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Throwback Thursday: 70 Years of Summer Music

Summer is coming. Or that’s what Eddard Stark would say if he was leaning against a surfboard on the beach. And that’s what I would say if the first day of summer hadn’t already started. Regardless, summer is a fun-filled season of barbecue grilling, lemonade-selling, sun-soaking, beach-partying and insane road trips that may or may not end up like the beginning of “The Hangover”. Unless, of course, you’re an introverted vegan reincarnation of a hipster Dracula who’s allergic to lemons and doesn’t have a driver’s license.

Our society has changed a lot over the years and so has music. Bands disappear and reappear, like that one sock you keep losing in the dryer. Singers changes and morphs, like if a Pokemon evolved into heavily armed cars that combine into a Megazord, piloted by unruly and totally not stereotyped teenagers.

And genres just keep making people wonder why they even exist. They might be used to Hip-hop, Rock, Pop and R&B. But the more outspoken genres like Mathcore, Punk Polka, Japanoise, Tuvan Throat Singing, Gregorian Chant dubstep, and whatever the hell “Lowercase” music is supposed to sound like.

Either way, a lot has happened over the years. But summer is still the same old season, a season where everyone just danced in their living room or chilled out on the beach with friends or relaxed on the front yard with a cold drink in their hand. That’s why for this Throwback Thursday, we’re bringing it ALL the way back. I’m starting from the finger-snapping, toe-tapping, ’40s all the way to the more much more familiar 2010, with my favourite “summer” song choices of that particular decade. So sit back, relax and enjoy an ice cold list that’s probably not as ridiculous as the lists you see on Buzzfeed.


1940 to 1949

Here’s a bit of a music history lesson for you all. The early 1900s had changed drastically from its past life. Contemporary composers made irregular music, using dissonance to make harmonies. But when many of these composers died, several musicians were born into a new age of music, the age of jazz music. Jazz genres like swing and big band music dominated the USA, and soon crossed the border into England, Germany and even Japan.

This next song was sung by Bing Crosby for a 1944 film called “Going My Way”, and also won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in the same year.


1950 to 1959

War. What is it good for? Apparently, it’s good for changing music. After the events of World War II, people just wanted the good old days to come back. People wanted the times when you could just come home, turn up the radio and unwind while listening to your favourite jazz classics. But things had changed now, and two big genres began to take over. Rock and roll burst onto the scene, spawning music like Doo-Wop, a style usually associated vocal harmonies, and the just as upbeat Rockabilly, the country-based genre that Elvis Presley was known for. Rhythm and blues music exploded as well, considered as a much more “urban” jazz style.

This next song is a rock and roll hit by Elvis Presley, a song that landed #67 on Rolling Stone’s  “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.


1960 to 1969

Welcome to the ’60s, the era of music. It was a time where people would listen to music on their groovy radios, and fancy Hi-Fis. People became very avant-garde in this decade, leaving to several musical advancements. From the birth of rock music to the increasingly more and more popular funk and soul music, people began change drastically because of the musical genres. Most of all, the phenomenal sensation known as “The Beatles” swept across the world, showing how many different cultures music can reach.

Dancing at a party was common at this time, and surf music was a commonplace choice. A group called “Jan and Dean” were considered the ones who first started the vocal-based surf music craze. But the surf rock group sensation known as the Beach Boys popularized the surf music style with their tight harmonies and creative lyrics, gaining much more attention than their predecessors.


Popular Mention: Misirlou

Sure, this song isn’t exactly the most “summer” sounding song in the world, but it definitely has one of the coolest Wikipedia pages I’ve ever read. Having its origins in Arabic and Greek music, the song didn’t really become popular until 1962, when Dick Dale changed the relatively slow song into an American surf rock staple. The song kept its popularity as a “surf rock” song for so long, it made its way into Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film “Pulp Fiction” and Dick Dale’s version of “Misirlou” was sampled in The Black Eyed Peas 2005 hit song “Pump It”.


1970 to 1979

This decade, the entire world seemed to catch a terrible disease, a powerful parasite known as: “Disco Fever”. Music blasted inside the brightly coloured discotheques, as people danced their cares away. The genre itself started to be influenced by electronic sounds, as many songs soon involved synthesizers. On the entire opposite spectrum, rock music also made a dent in the decade’s music, thanks to bands like the Ramones. As these two very different genres collided in the 70s, rock music survived while disco music soon declined in popularity.

