Summer Songs: 'Lean On Me,' 'Fight The Power'

All summer long, NPR's Melissa Block has been asking musicians, listeners and a novelist about their favorite summer songs and what kind of memories they evoke. During those conversations, Block has been flooded with memories of her own.

Madeleine Brand circa 1989 in her "Fight the Power" phase i i

Madeleine Brand circa 1989 in her "Fight the Power" phase Courtesy of Madeleine Brand hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Madeleine Brand
Madeleine Brand circa 1989 in her "Fight the Power" phase

Madeleine Brand circa 1989 in her "Fight the Power" phase

Courtesy of Madeleine Brand
Melissa Block circa 1974 at Camp Kokosing i i

Melissa Block circa 1974 at Camp Kokosing Courtesy of Melissa Block hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Melissa Block
Melissa Block circa 1974 at Camp Kokosing

Melissa Block circa 1974 at Camp Kokosing

Courtesy of Melissa Block

Block's summer song takes her back to the early '70s. She was at Camp Kokosing in Thetford Center, Vt. Every Friday night there would be a social at the recreation hall. At some point in the night she'd hear the piano chords to "Lean on Me," by Bill Withers. This cues the slow song.

"I'm wearing white carpenter pants and an Indian-print midriff shirt and there's this mad dash to find somebody to slow-dance with," Block says.

But in two points during the song, the tempo changes. Kids decouple and "flail around for a bit in some awkward semifast dance." It's a back and forth.

"I'm completely taken back to being 12-13 years old at summer camp," Block says.

Madeleine Brand's summer song is Public Enemy's "Fight the Power."

In 1989, Madeleine Brand had just graduated from UC Berkeley and moved to Buffalo, N.Y. It was her first job, as the local host for All Things Considered at WBFO.

"I would listen to this song driving around Buffalo and thinking about getting to the big city — downstate New York," Brand says. "This song made me really think, 'Wow, there's a lot going on downstate.' Not a slight to Buffalo, but I wanted to be in the action. I wanted to be where news was happening."

And eventually, Brand was.

Need more summertime songs? NPR's music series It's Time to Party features five-song playlists that celebrate the season every Wednesday.

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