Summer Nights (Grease song)

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"Summer Nights"
Summer Nights by John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, and cast Australian vinyl Side-A.png
Side-A label of 1978 Australian vinyl single
Single by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
from the album Grease: The Original Soundtrack from the Motion Picture
B-side"Rock and Roll Party Queen" (performed by Louis St. Louis)
ReleasedAugust 25, 1978
Producer(s)Louis St. Louis
Olivia Newton-John single singles chronology
"Hopelessly Devoted to You"
"Summer Nights"
"A Little More Love"
John Travolta singles chronology
"You're the One That I Want"
"Summer Nights"

"Summer Nights" is a popular song from the musical Grease. Written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey,[1] its best-known version was recorded by American actor and singer John Travolta and British-Australian singer, songwriter and actress Olivia Newton-John for the big-screen adaptation of the musical, and released as a single that same year. It was released in August 1978 as the fourth single from the movie's soundtrack album and became a massive hit worldwide during the summer of 1978. Parts of the song were introduced to a new audience when it was re-released in the 1990s as part of a megamix of several songs from the movie version.


In the movie version of Grease, Travolta and Newton-John played the lead roles of Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson.[2]

The song's genesis stems from a summertime love affair between Danny and Sandy, which had ended upon Sandy's revelation that she was moving back to Australia with her family; however, Sandy soon learns that her family is staying in the United States and subsequently enrolls at Rydell High School, where Danny is also a student. In the original stage version, Sandy Dumbrowski, who like many other characters in the play is a Catholic of Polish descent, originally attends parochial school. On the other hand, Danny lied to her and claimed to attend Lake Forest Academy, a prestigious real-life private school in Chicago. Sandy's parents' decision to pull her out of Catholic school and put her in public Rydell High exposes Danny's subterfuge. It quickly becomes clear that there are unresolved feelings of love between Danny and Sandy.[3]

Separately and unknown to each other, both Danny and Sandy meet with their respective group of friends and share their perspectives of their summertime fling. Danny, the leader of a greaser gang known as "The T-Birds" (the "Burger Palace Boys" in the stage show), brags about the physical aspects of the relationship; Sandy remarks to the schoolgirl clique "The Pink Ladies" about her emotional attachment to Danny. The resulting conversations are played out through the song.

Of the cast members, only Travolta and Newton-John provided vocals for the previous single from the soundtrack, "You're The One That I Want", but other members of the cast contributed backing and cameo lead vocals to "Summer Nights". The only vocal contributions on the soundtrack from Kelly Ward (Putzie) and Michael Tucci (Sonny) are their single questions in this song (Sonny also had no solo lines in the musical; the two songs from the musical by Putzie's stage counterpart were cut from the film). Stockard Channing (Rizzo)'s solo line "'Cause he sounds like a drag"— a bowdlerization of the likely slur used in the original Chicago version—was spoken rather than sung. The film version's background lyrics quote three songs; "Da Doo Ron Ron" by The Crystals, "Down, Dooby" (a nonce lyric used in both "Tonight I Fell in Love" by The Tokens and "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" by Neil Sedaka), and "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" by The Rivingtons (later made famous as Part 2 of "Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen); that were released in the early 1960s, a few years after the film's setting of fall 1958.

"Summer Nights" was originally written for the stage show's transition to Broadway. The original Chicago version of the musical (staged only once since the 1970s) had a different song, "Foster Beach," at that point.[4]

Record World said "The effect is era-perfect and its unique sound should drive it up summer playlists."[5]

Chart performance[edit]

"Summer Nights" reached No. 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100,[6] and spent two weeks at No. 3 on Cash Box Top 100.[7] The song was an even bigger hit in the UK, spending seven weeks at No. 1.[8] Combined with an earlier nine-week run with "You're the One That I Want," the Travolta-Newton-John duet team spent 16 weeks at No. 1 during 1978 in the UK.

In 2004, the song finished at #70 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.

In 2010, Billboard ranked it No. 9 on their "Best Summer Songs of All Time" list.[9]


Sales and certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[31] Gold 75,000^
France (SNEP)[32] Gold 500,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[34] Platinum 1,640,000[33]
United States (RIAA)[35] Gold 1,000,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ "Grease (1978) - Soundtracks". Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  2. ^ "Grease (1978)". 16 June 1978. Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  3. ^ "Grease (1978) - Plot Summary". Retrieved 2014-03-28.
  4. ^ "Bring back our own, original R-rated 'Grease'". 8 January 2009. Archived from the original on 17 November 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2015.
  5. ^ "Hits of the Week" (PDF). Record World. August 5, 1978. p. 1. Retrieved 2023-02-13.
  6. ^ "Billboard Top 40 Hits (1978) at cyList". Retrieved 2012-01-12.
  7. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 10/07/78". 1978-10-07. Retrieved 2014-05-01.]
  8. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 357–9. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  9. ^ "Top 30 Summer Songs". Retrieved 2012-01-12.
  10. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 313. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  11. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 1978-10-21. Retrieved 2022-04-04.
  12. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". 1978-10-21. Retrieved 2022-04-04.
  13. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2021). "John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John". Sisältää hitin - 2. laitos Levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla 1.1.1960–30.6.2021 (PDF) (in Finnish). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. p. 183. Retrieved 2022-07-03.
  14. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Summer Nights". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
  15. ^ "Classifiche". Musica e dischi (in Italian). Retrieved 2022-06-12. Set "Tipo" on "Singoli". Then, in the "Artista" field, search "John Travolta & Olivia Newton John".
  16. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 22 October 1978
  17. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved 5 September 2018.
  18. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955-1990ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  19. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 175.
  20. ^ "Top 100 1978-06-17". Cashbox Magazine. Retrieved 2015-06-25.
  21. ^ " – John Travolta / Olivia Newton-John – Summer Nights". GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved May 31, 2021.
  22. ^ "CU.S Digital Song Sales: Week of August 20, 2022". Billboard. Retrieved 16 August 2022.
  23. ^ "Official Singles Downloads Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  24. ^ "Kent Music Report No 236 – 1 January 1979 > National Top 100 Singles for 1978". Kent Music Report. Retrieved 8 January 2022 – via
  25. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly – Library and Archives Canada". 17 July 2013. Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  26. ^ "Top Selling Singles of 1978 | The Official New Zealand Music Chart". 1978-12-31. Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  27. ^ "1970s Singles Chart Archive". Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  28. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1978/Top 100 Songs of 1978". Retrieved 2016-10-13.
  29. ^ "Top 100 Year End Charts: 1978". Cashbox Magazine. Retrieved 2015-11-03.
  30. ^ "Top 100 Singles of the Decade" (PDF). Record Mirror. London: Spotlight Publications. January 5, 1980. p. 2. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  31. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Olivia Newton-John – Summer Nights". Music Canada. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  32. ^ "French single certifications – John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John – Summer Nights" (in French). InfoDisc. Retrieved 26 November 2021. Select JOHN TRAVOLTA & OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN and click OK. 
  33. ^ Copsey, Rob (21 June 2017). "Huge selling 'summer' songs on the Official Chart". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  34. ^ "British single certifications – Olivia Newton-John & John Travolta – Summer Nights". British Phonographic Industry.Select singles in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Summer Nights in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  35. ^ "American single certifications – Olivia Newton-John & John Travolta – Summer Nights". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 15 April 2012.

External links[edit]