Today (June 20), is the official first day of summer/summer solstice. With Earth tilting to the max toward the sun, we’re going to experience the longest day and shortest night of the year.

Summer brings so many fun, exciting activities, from camping to swimming to road trips to barbecuing and everywhere in between. Of course, every summer activity needs the perfect soundtrack, which is where we come in.

We’ve created what we believe is the perfect classic rock summer songs list. Our list runs the gambit from covers to anthems to one-hit wonders. Check out the 15 iconic tracks we’ve ranked below!

But First, Some Facts About the Summer Solstice

According to Almanac.com, the summer solstice in 2024 in the Northern Hemisphere officially takes place on June 20 at 4:51 PM EDT. At that exact moment, the Earth will be at a maximum tilt of about 23.52 degrees toward the sun. Concurrently, this also marks the beginning of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

The exact date of the summer solstice typically changes every year based on the position of the sun. Typically, it takes place somewhere between June 20 and June 22. This is because it take Earth to orbit around the sun a little bit more than 365 days. (365.242199 days, to be exact.)

Interestingly, meteorologists tend to recognize summer beginning on June 1 and ending on August 31, due to dividing the year into four seasons based on the Gregorian calendar system. When factoring in the amount of time the Earth takes to orbit around the sun the Gregorian calendar system, this is why we have “Leap Day” every four years.

Along with the science of it all, there are plenty of ways people celebrate the summer solstice around the world. According to Smithsonian Magazine, some of these celebrations include building massive bonfires in Norway, dancing around the maypole in Sweden and the Midnight Sun Baseball Game in Fairbanks, Alaska, which is a tradition that first began in 1906.

Many people also gather at Stonehenge to watch the sun align with the unique ancient stone monument.
English Heritage rep Jennifer Wexler told the outlet, “It’s about 4,500 years old in its current form, but it seems to have a very important connection to the sun. It was carefully designed to actually align with the movements of the sun, which is pretty spectacular when you think about how old it is.” (This celebration is such a big deal that English Heritage livestream it via their YouTube channel.)

  • 15. Mungo Jerry – 'In The Summertime'

    Simple but oh-so effective, Mungo Jerry’s “In The Summertime” may have been the band’s lone hit in the United States, but it practically radiates sunshine. Try and be sad listening to this song. Go ahead, and try it. (Spoiler: You’re going to look ridiculous!)

  • 14. Chicago – 'Saturday In The Park'

    Whether or not you’re listening to this track on the Fourth of July or not, two things are for certain: No summer playlist is complete without this Chicago hit, and horn sections are awesome. Seriously, we need more horn sections in rock and roll. It’s not a feature that is exclusive to ska. It’s not like an entire genre owns a patent or copyright on such a concept.

  • 13. The Beach Boys – 'Surfin’ Safari'

    Honestly, this classic rock summer songs list could be just 15 Beach Boys songs, and it would be amazing! However, it doesn’t get more summer than loading up your Woody with your boards inside and heading out singing this song. Just thinking about this song will warm you up on the inside. Perhaps, we all should think about listening to more Beach Boys songs in the winter months, too.

  • 12. The Kinks – 'Sunny Afternoon'

    England isn’t exactly known for…well, sunny afternoons. Maybe that’s why The Kinks managed to take this dark tale about taxation and a breakup sound so damn light and fun. Plus, it’s featured in the 2009 movie Pirate Radio, which is just a fun flick. If you ask us, it’s criminally underrated.

  • 11. Martha & the Vandellas – '(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave'

    A Holland-Dozier-Holland classic, “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave” was Martha & the Vandellas’ first hit single, peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. Over 50 years since its release, it’s still one of Motown’s most swoon-worthy love songs. It’s truly iconic in every way possible. What a gem!

  • 10. Lovin’ Spoonful – 'Summer In The City'

    Just by hearing this track’s slow opening notes, you can feel the back of your neck getting dirty and gritty. Fortunately, things get much better when the sun sets. People dance all night and start hooking up. What’s not to love?

  • 9. Meat Loaf – 'You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)'

    This Meat Loaf classic is delightfully over-the-top, and I definitely don’t say that to all of the boys. From its spoken-word intro to that clapping hook as the song fades out, it’s like a theatrical salve. You put it on whenever you need some dramatic healing from a cruel world. Seriously…we need this type of grandeur on the reg back in rock and roll.

  • 8. Led Zeppelin – 'Dancing Days'

    The b-side to “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Dancing Days” is quite literally Zeppelin’s most danceable groove in their entire catalog. As far as summer songs go, you know it’s alright. I said it’s alright, and it’s not just in my heart, my heart. Even though it’s danceable, it’s the perfect song to drive around to with the windows down.

  • 7. Van Halen – 'Beautiful Girls'

    Drink in your hand? Check! Toes in the sand? Check! Van Halen’s “Beautiful Girls” cranked up, providing an incredible summer moment? You better hope you can check this one off your list this summer! Side note: One of the best descriptors of Van Halen’s music came via a random tweet shortly after Eddie Van Halen died in 2020. It said, “I loved Van Halen so much growing up, and to be honest, I haven’t listened much as an adult. But listening all day yesterday, I realized what makes them great, every song sounds like a dog wearing sunglasses.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Vw6Qbn4TY8

  • 6. Sly and the Family Stone – 'Hot Fun In The Summertime'

    Who hasn’t had a summer romance?! Hopefully, it was as dreamy as this Sly and the Family Stone classic. Man, this should remind everyone to revisit the Sly and the Family Stone catalog. Again, horns in rock music is just cool. What a band!

  • 5. The Who – 'Summertime Blues'

    Originally recorded by Eddie Cochran, “Summertime Blues” has been covered by a number of artists, but The Who’s rendition packs a special punch. When you have the unique power of Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon today, it’s hard not to have some punch. Now, if you’ll excuse us, there’s a car that needs to be driven into a nearby hotel’s pool.

  • 4. Van Halen – 'Dancing In The Street'

    Speaking of covers, Van Halen was never afraid to take a chance on covering a tune that wasn’t explicitly rock. However, their take on Martha & the Vandellas’ “Dancing In The Street” is ridiculously fun and superior to the infamous cover from Mick Jagger and David Bowie. All due respect to those legends, but most would likely agree here.

  • 3. Bryan Adams – 'Summer of ‘69'

    Sure, we know of the song’s actual meaning now. (Wink, wink.) But we bet many were inspired to track down their first real six-string at their local five-and-dime because of this Bryan Adams mega-hit. Anytime anyone is inspired to pick up a guitar is a good thing. However, if it’s to sing “Kumbaya” around a fire, get lost!

  • 2. Don Henley – 'The Boys Of Summer'

    We’ve all had that one relationship that we just couldn’t let go. There’s no better soundtrack for that type of love (or lust) than this Don Henley solo track. Plus, who else hasn’t tried to find a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac ever since this song was released? That lyric just always hits.

  • 1. Alice Cooper – 'School’s Out'

    Few hard rock songs are as timeless as Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out. It’s pure, unadulterated rebellion that kids will continue to blare on the last day of school for decades, maybe even centuries to come. Plus, this is one of the best lyrics ever: “Well, we got no class/And we got no principals/And we got no intelligence/We can’t even think of a world that rhymes.”

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