My New Book!

My New Book!
My New Book!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

June 21-22, 2014: Crowd-sourced Summer Jams

[As the solstice approaches, this week’s series has focused on AmericanStudies contexts for some of our most enduring summertime songs. This crowd-sourced bbq and post is drawn from the responses and favorites of fellow AmericanStudies—share your potato salad … I mean, your thoughts … in comments, please!]
Following up Tuesday’s post, Roland Gibson notes, “There's actually just one small point of clarification I wanted to make to you and your audience—from my perspective as a former music theory student, and also composer and musician myself: ‘Summertime Blues’ by Eddie Cochran is a great song that I like a lot, but structurally/musically speaking, it's a ‘classic rock’ song like you said, but it's not really a ‘blues’ song, like the name implies. When I talk to people about the blues as a genre—and there are many examples, to be sure—my favorite example is BB King. I have a CD of his at home that has songs like “How Blue Can You Get,” “Walkin' and Cryin',” and “Everyday I Have The Blues”—these are examples of playing and singing the blues the way they are supposed to be played and sung. My ultimate goal here is to add for people what I've learned about the blues—and not to take away from what you were saying in your blog.”
Responding to Wednesday’s post on “Summer in the City,” Nicholas Birns writes, “This song always evoked a very specifically Lindsay-era New York for me, the rhythms, the optimism, the slight melancholy all evoke both the tumult and promise of the Lindsay years.”  
On the same post, my colleague Joe Moser writes, “Speaking of peripheral politics in seasonal music, I'm a big fan of singer/songwriter/pianist Regina Spektor's 2006 song ‘Summer in the City’ (not to be confused with the The Lovin' Spoonful tune). Her ‘Summer’ is primarily about romantic estrangement and longing, but she also nicely captures the feeling of youthful political alienation in the line ‘So I went to a protest just to rub up against strangers.’ For me, like many others, recalling the summers of 2006 and 2007 dredges up mixed feelings about the still-active-but-waning movement against the Iraq War, which was very possibly the kind of protest that Ms. Spektor had in mind. Here is a lovely performance of the song from 2007; she introduces it by making a generous comparison between summer in NYC (her home) and Austin, Texas (the site of the performance and my former home).”
Rob LeBlanc shares the focus of my Thursday post, noting that, “I always listen to ‘Summertime’ by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince around this time of year,” and adding about the opening verse lines that I also quoted, “Those four bars contain enjambment and internal rhyme! I have always been impressed by that song.”
Paul Beaudoin shares a bunch of summer classics: Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze”; George Benson’s “Breezin’”; Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime”; Ella and Louis’ “Summertime”; Martha and the Vandella’s “Heatwave”; and The Pointer Sisters’ “Steam Heat.”  
Annie Railton nominates Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” which was almost a focus one of my week’s posts.
AnneMarie Donahue highlights, “Rockaway Beach’ by the Ramones. Aside from this song being awesome fun to listen to (and scream out of the window of your first car with your best friend) this came off one of the more interesting albums by the band. Rocket to Russia was uneven, to describe it best. Some songs were brilliant (‘Sheehan is a Punk Rocker’), others were iconic (‘Teenage Lobotomy’) and some were fracking awful (‘I wanna be well’). The song in and of itself is a blast and very exemplary of the American punk sound. But what I will always love was that my parents had this on vinyl, so I got to hear it that way and fall in love with the songs as a child. This song just made me happy because the same summer that everyone fell in love with Marky Mark I got to pretend I was different and unique by ranting about DeeDee and bad-mouthing the Sex Pistols. Summer music is hit or miss but this was a fantastic song.”
And Kate Smith adds, “I must admit that Amos Lee's ‘Windows Are Rolled Down’ reminds me of summer—particularly warm but not too warm sunny summer days—solely because of the final lines that give off this carefree feeling (the lyrics, yes, but also the melody and emotion).  ‘Windows are rolled down/Sun is rising high/Windows are rolled down/Feel that wind rushing by, hey.’ I usually manage to simply get caught up in that feeling and ignore the rest of the lyrics, which are a bit sad. Apparently this is the story behind the song.”
Next series starts Monday,
PS. Summer favorites you’d add?


  1. Dear Ben,

    Nice that you could include your sister Annie's vote for "Boys of Summer" in your blog - I want second that; great song that she chose, indeed. - Roland Gibson

  2. Dear Ben and Fellow bloggers,

    Those BB King songs that I was talking about that you included in your blog: How Blue Can You Get, Walkin' and Cryin', and Every Day I Have The Blues... I think that BB King was having a lot of fun with those subjects and those songs, and I hope your audience feels the same way.
    Roland Gibson