The 21 best songs to add to your summer holiday playlist
Whether you're sat out enjoying the sun, firing up the barbecue or sharing a Pimms with friends, the perfect summer songs can really set the scene.
Artists have written about the sunny season for years, creating a soundtrack that will get you in the mood for soaking up some sun rays wherever you are.
Here are our 21 best summer songs that are bound to get you ready for afternoons in the garden, a trip to the beach or for a sunny roadtrip.
1. BILLIE HOLIDAY, SUMMERTIME
Composed by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess, is one of the most covered songs in music. It is hard to beat Billie Holiday's 1936 version but it has been sung superbly by Ella Fitzgerald, Sam Cooke, Al Green and, in 1968, by Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, on the album Cheap Thrills.
2: THE BEATLES, HERE COMES THE SUN
It is almost impossible not to sing along to Here Comes the Sun, written by George Harrison for The Beatles' 1969 album Abbey Road. One of the simplest and sweetest openings in popular music.
'Here comes the sun (doo doo doo doo), Here comes the sun, and I say It's all right.'
3: THE KINKS, SUNNY AFTERNOON
The Ray Davies song Sunny Afternoon was a No. 1 hit for The Kinks in the glorious July of 1966, when England won the World Cup. The band, who also sang Waterloo Sunset, did one promotional video singing the song in snowy weather.
'The tax man's taken all my dough, And left me in my stately home, Lazing on a sunny afternoon. And I can't sail my yacht, He's taken everything I've got, All I've got is this sunny afternoon.'
4: MORECAMBE AND WISE, BRING ME SUNSHINE
Bring Me Sunshine was written in 1966 by the composer Arthur Kent, with lyrics by Sylvia Dee (who wrote songs for Elvis Presley). Willie Nelson had a hit in 1968 with a version produced by Chet Atkins.
A year later the song was adopted by comedians Morecambe & Wise as their signature tune in their second series for the BBC. Need a smile in the hot weather? Just think of Eric and Ernie dancing as they sing 'Bring me fun, bring me sunshine . . . bring me love'.
And who can argue with that?
5: ROY AYERS UBIQUITY, EVERBODY LOVES THE SUNSHINE
"My life, my life, my life, my life in the sunshine / Everybody loves the sunshine..."
This song by US funk and soul legend Roy Ayers was recorded at Electric Lady in New York, which had been Jimi Hendrix’s studio.
The signature track from the 1976 eponymous album has been sampled numerous times by hip hop artists such as Dr Drem Brand Nubian, P.M. Dawn, Common, Masta Ace, Mos Def and others as well as by R&B singer Mary J. Blige and Brazilian artist Seu Jorge.
"It was a beautiful hot sunny day – and I just got the phrase in my head", remembers Ayers. "It was so spontaneous. It felt wonderful."
6: JOHNNY CASH, YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE
This 1939 song by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell has been covered by Ike and Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash and Brian Wilson, among others, and is the perfect singalong.
It was even turned into a football song by Manchester United fans who used to sing 'You are my Solskjær', in tribute to European Cup winner Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
7: VAN MORRISON, SUMMERTIME IN ENGLAND
You'll have time to make a cooling drink and get a refill while Van Morrison completes his epic 15-minute love song to England, featuring references to William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Lake District. The saxophone playing of Pee Wee Ellis is gorgeous as Van the Man sings:
Would you meet me in the country, In the summertime in England. Would you meet me?
8: LOVIN' SPOONFUL, SUMMER IN THE CITY
A 1966 No. 1 in America, Summer in the City, Lovin' Spoonful's song includes the sound of car horns, beginning with a Volkswagen Beetle horn.
9: BILL WITHERS, AIN'T NO SUNSHINE
Bill Withers wrote this song when he was 31 and working at a factory making toilet seats for 747s.
It was produced by Book T Jones and features Donald 'Duck' Dunn on bass guitar. The perfect sad song – but let's hope tears can't dehydrate you.
10: THE BEACH BOYS, SURFIN' USA
The Beach Boys (above) have to be in on their name alone, but besides the breezy Surfin' USA, take your pick from All Summer Long, Summer Days (And Summer Nights), Sunflower, Summer in Paradise etc, etc.
11: DONNA SUMMER, HOT STUFF
For the fitting names of the singer and song alone, disco queen Donna Summer, belting out Hot Stuff, her No. 1 from 1979, merits inclusion.
12: EDDIE COCHRAN, THE SUMMERTIME BLUES
Summer rockabilly at its best, with Eddie Cochran's 1958 hit. Cochran played all the guitar parts.
He died tragically in the UK, in a road accident in Chippenham, aged only 21.
13: ELVIS PRESLEY, I DON'T CARE IF THE SUN DON'T SHINE
Recorded at Sun Studios for the Sun Sessions in the mid-fifties, this Mack Davis song was one of the earliest hits for Elvis Presley.
"I don't care if the sun don't shine, I get going when the sun goes down," sang The King, a reminder that summer evenings can be the sweetest thing during a heatwave.
Picture special: Elvis Presley's 20 essential songs
14: KATRINA AND THE WAVES, WALKING ON SUNSHINE
An insanely upbeat song that was a hit for Katrina And The Waves and also sometimes sung by American group KC and the Sunshine Band in the seventies. If you want the ultimately smiley version, with sizzling violins, then try Dolly Parton's take on it.
'I'm walkin' on sunshine ... and it's time to feel good."
15: BOB MARLEY, SUN IS SHINING
How could this not conjure summer?
When Marley sang it for a televised concert in June 1978 at The Music Inn in Lenox, Massachusetts, the song was included spontaneously as it stopped raining. Now that's cool.
16: MUNGO JERRY, IN THE SUMMERTIME
The Seventies song In The Summertime is cheesy and catchy and was a massive hit for British band Mungo Jerry. The song was written by frontman Ray Dorset.
The irresponsible lyrics "have a drink, have a drive, go out and see what you can find," were later used in an anti-drink-driving campaign.
17: LOUIS ARMSTRONG, ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET
This 1930 song, composed by Jimmy McHugh with lyrics by Dorothy Fields, was originally for a Broadway musical and has become a jazz standard. Louis Armstrong does a great version, Louis Prima does a fun version and Cyndi Lauper and McFly have also wrapped their vocal chords around the memorable opening lyrics:
'Grab your coat and get your hat, Leave your worries on the doorstep, Life can be so sweet, On the sunny side of the street.'
18: BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, WAITIN' ON A SUNNY DAY
Bruce Springsteen's song of hope, from the album The Rising, has him chasing the clouds away.
Springsteen is seen here enjoying the summer in London's Hyde Park.
19: DONOVAN, SUNSHINE SUPERMAN
Donovan wrote Sunshine Superman for his future wife Linda Lawrence, and he also wrote the mellow Sunny Goodge Street.
20: THE STRANGLERS, ALWAYS THE SUN
If the sun is making you a bit moody, then try the 1990 hit for The Stranglers, Always The Sun.
"How many times have woken up and prayed for the rain?"
21: RAY CHARLES, THAT LUCKY OLD SUN
"That lucky old sun has nothing to do but roll around heaven all day," sings Ray Charles in a beautifully languid spiritual that is cheerier than his sad ballad Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying.
Charles (far right) is seen here in June 1964 riding the dodgems At Battersea Fun Fair in London, during a break from filming Ballad In Blue.