The other day it hit me what makes summer so special. It's not the swimming pools, baseball or shaved ice. Those are all nice, but there is something else sets the tone for the entire warm-weather season.
It's the music.
I had left the comforts of the mancave on Sunday afternoon -- I think there was a commercial break in the NASCAR race -- and strolled into the kitchen to refill my glass with ice and Classic Coke.
That's when I looked out the kitchen window and saw the Little Woman soaking up the sun, reading the latest Nicholas Sparks book and listening to some tunes.
How perfect, I thought. And it was the music that punctuated the entire setting. That got me thinking how certain songs, no matter what time of year you hear them, connect you with June, July and August. Many of those summer songs take you back to a specific time and place -- or person. Or maybe they simply conjure up memories of family and friends.
The NASCAR race was -- dare I say it? -- rather boring Sunday, allowing me the time to do some Internet surfing for "songs of summer." I became enthralled with list after list and decided to put together my own 10 favorite hot-weather favorites. These were all from my formative years, but they have stood the test of time. See if any strike a memory with you:
1. "Wild Thing," The Troggs (1966): One of the all-time great summer love anthems. I'll always remember a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl named Debbie from that summer, whose favorite song was "Wild Thing." It was the summer before I entered junior high and I thought the world began and ended with Debbie. And the fact she loved NASCAR was simply icing on the cake. Then she moved away. Ah, the trials and tribulations of summer love.
2. "California Girls," The Beach Boys (1965): What visions this song used to create. You have to hand it to the Beach Boys, who 46 years later are still singing a song that is popular as the day it was released.
3. "Summer in the City," Lovin' Spoonful (1966): A true summer classic. As soon as you hear that jackhammer sound at the beginning, you know what song it is.
4. "Born to be Wild," Steppenwolf (1968): What teenage boy in the summer of ‘68 was not singing this song? We all thought we were smokin' hot and this was "our" song. Our idea of "wild," however, was having our parents take us for a chocolate shake and fries at the local Dairy Queen. Not exactly the "Easy Rider" mentality this song was directed toward.
5. "In the Summertime," Mungo Jerry (1970): This was the perfect sit-on-the-porch-and-let-the-world-go-by song. The almost reggae-ish beat was a little ahead of its time. A peculiar fact about the song is the word "summertime" is only mentioned twice.
6. "Heat Wave," Martha and the Vandellas (1963): Still a much-played song, I can't hear more than the first couple of lines and I'm breaking out in a July sweat.
7. "All You Need is Love," Beatles (1970): This was arguably the quintessential summer song for the psychedelic era -- a lot of repetition and not much thinking required.
8. "Groovin'," The Rascals (1967): A perfect late-in-the-day complement to "In the Summertime." A perfect pool-side song for an early summer evening.
9. "Hot Fun in the Summertime," Sly and the Family Stone (1969): This is another of those classics that by the time it's over you are longing to see a beach, a wave, and smell a steak cooking on the nearest grill -- even if you hear it played in December. Sly and his bunch put out some great summer music in their time.
10. "See You in September," The Happenings (1966): And how many romances failed the test of a summer apart? And how many teenage guys knew a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Debbie who moved away ...