On this first day of summer, with a full moon rising at the end of a long day, I’m reminded of two songs. Each of them includes the identical phrase, “Summer’s here and the time is right for…” But the similarities stop there.
Martha and the Vandellas brought us an uplifting Dancing in the Street in 1964 during the peak of the civil rights movement. Most of us heard a good beat that was easy to dance to. And dance we did, at times with great fervor! But an undercurrent of racial tensions that summer led to the song being banned from some radio stations whose management feared the song fanned the flames of civil unrest and would lead to rioting in the street. Nonetheless, Dancing in the Street climbed to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It’s now one of 50 songs preserved by the Library of Congress in the National Recording Registry, a list of sound recordings that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States.”
Four years later, the Rolling Stones provided a more strident take on summertime in their 1968 song, Street Fighting Man. In place of dancing, the Stones sang about “marching, charging feet” and “the time is right for fighting in the street.” The song became a passionate anthem of protest against the Vietnam war during my college years. Street Fighting Man was covered by Rod Stewart on his debut solo album the following year. When I attended his concert in Chicago not long after that, he refused to perform the song, fearing (perhaps with some justification) reprisals even two years after the Democratic National Convention debacle there.
On this first day of summer, which will it be for you? Marching or dancing? Whatever you choose, do it with fervor and with passion.
Note: Here are links to the two songs mentioned in the article. Each will open in a separate tab in your browser:
Dancing in the Street by Martha and the Vandellas (Buy the mp3 download)
Street Fighting Man by the Rolling Stones (Buy the mp3 download)