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Theme from A Summer Place

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"Theme from A Summer Place" is a song with lyrics by Mack Discant and music by Max Steiner, written for the 1959 film A Summer Place, which starred Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. It was recorded for the film as an instrumental by Hugo Winterhalter. Originally known as the "Molly and Johnny Theme", this lush extended cue,[1] as orchestrated by Murray Cutter, is not the main title theme of the film, but an oft-heard secondary love theme for the characters played by Dee and Donahue. The theme has become a canonical representation of the easy listening genre, and is considered by some to be the definitive easy listening track of all time.[2]

Following its introduction in the film by the Warner Bros. studio orchestra, the theme was recorded by many artists in both instrumental and vocal versions, and has also appeared in a number of subsequent films and television programs. The best-known version of the theme is an instrumental version by Percy Faith and his Orchestra that was a number-one hit for nine weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1960.[3]

Percy Faith version[edit]

"Theme from A Summer Place"
Single by Percy Faith
from the album A Summer Place
ReleasedSeptember 1959[5]
Recorded11 September 1959
StudioColumbia 30th Street (New York City)[6]
LabelColumbia/CBS Records
Songwriter(s)lyrics by Mack Discant and music by Max Steiner
Official audio
"Theme from "A Summer Place"" on YouTube
"Theme from A Summer Place"
Single by The Lettermen
B-side"Sealed with a Kiss"
Released31 May 1965
GenreEasy listening
LabelCapitol Records
Songwriter(s)lyrics by Mack Discant and music by Max Steiner
The Lettermen singles chronology
"Girl with a Little Tin Heart"
"Theme from A Summer Place"

Percy Faith recorded the most popular version of the theme, an instrumental orchestral arrangement, at the Columbia 30th Street Studio in New York City.[6] It was released in September 1959 as a single on Columbia Records, credited to "Percy Faith and his Orchestra", prior to the November 1959 release of the film A Summer Place.[3]

The single was not an immediate hit, but after it entered the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart at No. 96 on 11 January 1960, it ascended to number one in just six more weeks, on 22 February 1960,[3] going on to set an at-the-time record of nine consecutive weeks at number one,[3] a record that would not be broken until 1977, when "You Light Up My Life" spent ten weeks at the top of the chart. (Perez Prado's "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" remained at number one for 10 weeks on the Best Sellers in Stores chart in 1955, and Elvis Presley's double-sided hit "Don't Be Cruel/ Hound Dog" remained at number one for 11 weeks on the Best Sellers in Stores and Jockeys charts in 1956, all prior to the 4 August 1958, creation of the Hot 100 chart.)[8]

The single was also in front of five consecutive No. 2 singles, none of which ever reached the Hot 100's summit: Jimmy Jones' "Handy Man" (29 February), Jim Reeves' "He'll Have to Go" ( 7–21 March), Bobby Rydell's "Wild One" (28 March), Paul Anka's "Puppy Love" ( 4–11 April), The Brothers Four's "Greenfields" (sometimes spelled "Green Fields") (18 April),[9] with Elvis Presley's "Stuck on You" (25 April – 9 May) in front of "Greenfields" during its last three weeks at No. 2.

"Theme From A Summer Place" remains the longest-running number one instrumental in the history of the Hot 100. Billboard ranked Faith's version as the Number One song for 1960. The Faith version reached number 2 in the UK Singles Chart, spending 31 weeks on the chart, and it was also a number 1 hit in Italy under the title "Scandalo Al Sole."

Faith won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1961 for his recording. This was the first movie theme and the first instrumental to win a Record of the Year Grammy. In 2000, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[10]

Faith re-recorded the song twice: first, in 1969, as a female choral version, then, in 1976, as a disco version[8] titled "Summer Place '76."

As reported by Casey Kasem on the American Top 40 broadcast of 25 September 1976, "Theme from A Summer Place" is the biggest hit on the American charts by a Canadian artist.

In 2008 Faith's original version was ranked at number 18 on Billboard's top 100 songs during the first 50 years of the Hot 100 chart.[11] The Billboard Book of Number One Hits called it "the most successful instrumental single of the rock era."


Other notable cover versions[edit]

"Theme from A Summer Place" has been covered by a number of artists in addition to Percy Faith, in both non-vocal instrumental versions, and with one or more vocalists either singing the Discant lyrics or a wordless melody line. The theme has also been referenced, sampled, or otherwise adapted into several other songs.

Instrumental versions[edit]

  • In 1960, Billy Vaughn included an instrumental orchestral arrangement of the theme as the title cut to his album Theme From A Summer Place released on Dot Records, which peaked at number one on the Billboard LP chart.
  • In 1961, Mantovani recorded an orchestral rendition of the theme for his album Mantovani Plays Music From 'Exodus' and Other Great Themes; the album reached the Top Ten on the UK charts.

Vocal versions[edit]

Most vocal versions of the theme have featured the descant lyrics. However, some featured wordless vocals by singers who voiced the melody line.

  • In 1960, British producer, bandleader and arranger Norrie Paramor released his arrangement of the theme as a single on Columbia Records, featuring wordless vocals by soprano Patricia Clarke and credited to "Norrie Paramor & His Orchestra". The single reached number 36 on the UK chart.[14]
  • In 1962, Andy Williams covered the theme for his gold-certified album Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes.
  • In 1965, the male vocal group The Lettermen had a hit with their harmony arrangement of the theme, released as a single on Capitol Records; it reached number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was included on their album The Hit Sounds of the Lettermen.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hirschhorn, Clive. The Warner Bros. Story, Octopus Books, London, 1979, p. 343.
  2. ^ Keightley, Keir (2012). "Genres: North America". In Horn, David; Shepherd, John (eds.). Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World. Vol. 8. Bloomsbury. p. 196.
  3. ^ a b c d Bronson, Fred (1 October 2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th ed.). New York: Billboard Books. p. 75. ISBN 978-0823076772.
  4. ^ "Percy Faith And His Orchestra – The Theme From "A Summer Place"". 45cat.com. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  5. ^ Billboard 28 September 1959, p 42
  6. ^ a b Simons, David (2004). Studio Stories – How the Great New York Records Were Made. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. ISBN 9781617745164. Cf. especially, p.23-24 with an article on "The Church"
  7. ^ a b Breihan, Tom (21 February 2018). "The Number Ones: Percy Faith's "Theme From A Summer Place"". Stereogum. Retrieved 7 June 2023. ...and yet the theme is a light, gooey easy-listening waltz.
  8. ^ a b Bronson, p. 939.
  9. ^ Casey Kasem, "American Top 40", 29 April 1978
  10. ^ https://www.grammy.com/awards/hall-of-fame-award#t
  11. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 Chart 50th Anniversary – The Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs (20–11)". Billboard.com. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  12. ^ CHUM Hit Parade, March 28, 1960
  13. ^ Flavour of New Zealand, 21 July 1960
  14. ^ a b "Official Charts Company". Officialcharts.com. 9 March 1960. Retrieved 14 October 2021.
  15. ^ "Hot 100 turns 60". Billboard. Retrieved 6 August 2018.