Pop Culture

Summer more than a season — it's a song list

When it comes to the charts, summer is not just a season, but a state of mind: Some of the biggest hits with “Summer” in the title have peaked in the dead of winter.

The following are the top 10 “summer” songs, according to chart performance on the Billboard Hot 100. The list, based on a point system developed for the book “Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits,” is led by the most successful instrumental in the history of the Hot 100.

1. “The Theme From ‘A Summer Place,’ “ Percy Faith (No. 1 for nine weeks, 1960)
It’s not the heat of summer weather but the heat of passion that inspired Max Steiner’s music for the 1959 film “A Summer Place,” starring Richard Egan, Dorothy McGuire, Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee. The movie was pure soap opera, a steamier “Peyton Place.” Toronto-born orchestra leader Percy Faith recorded Steiner’s main theme and released it as a single. A review appeared in the September 28, 1959, issue of Billboard, but the song did not debut on the Hot 100 until January 11, 1960. Six weeks later it was No. 1.

2. “Summer in the City,” the Lovin’ Spoonful (No. 1 for three weeks, 1966)Mark Sebastian wrote a poem about summer in the city and showed it to his brother John, frontman for the Lovin’ Spoonful. John liked the chorus but thought it needed a grittier opening with more tension, so Spoonful bassist Steve Boone added a piano piece that had not fit into any other song. John thought the finished product sounded like something George Gershwin would have written for “An American in Paris.”

“We hired an old sound man ... from the radio era, and he had old acetates of traffic jams and car horns,” John recalls. “We found a pneumatic hammer ... to provide the payoff.”

The song had a second go at No. 1 when it was sampled in “Stutter,” a 2001 chart-topper for Joe Featuring Mystikal.

3. “In the Summertime,” Shaggy Featuring Rayvon (No. 3, 1995)Already a hitmaker in the United Kingdom, Shaggy had his first U.S. hit with “Boombastic” in 1995. After the song had spent 10 weeks on the chart, this B-side gained enough airplay to join it. Shaggy’s reggae remake of Mungo Jerry’s 1970 hit entered the chart the week of July 29, 1995, helping the single move from No. 8 to No. 4. Three weeks later, Shaggy’s remake peaked at No. 3, the same position achieved by the original.

4. “Summer Girls,” LFO (No. 3, 1999)
“Summer Girls” was a summer hit, entering the Hot 100 the week of July 17, 1999. LFO, a trio from Orlando, Florida, originally known as Lyte Funky Ones, relied on lyrics that bordered on nonsense: “Hip-hop marmalade, spic and span, met you one summer and it all began.” Along the way, the band name-checks everyone from Kevin Bacon to Paul Revere, along with Abercrombie & Fitch, Michael J. Fox, New Kids on the Block, Larry Bird and William Shakespeare.

5. “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” Sly & the Family Stone (No. 2, 1969)
Sly & the Family Stone performed at Woodstock August 16, 1969. Exactly one week earlier, the psychedelic funk/soul band’s fifth single entered the Hot 100. Although Stone did not sing “Hot Fun in the Summertime” at Woodstock, the single became the band’s second-biggest hit by that point, spending two weeks in the runner-up spot.

While the group had an album out at the time (“Stand!”), “Hot Fun in the Summertime” was not culled from the LP. It was strictly a single and did not appear on an album until a greatest-hits collection was released in the fall of 1970.

6. “Endless Summer Nights,” Richard Marx (No. 2, 1988)
Almost two years after he wrote the music for the song that would become “Endless Summer Nights,” Richard Marx took his then-girlfriend, Cynthia Rhodes, to Hawaii for a short vacation. The trip home reminded him of coming back from summer vacations when he was a kid. While the lyrics were inspired by his visit to Hawaii, he says he wrote the song as a theme to the summer love you cannot have because you go your separate ways in the fall (even though he and Rhodes were married after their trip).

7. “Summertime,” DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince (No. 4, 1991)
One of the earliest rap acts to have a hit on the Hot 100, DJ Jeff Townes and rapper Will Smith were friends from Philadelphia. Smith was still a teenager when they had their first hit, “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” in 1988. Three years later, the duo scored its biggest hit (and only top 10 single) with “Summertime,” which sampled a 1975 Kool & the Gang B-side, “Summer Madness.” “Summertime” entered the Hot 100 just before the official start of summer, during the week of June 15, 1991.

8. “In the Summertime,” Mungo Jerry (No. 3, 1970)Skiffle pop group Mungo Jerry is a one-hit wonder in the United States, thanks to the original “In the Summertime,” which entered the Hot 100 the week of July 11, 1970. In its native United Kingdom, the group had nine chart entries. Named for a cat in a T.S. Eliot poem, Mungo Jerry was led by Ray Dorset, who worked as a lab assistant when “In the Summertime” hit but was soon able to give up his day job. “In the Summertime” is the only song to appear twice in the summer songs top 10, thanks to the remake by Shaggy.

9. “The Boys of Summer,” Don Henley (No. 5, 1985)
Like “The Theme From ‘A Summer Place,’ “ Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” was not a hit in the summer. The single debuted on the Hot 100 the week of November 10, 1984, preceding the release of its parent album, “Building the Perfect Beast.” At first glance, one might think Henley was writing about baseball, but the title serves as a metaphor for wanting to reconnect with someone from the past and realizing you cannot return to yesterday.

10. “Cruel Summer,” Ace of Base (No. 10, 1998)The original version of “Cruel Summer,” by British girl group Bananarama, debuted on the Hot 100 the week of July 21, 1984, and peaked at No. 9 that fall. Fourteen years later, Swedish quartet Ace of Base recorded the album “Flowers” for European release. But before Arista would issue the CD in the United States, label chief Clive Davis wanted some changes: “Cruel Summer” was upped to title status and became the first American single. Ace of Base had its first top 10 hit in four years when “Cruel Summer” peaked at No. 10 in August 1998.

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