Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
May the Fourth ... bring you to State of Sound! Get tickets now.

The unforgettable summer songs that have us singing and swaying since the 1960s

Four women relax on the beach, with one sitting up slightly while holding a smartphone and listening to music on a pair of over-the-ear headphones.
Getty Images

It might be too early to say what the 2023 song of the summer will be. But we know that there will be, in the words of Washington Post music critic Chris Richards, a song “capable of changing the nation’s psychic temperature.”

The concept goes way back to the early 1900s, when songs were mostly distributed by sheet music. In 1923, the choice would probably have been “Yes, We Have no Bananas.” In the years since, we’ve seen artists from the Beach Boys to Prince to the Black Eyed Peas giving us some of the toe-tapping, sing-along summer hits we just can’t get out of our heads.

NPR music critic Ann Powers, credited with introducing a bracket-style "song of the summer" competition that MTV used to determine its song of the summer, joins host Robin Young to talk about decades of summer songs.

Summer songs through the years

“Surfin’ USA” by The Beach Boys (1963)


“Groovin'” by The Young Rascals (1967)



“Silly Love Songs” by Paul McCartney (1976)



“When Doves Cry” by Prince (1984)



“The Boys of Summer” by Don Henley (1984)



“I Swear” by All-4-One (1994)



“Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas (2009)



“Despacito” by Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee (2017)


This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.