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Cool Songs for a Hot Summer

How music can help cool you down.

We’re in those dog days of August when the thermometer starts approaching triple digits, the sweat runs off your brow and you stick to your chair every time you get up. Fortunately, there are several ways to combat the heat. Ceiling or desk fans are always helpful, and if you’ve got an air-conditioned office or house, that can serve as a refrigerated sanctuary. You can always take a dip in the pool … if you’re lucky enough to own one (or have an accommodating neighbor). Heading to the beach is a good option, too … if you happen to live near one, that is.

If none of those options are viable, you may think that you have no choice but to start melting into a puddle, but you’d be wrong. The solution is simple: Put on some cool music. You’ll be amazed how it can help turn a scorcher into a total chill-out zone.

The Beach Boys were one of the first major artists to capitalize on the surf craze of the ’60s, and many of their early songs evoke the salty breeze of the ocean as they stream out over your playback system. But if you’re really suffering from the heat, you may want to check out the little-known “Cool, Cool Water” from the group’s 1970 Sunflower album. It’s mostly a wordless tone poem, but it features the immortal lyric “In an ocean or in a glass / Cool water is such a gas.”

Other great cooling (and cool) songs I like to listen to on a hot day include “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, “Jamming” by Bob Marley and “Summer Breeze” by the Isley Brothers. It’s not just the lyrics and music to these songs that I love, but how they work together to make you feel good and want to get up and get your groove on.

And then there’s the classic “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago. The instant I hear the rollicking piano intro, I can feel my spirit lifting. “People dancing, people laughing / A man selling ice cream.” This lyric is not just a description of a scene, it is a scene. It makes me want to be in that park, and no matter where I am or what I’m going through, a smile comes to my face and the temperature seems to drop. If that isn’t the power of music, I don’t know what is!

Sometimes in the midst of summer I will put on “Christmastime Is Here” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, which is one of the most popular holiday recordings of all time. Crazy? I don’t think so. In fact, this is one piece of music that instantly cools me down. There has been more than one occasion when I’ll have it pumping out of my car stereo on a hot day and roll down my window. Inevitably, passersby give me a smile and a thumbs up.

The reverse applies as well. Next time you venture out on a frigid morning with numb hands and your frosty breath hanging in mid-air, think of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Hot Fun In The Summertime.” I guarantee you’ll suddenly feel a bit warmer! Or put on Martha and the Vandella’s “Heatwave,” or “Summer In The City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful, with its intense lyric “Hot town, summer in the city / Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty.” How can you not feel a bit of a relief after hearing that, even if there’s 10 inches of snow outside your window?

This is a phenomenon that’s actually well-documented. “The mind and body are connected,” notes author Julia Lehrman in a article entitled How Music Can Boost Your Mood. “Music often makes us want to move, inspiring us to dance or exercise. This helps release endorphins and serotonin in the brain, so we feel better and adopt a naturally more positive outlook. Combining music with movement is a potent way to improve your mood with the potential for long lasting effects.”

So while the heat is here, think about the songs you like that bring that cool, joyous feeling to you, and play them! And when winter returns, get some songs ready to bring your mind, body and spirit back to the warmth of the sun. Take advantage of the fact that music has the power to change how we feel, think and act and you’ll stay temperate no matter how frightful the weather outside.


Check out Rich’s other postings.

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