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5 best summertime songs of all time

By Doug Frattallone, Contributing writer
Published On: Apr 10 2012 02:08:41 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 18 2013 10:49:17 AM CDT
Woman listening to headphones on beach

iStock/michaeljung

You're about to hit the road on a hot summer night. You're sick of the stale songs coming out of the radio, and you've listened to the same songs on your iPod for the millionth time. But you want some music to go along with your surroundings, as you put the top down on a trip to nowhere particular.

Need some audio ideas for the ride? You've cruised to the right place.

You're going to be re-introduced to five songs you know very, very well -- but may have forgotten how powerfully they symbolize July's swelter or the awesomeness of August. The songs aren't just about summer. They ARE summer.

If you don't agree, no problem. It's the best time of the year, and there are no arguments here. Just sit back, and try to soak it in, man. It'll be cool.

Justin Timberlake close up_blurb

No. 5: "Summer Love" by Justin Timberlake

We start with a singer who can do it all -- sing, dance and act -- Mr. Justin Timberlake. JT's "Summer Love," which was released in 2007, is a catchy summer tune that fans can sing to and dance to.

This summer hit appeals to both devoted JT fans and casual fans. The song peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100 when it was released.

The lovin Spoonful Summer in the city_cropped

No. 4: "Summer in the City" by The Lovin' Spoonful

The Lovin' Spoonful scored a No. 1 hit in 1966 with "Summer in the City." The song describes New York in the summer, from people lounging around in the heat during the day to the contrasting, lively nightlife during the summer nights.

Travolta and Newton John

No. 3: "Summer Nights" by Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta

No one can help but sing along to Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta's 1978 hit "Summer Nights" from "Grease." Whether you are singing the male role or the female role -- or even both -- this song takes everyone back to the sandy beaches of summer.

The song recaps the summer relationship of Danny and Sandy, and now it is frequently sung at karaoke nights and weddings alike.

Fresh Prince Will Smith

No. 2: "Summertime" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

Here's a challenge: Find a better hip-hop tune than "Summertime" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. Good luck.

Released in 1991, this Grammy-winning chart-topper is breath of fresh summer air. Pun intended. Summer oozes out of the lines: "You're invited to a barbecue that's starting at 4. Sitting with your friends cause y'all reminisce about the days growing up and the first person you kiss."

Sometimes it's easy to dismiss rap as noise, but that is poetry. The music video produced with this song is even better, especially when the camera zooms in on the kids in bright T-shirts running around at the barbecue.

"All the kids playing out front. Little boys messin' round with the girls playing double-dutch, while the DJ's spinning a tune as the old folks dance at your family reunion."

Actually, the images of the old folks are what makes you smile the most. Old people dancing on grass in the summertime sounds like something you'd find in heaven. Think about it, and it almost makes you cry. Heck, the video to this song is poetry in motion.

Beach Boys, California Girls

No. 1: "California Girls" by The Beach Boys or David Lee Roth

We save the best for last. California Girls. And you know what, the versions recorded by the Beach Boys and David Lee Roth are both great. Play either one, and you get the central idea, "I wish they could all be California girls."

Penned by Brian Wilson and Mike Love in 1965, "California Girls" reached No. 3 on the U.S. charts for the Beach Boys, and when Van Halen's David Lee Roth did a cover of it 20 years later, it hit No. 3 on the charts again.

Roth's 1985 video of the song was an MTV staple that year, and can be put in a time capsule to show future generations what the music video age represented at its zenith.

Yep, it was that good. So is the song. Be it Roth or Boys, for millions, this is the ultimate summer anthem, featuring imagery to keep you warm in North Dakota in January:

"The West coast has the sunshine, and the girls all get so tanned. I dig a French bikini on Hawaii island, dolls by a palm tree in the sand."

Cool.