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The Best Summer Songs of Our Lives

These unforgettable tunes will send you on a trip down memory lane

spinner image beach goers dance on a sunny day

“A Lover’s Concerto” is playing on my oldies station. I am no longer a 70-something woman. I am transported to the summer of 1965. I’m in my Ford Falcon driving home from the beach. Grains of sand cling to my thighs as I adjust myself in the driver’s seat. A citrus scent from Bain de Soleil mixes with the beach air.

Life couldn’t be any better.  

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My friends and I have spent a glorious day at Santa Monica beach, slathered in baby oil while the sun tanned our bodies. As the music blared from our transistor radio, we moved several inches on our beach blankets, following the sun across the sky and talking about boys, the most important thing in our lives at that time.

I see flashing lights in my rearview mirror. The speedometer is hovering at 60 mph. A few minutes later, we are on the side of the road and I’m getting a speeding ticket, which I know my parents will not be pleased over.

But even that encounter with the law couldn’t wipe the memory away. Every time The Toys start singing, I am right there, a carefree teenager spending my summer days at the beach.

Music has this power to take us back in time. The familiar notes open a portal through which we travel, landing us inside memories that feel as real as the day they happened.

When I was growing up in Southern California, my high school summer vacations were filled listening to the music of the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean and of course, the Beatles.

After I graduated college, summers were reduced to vacation time. My friends and I began talking about careers and marriage. I fell in love with a drummer, of all professions. I had my own Ringo Starr, albeit not as famous. One of the songs his band covered was “Money” by Pink Floyd. 

To this day, every time I hear the dropping of coins and that iconic opening, it’s the summer of 1974. I’m wearing a crop top and hip huggers, gyrating across the floor with anyone willing to dance with me. The floor is sticky. The air is smoky. My heart is full. As it turned out, my drummer danced off with someone else. But that song will always be the backdrop of our summer romance.

As my friends and I turned 30, our conversations involved babies, preschools and scheduling time for sex. And I began to agree with Tina Turner when she sang, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”

My marriage survived, and before I knew it, I was a 40-something woman living through the invasion of that foreign species known as The Teenager. Summer days were spent at pool parties with the music of Metallica and Pearl Jam as the soundtrack of those hours in an attempt to bond with my teenage alien.    

In our 50s, with children old enough to take care of themselves, my friends and I started yearly girls’ trips to Mexico.

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Nothing speaks of Baja more than Kenny Chesney’s “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem” or that classic “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett. We ride quads along the beach, singing into the night, our voices bouncing off the waves. 

As a grandmother, I’m exposed to the music of today, which I love because it keeps me young. A few years ago, I took my grandson to his first concert. Beneath the stars on a warm summer night, we listened to the music of Jack Johnson. I’ll never forget the sheer happiness on my grandson’s face or the soft feel of his fingers intertwined with mine.

During my Gruber driver years (grandma + Uber), I let my grandkids choose the tunes. Driving to the beach, I sang along to Harry Styles and Taylor Swift, and I’ve come to love these artists’ work as much as the songs of my youth. There is nothing like creating memories with your grandchildren.

No matter how you listen to music, the notes feed your soul. A familiar song awakens the senses. As Carole King sang, they form a tapestry of the unforgettable moments in our lives.  

Here are 10 songs that scream summer and are sure to bring back memories or will create wonderful new ones.

  • “Heat Wave” — Martha & the Vandellas, 1963
  • “Summer in the City” — The Lovin’ Spoonful, 1966
  • “School’s Out” — Alice Cooper, 1972
  • “Saturday in the Park” — Chicago, 1972
  • “Summer Love” — Justin Timberlake, 2006
  • “Cruel Summer” — Taylor Swift, 2019
  • “Watermelon Sugar” — Harry Styles, 2019
  • “Flowers” — Miley Cyrus, 2023

Share your experience: What songs do you strongly connect to your favorite summers?

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