Summer is finally in full swing, but I’ve been listening to this jam continuously since April! “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince was a chart-topper in 1991. Back then, I was a self-involved high school student and summertime was my time 🙂
When you’re a teenager summer means staying up late, sleeping in, pajamas all day, and ice cream for lunch…behavior completely unacceptable for adults (?) And what would summer be without friends? Back then my BFF and I made a pact to go out every single night…and in our small town that meant cruising Main street. Never mind that we were the only car out on a Tuesday night. Never mind the miles we burned (or the gas we wasted.) Never mind how crazy our parents thought we were. We had each other AND our music…and one of those songs was this one.
A summer playlist staple, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince won a Grammy for Best Rap song that year. The tune also topped out at No. 4 on the Billboard charts and was eventually re-released as a new remix in 2012. (A little different from the original by fun nonetheless!)
Twenty-six years later, “Summertime” still represents all of the highlights of my teenage life between May and August. Sunglasses, flip flops, no place to go and all day to get there. There were cookouts, afternoons at the pool, backyard volleyball, water fights, cruising, river parties, friends and of course, boys. And even when I managed to grow up a little and snag some part-time work…SUMMERTIME was always my full-time job.
I wish summer could be all sunshine, popsicles and flip-flops, but we all know the truth. There are bad days out there. Sometimes the bad days have our names written all over them. And yes, sometimes those bad days occur in the middle of summer. Like when you friends can’t hang out, some kid vomits in the local pool, its scorching hot outside or worse- IT WON”T STOP RAINING! Then…there’s evil humidity. Boo.
Leave it to a rebel music icon like Eddie Cochran to write, sing and sum it all up perfectly in the song, “Summertime Blues.” If they say, “expectation is the root of all heartache (Shakespeare,)” then summer expectations are the worst. Cochran was a rising star in the late 50s and (depending on sources) co-wrote this Billboard Top 100 song about being broke, working all the time, and life as an overlooked youth. Ouch! Still, this upbeat, rockabilly favorite has become a summer anthem for a number of generations. Originally a B-side single, “Summertime Blues” has been covered countless times and in a variety of musical genres. Cochran was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and his song is ranked number 73 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. His untimely death further cemented his legacy as a rock-n-roll legend.
I’m pretty sure I came across the song via pop culture…most likely though the 80s comedy, Caddyshack and especially the biopic, La Bamba (love, love that movie.) Now it’s a permanent fixture on my summer music playlist. Cochran’s guitar and the juxtaposition of such a cheery-sounding song with the teen angst expressed in the lyrics…it’s just so relatable. And you can’t beat that hand clapping!
There are only 18 summers in childhood. -author unknown
To be honest, I’ve been putting off writing about this song. I decided to include “Lost Boy” by Ruth B. on my summer playlist for two reasons. First, I remember it playing practically non-stop last summer (2016) and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around its success. And second, because (eventually) its haunting lyrics and melody spoke to me in a way that I hadn’t anticipated.
A piano ballad on the Billboard Top 100 might be unusual, but the term “unusual” pretty much describes this song from start to finish. The Canadian singer/songwriter Ruth B. said she wrote the first line of the song after watching the television show Once Upon a Time. She then “debuted” her partial song via the Vine app. Fans encouraged her to write a full song, and thanks to internet demand, she released a YouTube video in late 2015. Record labels finally took notice and an official music video arrived in Spring 2016. Many in the industry thought the idea of a song about Peter Pan simply wouldn’t fly (pun intended.) Several said it was too “Disney” and others wrote it off as anything but a summer music hit. Obviously, they were wrong. A ballad about a young boy who refuses to grow up, a rebel of sorts who will not conform, a carefree character who chooses fantasy over reality…it was a song that resonated with so many…even a 40 something year old mom.
“Lost Boy” was the song that played on the radio when we headed to the ballpark and played again on the long rides home. On nights when our team won, the song’s melody suggested that these were absolutely the very best days. Peter Pan was definitely on to something–never, ever grow up! On nights when the team lost, the song resounded with a heartbreaking quality. A reminder that perhaps these were indeed “lost” years, where boys transform into men despite the alluring idea of living in “Neverland.” Watching your children grow up is something that no one can prepare you for…believe me, I know. I’ve read all the books, sought out advice from everyone under the sun and I still sit in awe. My mind can barely wrap itself around the idea that these kiddos are becoming adults and my heart practically refuses to believe this is even a possibility. Yet here we are.
I remember what it was like to be fifteen. It was the absolute best and it was the absolute worst. It was fun and it was lonely. It was exciting and it was scary. It was pivotal. Neverland never looked so good (at least to this mom.)