riff.
13. “Here Comes the Sun,” The Beatles (1969)
George Harrison wrote “Here Comes the Sun” during a difficult time, both due to the British weather and the Beatles’ business matters. However, while strolling through Eric Clapton’s garden on a sunny day, he felt inspired to write about a long winter turning into a melting ice and bringing back smiles. The song disregards summer showers.
12. “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding (1968)
“(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding is a nostalgic summer song that captures the gentle passing of time. Despite Redding’s tragic death before its release in 1968, the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart and remains a timeless classic tied to his legacy.
11. “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” The Beach Boys (1963)
Brian Wilson’s early ode to surfing, “Surfin’ USA,” borrows heavily from Chuck Berry’s classic “Sweet Little Sixteen.” The songs share similar structure, rhythm, and melody. The Beach Boys put their own spin on it, creating a beach party vibe with breezy vocals and an inviting kick drum.
10. “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” Sly & the Family Stone (1969)
In July 1969, Sly & the Family Stone unveiled an exceptional summer song, which is considered one of the best of all time. “Hot Fun in the Summertime” doesn’t possess any hidden agenda or profound symbolism. Instead, it serves as a joyous tribute to the vibrant festivities and lasting memories created during warm-weather moments.
9. “Summer of ’69,” Bryan Adams (1985)
Bryan Adams admitted that the chosen year in his best song had a sexual connotation, not a personal attachment. Despite being 9 years old in 1969, the song’s events were not age-appropriate. Nevertheless, the catchy melody and Adams’ passionate delivery capture the carefree feel of summer.
8. “Saturday in the Park,” Chicago (1972)
“Saturday in the Park” captures the perfect summer day, blending cultures and joyful moments. Robert Lamm’s observations, accompanied by Chicago’s music, create a vivid scene of diverse conversations and a guitar-playing ice cream vendor.
7. “California Girls,” The Beach Boys (1965)
The Beach Boys expanded their sound with “California Girls,” adding nuance and a touch of bittersweetness to their sunny surf anthems. While still a fun-in-the-sun romp, the song’s complex musicality reflects their growing maturity and anticipation of cloudy days ahead.
6. “Summer Breeze,” Seals & Crofts (1972)
Seals and Crofts transformed soft rock’s emotionalism with spiritually stirring songs. After multiple attempts, they finally perfected the evocative “Summer Breeze” with bassist Harvey Brooks.
5. “Mr. Blue Sky,” Electric Light Orchestra (1978)
Sunshine inspired ELO’s known prog-pop song, “Mr. Blue Sky.” Two weeks of dark and misty weather left him uninspired until the sun finally broke through, revealing the beautiful Alps. Inspired by this sight, Lynne wrote “Mr. Blue Sky” and 13 other songs in just two weeks.
4. “Vacation,” The Go-Go’s (1982)
“Vacation” has been a go-to choice for music supervisors, soundtracking countless road trip and party scenes in popular entertainment as it reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, perfectly aligning with the summertime.. Its breezy new wave hooks have been featured in sitcoms like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and comedy documentaries like “Jackass 4.5”
3. “School’s Out,” Alice Cooper (1972)
Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” captures the exhilarating end of the last day of school, combining teenage angst, rebellion, and freedom. The children’s chorus and clever double entendres showcase Cooper’s cleverness and catchy hooks.
2. “Summer in the City,” The Lovin’ Spoonful (1966)
The Lovin’ Spoonful’s 1966 hit “Summer in the City” captures the vibrant essence of urban life with honking horns and a fast-paced, sweaty rhythm. Recorded in cold New York City, the song takes on a tougher sound, reflecting the frustrations and heat of summer.
1. “The Boys of Summer,” Don Henley (1984)
At the age of 37, Don Henley unveiled “The Boys of Summer,” a contemplative song he co-wrote with Heartbreaker Mike Campbell. It could be seen as either a brilliant move or a missed chance that the song was released in late October, somewhat aligning with its theme of the conclusion of summer.