Top 10 Songs For A Summer Family Soundtrack

by Maggie May Ethridge
Originally Published: 

Every summer, I pick a soundtrack for my kids. One CD that I play over and over and over like a relentless dog barking. We love it until we hate it, and then we love it again, and then at the end of August I put it away. This is where the magic happens, a strange osmosis where the heat, sticky fingers, family jokes, meltdowns, trips for ice cream, swimming pools and relaxed baby faces asleep in the car are sealed into the music. Forever after, one strain of one song conjures the magic genie in the bottle of summer.

Here are my top 10 picks for family summer soundtracks:

1. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Various Artists

You may think I’m crazy, and maybe I am, but this slightly obnoxious Disney music is so unwaveringly fun and cheerful, the familiar beloved voices so dear, the trumpets so trumpety, that it works. It’s like an infusion of Disneyland. We listened to this the summer of 2013 when my youngest was 2. Pure magic. My favorite track:

2. Mary Poppins, Various Artists

This classic movie has one of the best soundtracks ever. The songs are mixed with children’s singing and the inimitable Julie Andrews’s gorgeous voice as well as Dick Van Dyke’s charming verbal pyrotechnics, plenty of dramatic flourishes that kids love to act out (ahem, the kids love it), ridiculous lyrics and irresistible rhythms. My favorite track:

3. Annie, Various Artists

The soundtrack from the original movie captures so much about children of a certain age and their relationship to the world around them, like the way simply going to the movies is a magical event. Annie’s bubblegum voice is irresistible to children, and the Depression-era feel to the music is fun. My favorite track:

4. Frozen, Various Artists

Excuse me if you are so over everything Frozen, but I still have to count this as one of my kids’ most-loved musical soundtracks. Even my older daughter sang these songs The Summer It Was Frozen. My favorite track (which totally sounds like Nathan Lane in some amazing musical—love!):

5. Thriller, Michael Jackson

The Thriller album is infectious genius. It even has a zombie song! Come on. My kids love it. I love it. Everybody wins. And I remember back to the days when I thought for hours about what “shamone” meant. My favorite track:

6. Talking Book, Stevie Wonder

The voice, the soul, the rhythm and the joy of a singer in the prime of his career. Warning: “I Just Called to Say I Love You” may need to be fast-forwarded after a while. My—and my kids’—favorite track:

7. She’s So Unusual, Cyndi Lauper

The ’80s charm and innocence of Cyndi’s voice over bubblegum pop and sharply drawn lyrics—like a great comic—and some of the best songs of that decade. My favorite track (the beats and fun make this choice easy):

8. Grease, Various Artists

I had to talk my kids out of choosing this for two summers in a row! From the small to big kids, this soundtrack is true magic for all ages. My favorite track:

9. White Blood Cells, White Stripes

Every song is “a tiny little gift to me.” A near perfect rock album that manages to be perfectly wonderful for kids and adults of all ages. My favorite track:

10. Greatest Hits, Will Smith

This bombastically fun, unashamedly sensitive and, at times, totally ridiculous album is pure summer fun. My favorite track goes out to my oldest (my son Dakota Wolf, for the days when our soundtrack was just for the two of us):

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