Songs of summer, songs of life

A few weeks ago I titled a post after a Dire Straits song, and the resulting comments have had me thinking about the songs of summer. You know, those songs that make you want to turn the radio up, roll the windows down, and just drive?

The summers of ’94 and ’95 were the summers that Leigh Stensvad and I hung out constantly, going to the beach, going to see practically every movie in the theater, and haunting used bookstores. We were constantly driving up to Greensboro or over to Chapel Hill, and we bought insane amounts of CDs. ’95 was the summer that we cranked up Dire Straits and Live’s “Lightning Crashes” and the summer that Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose” was played constantly on the radio. Hearing any of those songs will take me back to that carefree summer feeling. I don’t wish I could go back to that time, but sometimes I only remember the angsty part of high school and not the good stuff, so it’s good to be reminded of those times.

’96 was the summer of Alanis Morissette. I was at Governor’s School, and my best friend played Jagged Little Pill every single day. She wasn’t the only one, either – you could walk through the halls of our dorm and hear different songs from that album coming from every other room. I was in more of a Christian music phase at that point in my life, so I didn’t own that album. I do remember my friend saying that, except for a few swear words, the album was really clean. The rest of the summer was spent pointing out the numerous sexual references in Alanis’ “clean” songs. hehe. ’96 was also the summer of “One of Us” by Joan Osborne. What can I say – chick rock makes me think of those un-air-conditioned dorms and being completely free of responsibility.

’97 was my last summer at home before college. This was the summer of Caedmon’s Call and their self-titled album. I listened to it every single day that summer. Just hearing the opening notes of “Lead of Love” takes me back to that transitional time, of being both scared and excited to start college.

’98 was the summer I met Mike and worked at his store. It was the summer of Burlap to Cashmere’s five-song EP, of Chris Rice singing “Clumsy” on repeat, and the Exodus album giving us songs like “My Will” and “Needful Hands.” It was the summer of the Jesus Record, which I listened to for the first time driving home from work, crying the whole way. Those songs remind me of flirting and falling in love and moving out on my own. It was a really good summer.

’99 . . . I think the summer of ’99 should never have happened. It was a hard time for me and for Mike. The main song that makes me think of that summer is “If You Want Me To” by Ginny Owens. It makes me think of driving home from Mike’s late at night with this song on repeat. The first runner up for the song of summer ’99 is “Starry Host” by Silers Bald. I was living in a lot of fear, and that song never ceased to comfort me. To hear these two songs is to be taken back to a place of sorrow. These songs are a lot sadder than most of my other summer songs, but it was a sad summer.

The summer of 2000 was the summer we got married, and the songs that make me think of that are “Peace” by Rich Mullins and “Love’s as Strong as Death” from Canticle of the Plains. They remind me of busy-ness and wedding planning and the excitement of getting married. They still don’t fit the bill of regular happy summer songs, but I suppose it wasn’t an ordinary summer.

2001, 2002, and 2003 were just regular pop radio summers as far as I can remember. In 2001, I was working at my parents’ miniature golf course and I played a lot of CDs, including the mix from our reception. 2002 was the summer of One City, One Book, and I don’t remember listening to a lot of music. And last summer I had mono, which doesn’t really lend itself to a theme song (I did take a road trip to Memphis, so my song for last summer might be “Walking in Memphis,” which I love and played quite a lot). I have been transitioning to a period in my life where, for better or for worse, music’s not as important as it used to be. But this summer, Mike and I do have a song – although I have no plans to see Shrek 2, I always call Mike and turn the radio up when “Accidentally in Love” by the Counting Crows comes on. I am encouraged by the fact that it’s a happy song. It goes along with me feeling more hopeful and happy than I have in a long time. Even though I’m working, this has definitely been a summer that has felt like summer – cookouts and trips to the beach and road trips to see friends.

I love how music can take you back, how a song can help you to relive a moment. Now that I can see them right here in front of me, it looks like my songs of summer are not just good tunes to drive to, but also a good reminder of what was going on with me. It’s kind of neat to see that – I guess this post took a turn somewhere in the middle, but I still like where it ended up.

“Come on, come on if you feel a little lighter . . . come on, come on and the world’s a little brighter . . .”

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