September Songs: A Soundtrack for the End of Summer

10 bittersweet classics that evoke our fading favorite season

1. "Boys of Summer" by Don Henley

"The summer's out of reach" in this 1984 classic, and so is the woman in the song. "Those days are gone forever," Henley sings. "I should just let them go." The melancholy melody and lyrics remind you of the past slipping away, which is what the end of summer is all about. And Henley really did see a "Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac" — giving us one of the most memorable lines of the 1980s.

2. "Night Moves" by Bob Seger

This is the title track of an album about fading youth, which is what summer's end represents to many of us. As Seger told the Detroit Free Press, it's based on an actual post-high school romance, and the song he starts "humming from 1962" is the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" (a 1963 hit, but never mind — "three" and "moves" don't rhyme). Rolling Stone named "Night Moves" the best single of 1977. Listen to it "with autumn closing in."

3. "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart

It's time for Rod Stewart to be back at school. At least, it is in this song — about a summer fling between a young man and an older woman — which came out in 1971. Decades later, Stewart revealed that "Maggie May" is "more or less a true story, about the first woman I had sex with." Ronnie Wood — a member of Stewart's band Faces before he joined the Rolling Stones — plays three guitars on this track: electric, 12-string and bass.

4. "Summer Nights" from "Grease"

You remember this one, in which two teenagers (albeit in their twenties) recount the exploits of their hot, hot summer to their friends in the bleachers and over school lunch trays. Sandy claims it was strictly innocent while Danny says she shook him all night long "down in the sand." Only John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John know the truth, but both agree that the end of summer ended the fling.

5. "The Last Day Of Summer" by The Cure

Who better to mourn the waning day of summer than Robert Smith, the famously depressed lead singer of The Cure? In this song, released in 2000, Smith has "never felt so cold" and "never felt so old." It's not as catchy as "In Between Days," but it's sad and beautiful.

6. "Wake Me Up When September Ends" by Green Day

The most emotional song on this list was written by Green Day's lead singer, Billie Joe Armstrong, about his father, who died when Armstrong was a child. Jamie Bell and Evan Rachel Wood star in the epic video, in which war separates two lovers. Some believed the title referred to 9/11, though the song was later dedicated to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

7. "A Summer Song" by Chad & Jeremy

Yes, Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde find themselves on the same list as … Billy Corgan [see number 8]. Because this isn't about genre. It's about saying goodbye to summer, which the folk rock lads did very sweetly 50 years ago during the British Invasion.

8. "1979" by Smashing Pumpkins

Billy Corgan says farewell to his youth in this '90s anthem, written for the Mellon Collie album. He infuses the end-of-summer theme with suburban teenage disillusion. With the possible exception of "Night Moves," this is the best song on the list.

9. "That Summer Feeling" by Jonathan Richman

When even fourth grade starts looking good

Which you hated

And first grade's looking good too


And you boys long for some little girl that you dated

Do you long for her or for the way you were?

That summer feeling is gonna haunt you the rest of your life

In this 1983 song, Richman reminds us that the nostalgia we feel for summer is often tainted by deceptive memory. Maybe it's time to let summer go ...

10. "Wake Up Boo!" by The Boo Radleys

… which is exactly what this British indie band was trying to say a decade later. Summer may be gone, but, "Wake up, it's a beautiful morning."

Tags: music

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