Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Remnants of Hurricane Lee Have Us Yearning for the Songs of Summer

Our weather here in Alabama has been dominated by Hurricane Lee in recent days. Since late Saturday, we've had nothing but clouds and steady, sometimes pouring, rain. Shelby County, where I live, had been in a drought, so the rain has been a welcome sight. But now we are ready for Lee to exit and bring us some sunshine.

With that in mind, we can't help but think about songs of summer. Some were released in summer, some have summery subjects, some just make us think of summer, for whatever reason.

The Guess Who released "Laughing" in June 1969, as a followup to "These Eyes." In the hands of some artists, "Laughing" might have been just another song. But in the hands of The Guess Who's Burton Cummings, it became a classic about the angst of relationships. A band called The Guess Who still makes the rounds of state fairs and summer festivals, but it includes only one original member, bassist Jim Kale. Cummings and Randy Bachman, the creative forces behind the original lineup, now perform mostly under their own names. Here is Cummings from a 2011 solo tour of his native Canada:

Chicago released "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" in October 1970, but it has an undeniable summer feel. This is the Chicago horn section at its very best, and to my ears, they help make this one of the 10 best songs of the rock and roll era. Robert Lamm wrote "25 or 6 to 4," "Saturday In the Park," "Beginnings," and other Chicago classics. But "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" will always be his master work. That's Lamm on keyboards and lead vocals from a 2008 clip. The remaining original members--Lamm and the horn guys--are getting well into their 60s, but this shows they've still got it:

Don Henley, of the Eagles, is one of the finest wordsmiths in popular music. "Talking to the Moon," from Henley's debut solo album, is a splendid example of what we might call musical atmospherics. You can almost feel yourself sitting on a front-porch swing on a scorching Texas evening. "Talking to the Moon" never was released as a single, but it is one of Henley's finest pieces--and that's saying something in a Hall of Fame career that spans almost 40 years:

You can't think about summer music without turning to the Beach Boys. While their surfer songs will be delighting audiences for decades to come, we are in the mood for a car song. And they don't come any better than "I Get Around." Here are the boys from the days of black-and-white TV:

Finally, we return to one of our favorite artists, John Fogerty, and matters of justice. "Gunslinger" is from the 2007 album Revival, and in our view, it ranks with Fogerty's finest work. Much to the disgust of many of his fans, Fogerty is a devout liberal, and he has emphasized that this is not a "pro gun" song. Rather, the gunslinger is a metaphor for leadership, of our need for toughness in the face of thugs who seek to ruin our democracy. Sadly, the song is a reminder that Barack Obama has been an abject failure as a "gunslinger." But it's a powerful message, one that is expertly delivered by an American original. Enjoy:

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