Summertime has been romanced in song as long as humans have been capable of imagining. From Alice Cooper’s iconic “School’s Out,” to The Lovin’ Spoonful’s heatwave/political upheaval lament “Summer in the City” to The Motels’ end-of-summer heartbreaker “Suddenly Last Summer, "to The Style Council’s sensual slow jam “Long Hot Summer,” the songs are endless.
So, to spare you yet another list of “best summer songs,” we’ve decided to showcase the greatest local contributions to the summer song vernacular. Here are seven of the best North Texas-born summer anthems.
Jonathan Tyler, “Underground Forever”
There may be no greater song that evokes the carefree spirit of summertime without ever saying the word “summer.” Dallas’ own prodigal son, Jonathan Tyler, wrote the song in the waning half of 2019 to ameliorate a sense of media burnout, but the song took on a completely different context after its release at the height of the COVID-19 panic in April 2020, as he sang: “We need a walk on the beach or a picnic in the par. We need an island getaway ‘cause things have gotten pretty dark. Can we hide out in the hills where we could sleep until noon? I feel like I’m gonna break If I don’t get out pretty soon.”
Tyler’s eternally soothing brand of rock ‘n’ roll, country, and blues soothes out into a lulling anthem, a friendly voice of reassurance that self-captivity was not the only option, and there was a world waiting to be explored – alone or together.
Don Henley, “The Boys of Summer”
In the Venn diagram where Texas and California overlap, there’s Don Henley. The iconic Eagles drummer/singer embodies the California soft rock sound like no other, yet his roots grow deep into the soil of his hometown of Linden. Just 31 years before recording a country album named after his native Cass County, Henley’s mind was cruising up and down the Pacific Coast Highway in the most populous state in America, afflicted by the crushing loneliness of summer: “Nobody on the road, nobody on the beach, I feel it in the air, the summer's out of reach.”
Differing interpretations of the song range from a simple “Drivers License”-esque sense (of the pointlessness of enjoying anything in the aftermath of knowing your ex has moved on), or the idea that Henley’s generation was no longer the swinging, progressive force of nature it had promised it would be 15 years earlier: “Out on the road today, I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac. A little voice inside my head said, ‘Don't look back. You can never look back.’ I thought I knew what love was, what did I know? Those days are gone forever. I should just let them go.”
(Henley refuses to have his music on YouTube, so here’s an acceptable live version of the song performed by the Eagles.)
Sly Stone, “Hot Fun in the Summertime”
I bet you didn’t know Sly Stone was born in Denton. There’s nothing much to say about this song that isn’t transmitted by the song itself. It’s a ubiquitous part of summer, just about as much as swimming pools or sunscreen. It is worth mentioning that beloved late Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro pinched the distinct, swaying groove of “Hot Fun” for Toto’s significantly harder rocking “Hold the Line.” Now you know.
Seals & Crofts, “Summer Breeze”
Jim Seals of the Texas town of Sidney and Dash Crofts of Cisco may have made the perfect song capturing the bittersweet enjoyment of any particular moment of summer. The idea is that the idyllic beauty of a summer’s day is ephemeral and meant to be enjoyed almost in a perpetual state of present-nostalgia.
“See the curtains hangin' in the window in the evening on a Friday night … See the paper layin' on the sidewalk, a little music from the house next door," it goes.
The narrator is not imposing any kind of emotional response to the state of nature being described. It simply is. Much like the concept of summer itself, a state that is enjoyed by many, derided by some, and one that persists with eternal momentum like the setting and rising of the noonday sun.
Neon Indian, “Deadbeat Summer”
The debut artistic statement from Denton’s Neon Indian (aside from a 25-second intro) is the complete opposite sentiment of “Summer Breeze.” Alan Palomo’s take on summer is closer to being a three-month excuse to lie in bed and think about an ex: “Going blind from the heat, in the middle of a sunlit street, seeing thoughts on repeat, but I'd rather get something to eat.”
Meat Loaf, “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)”
If there’s anything that Dallas’ very own Meat Loaf has given the world, it’s an album that truly embodies the excitement of being young, free and horny.
The song says, “It was a hot summer night, and the beach was burning, fog crawling over the sand. When I listen to your heart I hear the whole world turning, I see the shooting stars falling through your trembling hands.” Loaf’s Parthenon-sized voice is backdropped by Todd Rundgren’s epic, Wagnerian, Springsteen-esque production, aided by the E Street Band’s very own Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg on keys and drums, respectively. “While you were licking your lips and lipstick shining, I was dying just to ask for a taste. Oh, we were lying together in a silver lining by the light of the moon, you know there's not another moment, not another moment, not another moment to waste!”
Neon Indian ought to grab to a copy of Bat Out of Hell, it might make things a little better.
Baz Luhrmann and Quindon Tarver, “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”
Though technically credited to Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann (and found on the album compiling various music from his films), neither of the voices on the extraordinary musical commencement speech initially addressed to the class of 1997 are Luhrmann’s. The calm, comforting narration belongs to voice actor Lee Perry, while the song’s emotional hook is courtesy of then-14-year-old Plano native Quindon Tarver. In actuality, Tarver’s contribution originated as a choral version of Rozalla’s “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)” featured in a crucial scene in Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet in which Leonardo DiCaprio’s Romeo weds Claire Danes’ Juliet.
Tarver’s brief yet un-ignorable appearance later became the crucial emotional centerpiece of a remix in which Luhrmann decided to set Mary Schmich’s hypothetical commencement speech to music and used Tarver’s voice as the heartbreaking climax. Tarver was bound for R&B stardom, releasing an album titled Quindon in 1996 and charting two tracks on the U.S. R&B charts. Unfortunately, Tarver never got to enjoy his newfound fame as he was subjected to abuse at the hands of management and later found himself spiraling into addiction. After a stint in rehab in 2016, Tarver attempted a comeback, but was killed in a single-vehicle car accident in Dallas on April 1, 2021.