Turn up the speaker—it’s time to jam out to these classic warm-weather tunes

By Mary Tomlinson
July 16, 2018
Olesya Kuprina/Shutterstock

You’re nestled beneath a beach umbrella, feet buried in the sand, and the condensation of a cold drink drips off your hand. Unfortunately there’s just one thing missing from this perfect summer scene—the ultimate summer playlist!

Summer songs seem to have an extra magical quality. Not only do they set the mood for tossing some disk on the shore or prepping the backyard grill, they also can’t help but evoke nostalgia, reminding us of summers one, ten, thirty years back. So here’s to those songs that help us remember that effortlessly carefree time of year. Cue up the speaker; it’s summertime.

The Best Summer Songs

Summer of ’69 by Bryan Adams

Summers always seem to be viewed through rose-colored lenses—Bryan Adams’ rock hit captures that restless nostalgia and belongs on any summer playlist.

Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Sing it loud and proud on a Gulf Shores beach (Bushwacker in hand not optional).

All Summer Long by Kid Rock

A timeless summer anthem sure to bring back memories of wild summer nights.

Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison

“Sha-la-la” along to this cheery ballad from the genre-bending Northern Irish singer-songwriter—a must for a relaxing day by the pool.

Cheeseburger in Paradise by Jimmy Buffett

The song that launched a million Parrotheads. Blast this ditty, inspired by Jimmy’s desire for a piping hot cheeseburger after a boat trip sustained on canned goods, while preparing—what else?—a delicious cheeseburger. Pair it with Jimmy Buffett’s favorite margarita recipe.

Surfin’ USA by The Beach Boys

Granted, you could pick essentially any Beach Boys song and it would be a surefire hit on any summer playlist. For beach days, we like this upbeat SoCal song. (Fun fact: Of all the Beach Boys, only Dennis surfed and Brian later confessed to being scared of the ocean.)

Summer Nights by Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta

Seaside flirting. Young love. Hot gossip. Does it get any more summertime than this Grease classic? We dare you not to sing along.

Soak up the Sun by Sheryl Crow

If you don’t start a girls trip by blasting the Midwestern singer’s early aughts pop hit in the car and singing along at the top of your lungs, did you even go on a summer girls trip?

Walking on Sunshine by Katrina & The Waves

This uber-upbeat summer jam from the English new wave pop-rock group is an instant crowd pleaser.

Dust on the Bottle by David Lee Murphy

Fifteen minutes was all it took to write this '90s country staple made for blasting on a boat ride, drink in hand.

Kokomo by The Beach Boys

This late Beach Boys steel drum-heavy track, named for a fictional Florida Keys island, makes for a soothing soundscape on a romantic summer night.

Beachin’ by Jake Owen

The Vero Beach native captures the easygoing simplicity of a day on the beach—just plop down in a chair, pop open a beer, and bop along to the new country classic.

Waterfalls by TLC

Blast the funky, soulful sound of TLC—featuring backing vocals and interludes from CeeLo Green and P Diddy—at any and all beach bashes this summer.

The Sound of Sunshine by Michael Franti & Spearhead

The upbeat title track from musical activist Michael Franti & Spearhead—recorded in Jamaica, Bali, and on the road—will put any beachgoer in a good mood with its pop-reggae hybrid sound.

Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince

Funky and laidback, this hip hop track from Will and Jazz sounds best while driving around on a sunny day, windows down of course.  

California Gurls by Katy Perry ft. Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg and pop’s Rainbow Brite queen come together for the disco-pop girly anthem everyone knows the words to.

Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Israel’s version took over as the most popular rendition of the Wizard of Oz melody and redefined Hawaiian music in the modern era. Honor the beloved singer by playing this in the background at sunset—we can’t think of a more lovely way to end a day on the shore.