Donna Summer, Jason Mraz and One Direction (Harry Styles, pictured) all have fun, lighthearted songs perfect for Memorial Day Weekend listening. Photos: Contributed/Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Contributed

Looking for some bright, light music to listen to this Memorial Day Weekend? Here are some favorites through the decades

We’re not thinking too deeply or looking for high art – just a few tunes to promote a lighter heart at the unofficial start of summer. Here are a few favorites through the decades to consider tuning into this Memorial Day Weekend.

1960s 

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, “Dancing in the Street” (1964): Co-written by Marvin Gaye, it’s not only a signature Motown song, but transcended generations for a Van Halen cover in 1982 and a Mick Jagger/David Bowie combo special in 1993.

The Beach Boys, “I Get Around”(1964): With Mike Love and Brian Wilson sharing vocals, it became the band’s first No. 1 hit.  

Stevie Wonder, “For Once in My Life” (1968): Ballad versions were previously recorded by The Four Tops, The Temptations, Diana Ross and Tony Bennett, but Wonder’s is the joyful romp to remember. 

1970s 

Chicago, “Saturday in the Park” (1972): A brass-soaked smile of a song literally inspired by a park visit. Founding member Robert Lamm strolled through New York’s Central Park and told his bandmates they had to put the scenes to music. 

Donna Summer, “On the Radio” (1979): The Queen of Disco and producing partner Giorgio Moroder combined strengths for another slick mirror ball singalong.

Jimmy Buffett, “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” (1977): To the delight of rabid fans, Buffett continued to reinforce his reputation for sand, margaritas and the pleasures of lackadaisical living.

1980s 

The Cars, “Magic” (1984): Though the shimmery song will always be appreciated for its gleaming synthesizers and chorus, fans often remember it for the groovy video that featured singer Ric Ocasek walking on water.

Elton John, “I'm Still Standing” (1983): This festive anthem of survival and perseverance received an impressive reconstruction at the end of John’s biopic, “Rocketman.”

Dexys Midnight Runners, “Come On, Eileen” (1982): Americans didn’t hear much from the British Dexys after this No. 1 hit, but we’ll always have that “too-rye-ay” chorus as a memory.

1990s 

Len, “Steal My Sunshine” (1999): The epitome of a one-hit wonder that nonetheless endures thanks to its bouncy backbeat and a brilliant sample of Andrea True Connection’s 1976 disco classic, “More, More, More.”

Brandy, “Sittin’ Up in My Room” (1995): Written and produced by Babyface for the “Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack, the midtempo song defines silky pop.

Amy Grant, “Every Heartbeat” (1991): Following her pop crossover smash “Baby, Baby,” Grant further demonstrated her deftness with a breezy chorus and sweet message. 

2000s

Fountains of Wayne, “Stacy's Mom” (2003): It’s hardly the best representation of the pop music genius that was Adam Schlesinger (who died in April of coronavirus complications), but the power pop song became the band’s biggest hit based on a fun, simple chorus.

Panic at the Disco, “Nine in the Afternoon” (2008): Frontman Brendon Urie’s inherent theatricality drives the vocals, while poppy piano provides the heavy lifting. 

Outkast, “Hey Ya” (2003): The pride of Atlanta rap used the influences of bands such as The Ramones and The Smiths to craft this Polaroid-shaker. 

2010s

Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe” (2011): Nominated for two Grammy Awards in 2012, the No. 1 hit received an early endorsement from fellow Canadian Justin Bieber, who tweeted, “it’s possibly the catchiest song I have ever heard.” On this, the Beebs does not lie. 

Jason Mraz, “Have it All” (2018): The Prince of Positivity can always be relied upon for clever wordplay and mellifluous choruses. 

One Direction, “Best Song Ever” (2013): Say what you will about Harry Styles’ launching pad, but any boy band that nicks, er, is “inspired by” The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” deserves some credit. Besides, who can listen to this without fist-pumping along?

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About the Author

Melissa Ruggieri
Melissa Ruggieri
Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for the AJC. She remembers when MTV was awesome.  
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