For this decade, here’s two songs defining the summer flavours that grouped up of both disco and rock music.


1980 to 1989

As the glamorous dance-oriented style of Disco faded into obscurity, genres like R&B and Hip hop entered their “Golden Age”. Rap groups like Run-D.M.C., Beastie Boys, De La Soul, and A Tribe Called Quest dominated large urban cities. More importantly, this was the decade where music started to be recorded digitally, leading to the rising popularity of electronic music. Spawning genres like house and techno music, the synthesizers and electronic sounds of the ’80s echoed throughout all genres.

This next song is known for redefining the hip-hop genre with a rough-sounding, simplistic beat. The song also marked the beginning of the rap group’s music career.


Popular Mention: Whitney Houston- I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)

With upbeat synthesizers combined with Houston’s bright vocals, the song soared to international heights and became number one in fourteen countries. I also just like belting out the chorus after a long summer night.


1990 to 1999

In the 90s, electronic music (like the amount of catchable Pokemon that exist in the newfangled Nintendo 3DS games) added more and more genres under its wing, ranging from trance to drum and bass. Alternative rock had also entered the mainstream due to the success of bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden. Hip hop continued to be popular, becoming the best-selling music genre by the mid-1990s. But by the late 90s, the “teen pop idol” trend and the “teen pop group” rose to astounding heights, with artists like Christina Aguilera and Backstreet Boys.

This obvious summer song choice samples a previous summer-related song called “Summer Madness” by Kool & the Gang. The song also won a Grammy Award in 1992, and reached the number four spot on the Billboard Hot 100.


Popular Mention: Nirvana- Smells Like Teen Spirit

Released in the early ’90s, this alternative rock single is widely intepreted as being a “teen revolutionary” anthem. Despite the lyrics being very hard to understand (mainly because Cobain’s voice slurs pretty much every single word), this 1992 single is one of Nirvana’s most critically acclaimed songs, and peaked at number 6 on the Billboard charts of that week.


2000 to 2009

In the 21st century, music now had a whole new playing field. Music was shared on the internet through Youtube, and songs were digitally distributed and sold through programs like iTunes, allowing for artists to rise to stardom overnight. Television also made a dent in music, allowing Kelly Clarkson to become one of the most prominent pop singers of the decade. Several artists ranging from Eminem to Taylor Swift to Shakira to Gorillaz gained notable popularity, regardless of what kind of music they produced. The idea that genres were limited to a musician was gone, and artists were much more free to experiment with different styles. Although this lead to many musical advancements, public opinion polls have stated that the 2000s is the least favoured decade in terms of music.

This group of Hip hop musicians regained their reputation as refutable artists in 2009, driving their hit single “I Gotta Feeling” up the charts.


Popular Mention: Vanessa Carlton- A Thousand Miles

Imagine the Sonoran Desert, a place where no one can hear you, judge you or even recognize you. And that’s when anyone, no matter where they came from, belts out every single lyric with their heart out. A seriously catchy song for an amazing road trip to come, no matter how old this song really is.


2010 to ???

Although this decade hasn’t really ended yet, it seems that music has been going back to their original roots. Electronic sounds may seep into almost every single pop song, but more traditional instruments like the saxophone (Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty”) and the accordion (Edward Maya and Vika Jigulina’s “Stereo Love”) have been appearing alongside that pop song. Many other genres reached a period of revival, a notable example being the disco culture within Bruno Mars “Treasure” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”. Alternative rock, thanks to bands like Mumford and Sons and The Black Keys adopted a more modern, thick-rimmed glasses flavour to it. Like the last decade, social networking and television also influenced today’s music, with the discovery of Justin Bieber on Youtube and One Direction’s resurgence of the “boy band” dynamic.

This decade isn’t over yet, so there’s still plenty of contenders for what defines this decade’s music. Who knows? Maybe that song hasn’t even come out yet. Tell me what your favourite summer hits are in the comments below.

Anyway, that’s all for this week’s edition of Throwback Thursday. Be sure to check back for next week’s Throwback Thursday on The International Passion!

About John Mendoza (8 Articles)
John is a writer.

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