How ‘Summer in the City’ Became the Soundtrack for Every City Summer

Little did members of Lovin’ Spoonful know that a few months after this photo was taken, their song would be a huge hit and that they — and New York — would be at the center of a brief pop rock moment.

“During the summer of 1966, a heat wave boiled New York City at the most brutal temperatures recorded since 1869, the year weather data began to be consistently collected. For 34 days it was 90 degrees or higher. The conflict in Vietnam was also heating up, with 382,010 men drafted into service that year, 151,019 more than the previous year. Opposition to the war as well as to chronic discrimination against blacks, women and gays was gathering steam in the city. Clashes broke out elsewhere, with race riots that summer in Chicago and Lansing, Mich. ‘America was convulsing in a way, a time of huge unrest, incredible violence,’ said Jon Savage, author of ‘1966: The Year the Decade Exploded.’ On Aug. 1, in Austin, Tex., a lone gunman introduced America to mass murder. Charles Whitman killed his mother and wife and then more than a dozen people, sniper-style, from the University of Texas’s clock tower, wounding more than 30 others. Meanwhile, ‘Summer in the City,’ a propulsive, apolitical rock song by the New York-based the Lovin’ Spoonful, was climbing the charts to No. 1, reassuring listeners that ‘despite the heat it’ll be all right.’ Sung and co-written by John Sebastian, the band’s frontman, the song was conceived by his younger brother, Mark Sebastian, when he was just 14. Steve Boone, the bass player, contributed the memorable instrumental interlude. The three shared writing credit and continue to reap royalties: The song has endured as an anthem for every heat wave since and has been covered by Quincy Jones, Joe Cocker and Isaac Hayes, among others. (It will most likely figure prominently at a concert, ‘Music and Revolution: Greenwich Village in the 1960s,’ on Aug. 12 at Central Park’s SummerStage, where Sebastian is part of a lineup that includes José Feliciano and Maria Muldaur.) [John Schaefer, the host of ‘New Sounds’ on WNYC, shares his 12 favorite songs about New York in the heat.] In addition to Sebastian and Boone, the original band members (Mark was too young) were Zal Yanovsky on guitar and Joe Butler on drums. Their producer, Erik Jacobsen, helped shape their 1965 debut album, ‘Do You Believe in Magic,’ and their 1966 follow-up album, ‘Daydream.’ …”
NY Times
10 best Lovin’ Spoonful songs (Video)

The Night Owl Cafe, circa 1965.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Draft board, Music, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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