Songs for a Sunshine State Summer

By: Sean Daly

Our critic was looking not just for themes of sun, surf, sand, and skin, but also mood: mellow, romantic, sweaty and geography, from the down-home charm of northwest Florida to the madness of Ocean Drive in Miami.

My addiction started circa summer '75, in the backseat of some clean-smelling, AC-blasted rental car. Mom and Dad, music lovers both, navigating road and radio as we floated down the Florida Turnpike, vacationing northerners itching to turn pines into palms, pale into tan. I stared out the window, watching the unveiling of sand and sea, and that's when the songs on the radio started making fantastic sense: "Summer Breeze" (yes!)... "Here Comes the Sun" (of course!)... "School's Out" (Alice Cooper rawks!).

Music and summer and Florida: Even as a pup, I knew it was a heckuva cocktail.

Since that time – as a tourist and, these days, a resident – my Florida summers have always come with a soundtrack. After the radio, it was a Walkman, then a Discman and then, like divine intervention from the Great DJ in the Sky, the iPod.

When I was asked to do this "Summer in FLA" playlist, I tossed aside all other responsibility and launched into the task with full gusto – and maybe a few Coronas. I brought my iPod to Pass-a-Grille, Orlando and Sarasota, testing how songs blended with my state. I was looking not just for theme – sun, surf, sand, skin – but also mood – mellow, romantic, sweaty – and geography, from the down-home charm of northwest Florida to the madness of Ocean Drive in Miami Beach.

So without further ado, away we go: 40 songs for summer in Florida. The playlist starts mellow, cuts loose, then slows down again just in town for a romantic stroll at sunset. A sample of 9 from the playlist is available on iTunes, called "Soundtrack for a Florida Summer." You can hear more about how these songs were chosen and the songs that just missed the cut by clicking here.

1. "Floridays," Jimmy Buffett (Don't worry; there's more Buffett coming later)
2. "Gulf Coast Highway," Darius Rucker & Nanci Griffith
3. "Let's Get Away From It All," Frank Sinatra
4. "Summertime," Sam Cooke
5. "The Secret Sun," Jesse Harris (Corona used this mellow bonfire special in a recent series of commercials. Goes best with cheap toes in the sand. Speaking of which...)
6. "Toes," Zac Brown Band
7. "Powder Your Face With Sunshine," Dean Martin
8. "What's Your Name?," Lynyrd Skynyrd (Most famous Florida band? It's a tie between these Jacksonville scruffs and the next band on our list, the guys from Gainesville.)
9. "Dogs on the Run," Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
10. "Just Like Paradise," David Lee Roth
11. "Surrender," Cheap Trick (Best non-native rocker living in Florida? Another tie. There's Cheap Trick lead singer Robin Zander, who lives in Safety Harbor on the Gulf Coast. And then there's our next band's singer, Brian Johnson, who lives in Sarasota.)
12. "Thunderstruck," AC/DC

This commences our salute to spring break "romance." Flirt responsibly, boys and girls!
13. "Where the Boys Are," Connie Francis
14. "All the Young Dudes," Mott the Hoople
15. "Shark in the Water," V.V. Brown
16. "Summertime Girls," Y&T
17. "She's a Beauty," the Tubes
18. "Clambake," Elvis Presley (The King filmed several flicks in Florida, but Clambake, shot in the Keys and the Everglades among other locales, is my goofy fave.)
19. "King of the Surf Guitar," Dick Dale
20. "Surfin' U.S.A.," the Beach Boys
21. "Good Vibrations," the Beach Boys (Because having just one from Brian Wilson & Co. would just seem wrong)
22. "Keep Fishin'," Weezer
23. "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)," Billy Joel
24. "Jacksonville," Brandon Flowers
25. "Tallahassee Lassie," Freddy Cannon
26. "Swamp," Talking Heads

This commences the playlist's last chance to dance, dance, dance!
27. "Hot Fun in the Summertime," Sly & and the Family Stone
28. "Ain't Going Down (Til the Sun Comes Up)," Garth Brooks
29. "Love Rollercoaster," Ohio Players (This could have been one of our spring break songs. But it's also a shout-out to our Space Mountain fans!)
30. "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You," Gloria Estefan & the Miami Sound Machine
31. "Setting Sun," Chemical Brothers

OK, here we go, the cool-down finale
32. "When the Sun Goes Down," Kenny Chesney & Uncle Kracker
33. "Golden," My Morning Jacket
34. "Summer Wind," Frank Sinatra
35. "Take This Beach," Ben Ottewell (From the British band Gomez, Ottewell is one of the best singers on the planet. He's also a heart-sleeved romantic. You can thank me later.)
36. "Photographs and Memories," Jim Croce
37. "Only the Ocean," Jack Johnson
38. "When You Wish Upon a Star," Jiminy Cricket
39. "Tryin' to Reason With the Hurricane Season," Jimmy Buffett (Because having just one song from Mr. Margaritaville would feel wrong, too.)
40. "Wish You Were Here," Pink Floyd

Sean Daly is the pop music critic at the St. Petersburg Times. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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