Nostalgic Summertime Songs From The 1970s
It’s mid-July in 1975. You’re sitting on the beach with your friends after enjoying the salty ocean water and your friend hands you an ice cold beer. Like clockwork, someone flips on the transistor radio. What are you listening to? The 1970s was a massively influential time for music with many different genres either evolving or rising to popularity. Yet, no matter what decade, some songs are best heard during the summer and that was certainly the case in the 1970s. A combination of Motown, rock, soul, disco, and more — take a look at some of the best summertime songs from the decade and visualize yourself back on the beach.
“In The Summertime” – Mungo Jerry
Arguably one of the most prominent and appropriate summer songs of the 1970s (and possibly all time), “In the Summertime” was the debut single of British rock group Mungo Jerry. Released in 1970, it reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart and the Canadian charts.
Lead singer and writer of the hit, Ray Dorset, claims that the song took him 10 minutes to write using an old Fender Stratocaster while on break from his day job. Needless to say, this track has been getting people into the summer vibe for decades.
“Mama Told Me Not To Come” – Three Dog Night
Three Dog Night’s “Mama Told Me Not To Come” was originally written by singer-songwriter Randy Newman for Eric Burdon’s solo album in 1966. But once the cover group got their hands on the record and put their own flair into it in March 1970, the song quickly became No. 1 on the US Pop Singles chart.
It was also the first No. 1 song played on American Top 40 with Casey Kasem on July 4, 1970. The introduction of Jimmy Greenspoon’s electric piano and the band’s use of 3/4 by 2/4 really gave it that groovy summertime feel.
“School’s Out” – Alice Cooper
“School’s Out” doesn’t only apply to angsty teenage students. The hit has been the summer anthem for countless youth (and adults) ever since. Released in 1972, Alice Cooper’s inspiration for the song came from wanting to capture the most exciting three minutes of people’s lives in one song.
He figured that two of these moments were the three minutes before opening presents on Christmas morning or the final three minutes of the last day of school. Obviously, Alice Cooper wasn’t one to write about Christmas morning, so he went with the latter. The track ended up resonating with the masses reaching No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Margaritaville” – Jimmy Buffett
Thanks to Jimmy Buffett, most of us have spent a relaxing summer day on the patio of some tacky bar as “Margaritaville” plays gently in the background. Released in February 1977, the song is an ode to a drink buffet at Lung’s Cocina del Sur restaurant in Austin, Texas although it now applies to just about anywhere with a tropical vibe.
The song was released in February but became increasingly popular as summer approached. By summer, it provided people with the perfect track to shamelessly kick back and have one too many in the summer sun.
“Love Will Keep Us Together” – Captain & Tennille
Originally, “Love Will Keep Us Together” was written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield which was recorded in 1973 and released as a single in France. Mac and Katie Kissoon tried their hand at the song after without any luck. It wasn’t until Captain & Tennille used the song as the lead single for their debut album in April 1975 that the song became a worldwide sensation.
The track reached the No. 1 spot on both the Billboard Easy Listening chart and the Billboard pop chart. It later became the best-selling single of 1975 and was the perfect song for any summer flings at the time.
“I Feel The Earth Move” – Carole King
Appearing on her incredibly successful album Tapestry released in April 1971, “I Feel the Earth Move” became one of the biggest pop songs of 1971. The song was described by various music critics as being “probably the most sexually aggressive song on the Tapestry album” and “the ultimate in hippie-chick eroticism.”
Released in April, it’s safe to say that it wasn’t uncommon to see a car full of young women blasting this song out of their eight-track player during the summer of ’71.
“Afternoon Delight” – Starland Vocal Band
Unless the sexual innuendos behind Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight” went right over your head, it’s clear why it was a hit during the summer of 1976 and beyond. Written as a close harmony by Bill Danoff, it became a No. 1 US Hot Single on July 10, 1976, smack-dab in the middle of summer.
It’s easy to imagine how many friends at the time mastered the harmony as a group, or couples who took the song the song to heart and used it for some pleasant background music. Unsurprisingly, in 2010, Billboard named it the 20th sexiest song of all time.
Andy Gibb – “Shadow Dancing”
There’s no denying that Andy Gibb was complete heartthrob during his time in the limelight. Unfortunately, his success was short-lived as he died just five days after his 30th birthday. At the height of his career, he had six singles which reached the Top 10 in the US with one of the tracks including “Shadow Dancing.”
Released in April 1978, the song entered and stayed at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks, essentially making it the song of the summer in 1978.
“Bad Girls” – Donna Summer
Released at the height of summer on June 23, 1979, “Bad Girls” is was inspired after Donna Summer’s assistant was harassed by a police officer who mistook her for a prostitute. It greatly empowered women and became a worldwide phenomenon as it was named the second-biggest single of 1979.
