Three songs, summer-themed, on or very near the solstice. A respite, a celebration, a salute to whatever shreds of sanity, shoots of hope and shards of joy we may be able to cultivate in a world that often seems hellbent, for rather baffling reasons, on denying them all.
Welcome to the Sixth Annual Songs of Summer! If you’re new to this space and wondering why so-and-such song isn’t in the lineup, it may well have already had its moment in the sun, sun, sun, either here or here or here or here or here. (Those will take you to years one through five if you feel in the mood for an orgy of summer sounds, minus the cicadas.)
So, to cite a beloved phrase from another summer pastime of some renown: “Batter up!”
The big choice in “Summer Rain” was whether to present Johnny Rivers in his so-called prime in 1973, or to put a 2013 version in front of you. In the latter, Johnny (“Secret Agent Man,” “Poor Side of Town”) still rocks the house in the notable style of other Geriatric All-Stars (Springsteen, McCartney, et al) who are perhaps sharing the same magic bota bag of ageless vocal command.
I finally opted for ’70s Johnny, though 70-year-old Johnny is certainly worth a three-minute investment of your time on this longest “day” of the year.
We sailed into the sunset
Drifting home, caught by a gulf stream
Never gave a thought for tomorrow
Let tomorrow be, yeah
Let tomorrow be
Oh, Bob Marley. Bob Marley, Bob Marley, Bob Marley.
We miss you, Bob Marley.
Sun is shining, the weather is sweet
Makes you want to move your dancing feet
To the rescue, here i am
Want you to know, y’all, where i stand
Meanwhile, time does pass, and the kids, oh these kids, continue to mix up their own cocktails of summer music mirth. So in a nod to their energetic strivings to enjoy as much unadulterated, swaying, foot-stomping fun as their ancestors did, I give you…Katy Perry.
Perry knows not only how to flaunt it and shake it, but also how to rake it—to the tune of $204.3 million on the 2014 “Prismatic World Tour” that had this garish, good-timing boogey of hers as a centerpiece.
Lotta “Girl Power,” after a fashion, out in that audience, putting their power dollars down on a celebration of color (matching lime green mini and hair!) and the charms that summer allows those of a certain geography.
Bikinis on top
We’ll melt your popsicle.
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Wow, what a great flashback! I love that Johnny Rivers song–one of my faves, thanks for the reminder!
My distinct pleasure, Susan. There were many comments in this and other Rivers songs that I enjoyed in my “research” that asked the question, “Why isn’t this man in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?” Indeed, whassup with that?
I’ve participated in the Songs of Summer for most of these (gulp) six years…and I think the one song which really sticks with me is All Summer Long by the Beach Boys. They all effortlessly fall into harmony, and envoke that High School feeling of summer while driving around and having a girlfriend.
I have never been a Johnny Rivers fan, in that he wasn’t a song writer, simply did covers. But, so did Elvis, so I may have to reexamine Mr. Rios as simply a performer.
Moon, I trust you will give Johnny another longer and more appreciative look when you discover that he wrote this very song featured here, in addition to “Poor Side of Town” and many others. This piece from Wiki should tickle your irony bone:
“One evening in Birmingham, Rivers met Audrey Williams, Hank Williams’ first wife. She encouraged Rivers to move to Nashville, where he found work as a songwriter and demo singer. Rivers also worked alongside Roger Miller. By this time, Rivers had decided he would never make it as a singer, and song writing became his priority…In 1958, Rivers met fellow Louisianan, James Burton, a guitarist in a band led by Ricky Nelson. Burton later recommended one of Rivers’ songs, ‘I’ll Make Believe,’ to Nelson, who recorded it.”
Well, as I have had to say more often these days, “I did not know that.” I will give Juan Rios a closer look!
Is this permission to knock off work and head to the pool???
Granted! (Though you may want to check with your immediate supervisor…)
And all these years I thought I was the only Johnny Rivers fan left on Earth!
Are you kiddin’? I’ve been known to belt out a vigorous “Secret Agent Man” while doing the dishes (though more often when no one else is around, I will admit…). And to this day I place major emphasis on that first syllable of, “WELL-come back, Baby…(to the poor side o’ town.)”
Johnny for the R&RHOF!
Fun Summer music is so good for the soul!
An inarguable point, Lisa! :-)
Well, Moon, if it makes you feel any better, I wasn’t aware that Rivers was as prolific a songwriter as Drew points out. Of course, there are a number of talented singers who never indulged in composition but impacted the music industry.. Frank Sinatra. Tony Bennett. Elvis as noted. Linda Ronstadt. Diana Ross. Whitney Houston. Pavarotti. Nat King Cole. Bing Crosby. Nina Simone. And on and on.
By the way, Johnny Rivers is performing here in Houston on Oct. 26th at a fairly small venue, which is great. OPEN INVITATION.
‘Preciate that, Robert! I also see he’s going to be in Chicago sometime around then WITH Jimmy Webb, another old guy with a lot of mojo left in his tank! I love CHEE-cago!
I’ve always loved the song “Summer Rain”, but never knew who sang it. His voice is still fantastic in the newer version. I miss the big hair, though. Thanks for this Andrew.
Yeah, he looks a tad too straight in the modern version! With that largely intact voice, I was wondering whether he took some years off and thus preserved it through the decades. Reminded me of one of my fave folkies, John Stewart, who completely blew out his deep sonorous voice and was reduced to a croaky whisper late in his life, but he kept on keepin’ on—wasn’t sure whether he needed the money or just couldn’t stop because that’s who he was, but it seemed both heroic and tragic when I caught him a few times in concert near the end of his days. Thanks, Karen!
I saw John Stewart once when he was a member of the Kingston Trio. One of his Trio songs, “Chilly Winds” remains my favorite of his to this very day. Unfortunately, toward the end of his life he suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease like Glen Campbell. Campbell’s vocals were so popular that many don’t realize he was such a great guitarist.
Campbell’s dilemma brings to mind a conversation I had about 50 years ago. I was at a party at Stacy and Lisa Webb’s home, took a break from the mayhem and sat down next to their mother, singer Julie London, and step-father, song writer Bobby Troup Anyway, at some point we began to talk music and Bobby Troup told me a great Nat King Cole story. Cole got a big hit out of one of his songs “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66,” and then invited him to join his European tour as part of the band. They were playing Paris one evening and the crowd wasn’t really responding at all to his hits like “Mona Lisa”, “Orange Colored Sky”, “Unforgettable” and “Nature Boy.” During a break Nate King Cole turned to Troup and asked him what was going on. He said that these fans are more into jazz than pop music and advised him to just play the piano. They loved it and so did the singer. He said audiences in the U.S. only wanted to hear his hits. They didn’t give a hoot about his Nat Cole Trio songs which were recorded in the late 30’s before his singing career took off.
Correction on previous comment. Nat Cole did write “Straighten Up and Fly Right.” I’m not sure why he didn’t compose any songs after 1942.
That sounds right on the money about Nat King Cole, Robert. Jazz has never quite caught on in the U.S. with all the respect it deserves—even though the genre was born here. So Cole, truly an incredible and swingin’ pianist, pretty much had to go the vocal route here. Good thing he was so amazing at that, too! He was one of my mom’s favorites, and I took to him at a very young age myself. John Stewart, may peace be upon him too, didn’t come into my life till college, as I recall, but I was smitten when he did.
And thanks for the fine Julie-Bobby reminiscence. She has been on my list for some due consideration in this space for quite some time now, cuz I think she’s vastly underrated as a singer.