11 Great Rock and Pop Summer Songs

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summer_ends-399510If you have a favorite summer memory, chances are it plays in your head to the soundtrack of a summer song. There are plenty of great ones–“Hot Fun in the Summertime,” “Summer in the City”–and, of course, much of the Beach Boys’ catalog.

Any way you look at it, summer is pretty well covered musically. With packed beaches, convertibles and barbecues, music provides a soundtrack to some great summer memories. And some songs capture that wistful sense that special times are ending, the warmth is fading and a chill is coming on.

With summer upon us, here are some classic rock songs that capture that moment when seasons change. There are hundreds to choose from and we went with these…

11) “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper

The 1972 song was well-timed, as it was released on April 26 as the academic calendar was winding down. It became Alice Cooper’s first major hit, peaking at #7 on August 12, just in time for… back to school shopping!

10) “Summer Nights” by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

Danny and Sandy share their slightly different points of view and how they enjoyed each other’s company, in Grease.

9) “Sunny Afternoon” by The Kinks

Ray Davies’ laidback vocal says it all on this #1 1966 U.K. smash.

8) “Summertime” by Big Brother & the Holding Company

Janis Joplin’s final album with Big Brother & the Holding Company, Cheap Thrills, includes her brilliant vocal on George Gershwin’s “Summertime.” The album, with its iconic artwork from Robert Crumb, was 1968’s #9 biggest seller.

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7) “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry

This 1970 skiffle-style debut from the British rock band hit #1 in over a dozen countries, peaking at #3 on the Hot 100. Note: the hirsute frontman is not actually named Jerry. He’s Ray Dorset, the group’s founder.

6) “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful

We love the #1 smash from 1966 even though it always makes us want to find a place with a great air conditioner.

5) “Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Sly and the Family Stone

Released as the band was making a splash at Woodstock, this song was one of the biggest hits of 1969.

4) “Summertime Blues” by Eddie Cochran

It would have been easy to choose covers by The Who or Blue Cheer, but we opted for the 1958 original, which holds up remarkably well.

3) “A Summer Song” by Chad & Jeremy

This 1964 hit remains a guilty pleasure for many of us. No less an authority than Dick Clark called it “one of the prettiest songs ever written.” When the duo sing the wistful lyric “They say that all good things must ennnnd somedaaayyyy… autumn leaves must fall,” who among you doesn’t sing along to the car radio?

2) “The Boys of Summer” by Don Henley

The ultimate nostalgic post-summer, post-romance song.

1) “Surfin’ U.S.A.” by the Beach Boys

Did you think we were going to omit the Beach Boys?!? The toughest decision was which to choose, from dozens of worthy candidates. But this one won out. It’s hard to believe this timeless song was released in 1963.

Best Classic Bands Staff

15 Comments so far

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  1. Jack
    #1 Jack 22 August, 2017, 01:32

    We can only hope! It’s hard to believe that Billy’s creativity just all of a sudden dried up. I’m not sure what happened. I thought at first it might be an aversion to touring, but we know that’s not it, he still performs live all the time. In addition, there have definitely been bands who stopped touring and concentrated on the studio, i.e. The Beatles. All I know for sure is I’d really like an album of new material!

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  2. Billy K.
    #2 Billy K. 22 August, 2017, 01:51

    As a writer myself, I understand “writer’s block”, and bouncing back from it……but I find it odd that Joel has gone this long, after all this time, not come out with a new song.

    Reply this comment
  3. JerryDrake
    #3 JerryDrake 28 August, 2019, 20:37

    Sunny afternoon of The Kinks is the best for me and then Mungo Jerry.

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  4. bakermama63
    #4 bakermama63 10 September, 2019, 17:38


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  5. Jarmo Keranen
    #5 Jarmo Keranen 19 June, 2020, 10:20

    Where’s Surf City by Jan & Dean? One of the all time greatest summer song!

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  6. 60sKid
    #6 60sKid 20 June, 2020, 07:08

    Better Beach Boys choice would be “All Summer Long”

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  7. RecordSteve
    #7 RecordSteve 20 June, 2020, 11:25

    As was stated, there are hundreds, but they
    gave us some suggested summer memory .
    It’s the smells=BBQs…Under the Boardwalk…
    It’s the start=School’s Out, Here Comes Sum-
    mer (Wildfire), Summertime, See You in Sept…
    It’s where U go to have fun=At the Shore,
    Palisades Park, Up on the Roof…U fill in blanks

    Reply this comment
  8. Thomas Rednour
    #8 Thomas Rednour 21 June, 2020, 09:28

    So many summer songs (I have >12hrs of songs, plus >6hrs of just Gershwin’s “Summertime”), but the best start to summer has always been The Jamies “Summertime, Summertime” from 1958. Still great!

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  9. Jerry
    #9 Jerry 14 August, 2020, 02:07

    Summer Rain – Johnny Rivers

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  10. phil
    #10 phil 14 August, 2020, 11:59

    No ‘Under The Boardwalk’? No ‘Groovin” (Rascals)? Two will have to be bounced ..

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  11. Alias Pink Puzz
    #11 Alias Pink Puzz 21 June, 2021, 14:01

    Beach Baby by First Class. For those of us who missed the Beach Boys the first time around, this tune launched summer!

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  12. Music All Day
    #12 Music All Day 18 August, 2022, 23:37

    The song “Summer” by War from July 1976, top 10 hit song, is a must on the list.

    Version of “Summertime” by Billy Stewart from July 1966, top 10 hit song, is a must as well.

    Reply this comment
  13. Dan
    #13 Dan 14 August, 2023, 06:41

    Great list. As a former baseball player, i have to nominate Centerfield by John Fogerty for an Honorable Mention. It immediately transports me to the mid-70’s and memories of great times playing ball.

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