Although a rough version of the song was written years earlier, it wasn’t fleshed out and released until 1979. At the American Awards in 1980, the song won Favorite Pop/Rock Single and Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist
“Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” – Steely Dan
The opening track for the group’s third album, Pretzel Logic, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” is known for being misinterpreted in numerous ways. Because of one line in the song, people believe that the “number” in the song is a reference to a marijuana cigarette.
However, Donald Fagen clarified that “Rikki” is a girl that he had a crush on in college and that’s all. The album was released on April 25, 1974, and peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the summer of that year.
“Best Of My Love” – The Emotions
Composed by Maurice White and Al McKay of Earth, Wind, and Fire, “Best of My Love” was recorded by The Emotions for their fourth album Rejoice. Released in early June 1977 as the lead single for the album, it topped the Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard R&B chart.
Being the third biggest pop song and fifth biggest R&B song of 1977, it’s safe to say that there was no shortage of this song being played during the summer of that year. The upbeat vibe and distinctive baseline are perfect for any party on a summer evening.
“One Of These Nights” – The Eagles
“One of These Nights” was the title track for the Eagle’s fourth studio album of the same name. It became the band’s second single to top the Billboard Hot 100 song which eventually led to the album to reaching No. 1 as well.
Released on May 19, 1975, it was the band’s first attempt at something other than a country-rock song and was incredibly well-received. They even drew inspiration from disco and R & B which made the track much different from their previous works.
“Alone Again (Naturally)” – Gilbert O’Sullivan
Irish singer-songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan released his heartbreak track in February 1972 in the United Kingdom, yet unveiled it in the United States in May of the same year. After its release in the United States, it spent six weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and was even ranked as the No. 2 song of 1972.
Despite the song being rather sad, that didn’t halt its popularity during the summer. It eventually became the fifth most-popular song of the decade. It appears that people living during 1972 were feeling particularly heartbroken that year.
“Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” – Looking Glass
Now, a song that surely fueled many beach dance parties is “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass. This upbeat track was released to the public in May of 1972 with one radio station even saying they hadn’t had a response to a song like this in 15 years.
At one point, based on requests alone, and without having sold a single record, it was the number one record in Washington DC. Overall, it made it to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, the Cash Box Top 100 chart, and was the 12th most popular song of 1972.
“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” – Elton John & Kiki Dee
A duet performed by Elton John and Kiki Dee, the song is heavily influenced by the Motown style although it still has many elements of the modern music of the time. Released in June 1976, surprisingly, the track was never released on an album until Duets in 1994.
It went on to be No.1 on both the UK and US charts making it Elton John’s sixth No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. An upbeat love song, it was ranked by Billboard as the No. 2 song of 1976.
“Annie’s Song” – John Denver
For those who wanted to share a moment of romance in the summer of 1974, John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” would have been a go-to. Written and recorded by Denver, it was a single for his album Back Home Again and was an ode for his wife at the time Annie Martell Denver.
He supposedly wrote the track in 10 minutes on a skip lift in Aspen before skiing down the mountain to write it down. Just a month after its release in June, it was the No. 1 song in the United States for two weeks in July of 1974.
“(They Long To Be) Close To You” – The Carpenters
“(They Long to Be) Close to You” was initially written by Burt Bacharach and recorded by Richard Chamberlain in 1963 as a single. However, it was then covered by the Carpenters for their album Close to You and released on May 15, 1970.
The song turned out the be the couple’s first major hit and stayed on at No.1 for four weeks. In 1971, the Carpenters took home the Grammy for Best Contemporary Performance by a Duo, Group, or Chorus. It was one of the first hit summer songs of the ’70s.
“Ring My Bell” – Anita Ward
Written by Frederick Knight, “Ring My Bell is a disco song that was originally intended for 11-year-old Stacy Lattisaw about children talking on the telephone. Yet, when Lattisaw ended up signing to a different label, the song was given to Anita Ward who turned it into her only hit.
Released in 1979, it topped the charts and was particularly popular for its innovative style as well as being sexually suggestive. Even though the references aren’t blatant, it still made it onto Billboard’s 50 Sexiest Songs of All Time.
“Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” – Jim Croce
Released on his album Life and Times in March 1973, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” made it to the top of the pop charts not long after it was released. By July, the tack had made it to the No.1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and was named the No. 2 song of 1973.
Although it’s about a rather terrifying man Croce met in the Army, the music and Croce’s singing is fun enough that it’s understandable why it became such a hit during the summer of 1973.
“Band Of Gold” – Freda Payne
“Band of Gold” was written by former Motown producers Holland-Dozier-Holland and Ron Dunbar. After being recorded by Freda Payne, the song became an instant success reaching No.1 in the UK and No.3 in the US.
Given the song’s impactful vocals and the Motown style, it made it a perfect song for people to transition from the ’60s into the ’70s. It was extremely popular among all different kinds of demographics and is a great song to either dance to or just have in the background to enjoy.