Few things get me more excited about summer than listening to summertime music. I actually have an iTunes playlist containing over 500 tunes that fit qualify as Summertime Music, the most child-friendly of which I’ve been subtly putting on in the background as Checkers and Crazy Eights are playing. They are super-excited about summer, so it must be working.
Here are a dozen that have been getting heavy rotation in our place lately:
Tarbelly and Featherfoot – Victoria Williams
If you’ve never listened to Victoria Williams, be warned: her voice is an acquired taste. Like Blossom Dearie or the recently departed Jimmy Scott, she sounds simultaneously like a 5-year-old girl and a 95-year-old woman. I’ve always thought of her down-home songs as music for kids who happen to be adults. Tarbelly and Featherfoot is about two friends who have a few outdoor adventures, then play “swing the statue,” a game I’ve never heard of but I would totally play if it’s anything like she describes it here.
Magical Colors (31 Flavors) – Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
If there is one band I would almost never recommend playing with children in the room, it would be JSBX. But this is the exception, and maybe the perfect song for summer in New York: a loping groove overlaid with a sweet (yes, sweet) account of a summer trip from East 14th Street to Times Square, complete with ice cream, shining sun, maybe a movie, hot dogs with onion, mustard, and sauerkraut, and about twenty “Let me hear you say yeah”s.
Beija Eu – Marisa Monte
I’ve always had a thing for Brazilian pop especially as the weather warms, and to me there’s no one alive who brings the heat like Marisa Monte. This is a live version of one of my favorite songs of hers, with some gorgeous guitar and squeezebox work.
Sunshine Barato – Mosquitos
As long as we’re thinking of Brazil, the Mosquitos might be the closest possible approximation to a pan-Brazilian indie pop band. This is the title track to a whole album of summer.
Accidently Kelly Street – Frente!
I’m convinced this might be the Australian Sesame Street theme song. I’m including the music video from 1994 because it may still be the most ridiculous MTV video ever, in the best possible way.
Ten Little Kids – The Jayhawks
If Kelly Street is the Australian Sesame Street, this might be the song version of the movie Stand by Me, which of course is based on the Stephen King novella The Body and titled after Ben E. King’s song Stand by Me. Everything in the world is connected.
Summertime – The Marcels
No twelve songs of summer would be complete without this Gershwin classic, but I really struggled to decide which of the many versions to include here. In the end I stuck with upbeat. The Marcels doo-wop it up, with lots of ah-ooo’s, mum-mum-ma-mum’s, and high notes that sometimes hurt my throat to even hear.
Summer Song – The Real Ambassadors, featuring Louis Armstrong
Comprised in the early Sixties of Dave Brubeck, his wife Iola, Louis Armstrong and his band, and vocal group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, The Real Ambassadors were part touring civil rights advocacy group, part art-jazz concept album, and one of the first supergroups of jazz. This, one of the simpler tunes of the album conceptually, still stands to me as the most understated of Satchmo’s vocal performances.
Blue Skies – Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers
Another summertime standard, delivered by one of the jewels of the mid-Nineties swing craze, Ms. Lavay Smith.
Janet Bean & the Concertina Wire – My Little Brigadoon
Rockinest. Solstice song. Ever. (Apologies for the non-embedded link on this one. Youtube/Spotifail.)
The Modern Age – The Strokes
This was the soundtrack to my third summer in the city. It’s now part of the soundtrack to two-year-old Crazy Eights’ third summer in the city.
Intensified – Desmond Dekker
“Music like dirt, for your money’s wort’.” “Intensified boys, with heart full of joys. Intensified girls, with those fancy curls.” I learn so many new rhyme schemes from Desmond Dekker.
What are the summer jams you’re sharing with your kids? Let me know below!
John Proctor is our Dad for All Seasons and writes on his experience living and raising his two children in Brooklyn. He has lived in Brooklyn since 2000, and been a father since 2009. Besides keeping company with his wife, two daughters, and chihuahua, he also writes memoir, fiction, poetry, criticism, and just about everything in the space between them. His work has been published in The Austin Review, The Diagram, Superstition Review, Underwater New York, Defunct, New Madrid, Numero Cinq, McSweeney’s, New York Cool, and Gotham Gazette, and he serves as editor for Hunger Mountain Journal of the Arts. He teaches academic writing, media studies, and communication theory at Manhattanville College. You can see more of him at his website NotThatJohnProctor.com, and he can also be reached at email@example.com. He’d love to hear from you!