How Gene Wilder led me to ‘A Sweet Summer’s Night on Hammer Hill’

My introduction to Jens Lekman was a happy accident. It was early 2006, when Myspace was still a thing (I remained a champion for Myspace until the site totally boned itself with upgrades in 2009). You could find all kinds of music on the site if you knew how to search for it, and I was trying to find “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” as sung by Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle in “Young Frankenstein.”

This happened with little success, though I did come upon a music page for Gene Wilder with some songs that were improperly titled. One of the songs I played was fantastic! Just so great! It had handclaps (which I’m sure we all know by now is one of my favorite musical devices) and a horn and sounded like a bunch of people were just all hanging out in a room playing music and singing together. There was a party in my speakers and I WAS INVITED!

Clearly this song was not from “Young Frankenstein,” and I was all but positive it was NOT Gene Wilder singing (no matter how great I thought it would be if it was him). (Yeah, Gene Wilder = megababe in my book.) Finding the real artist was as easy as typing some lyrics into the Google machine and hitting “Enter.”

His name was Jens Lekman, a darling Swedish popster on Secretly Canadian. Of course, I sought out his other material and have loved much of it. When he released another album in 2007, “Night Falls Over Kortedala,” I swooned hard over “Kanske är jag kär i dig,” a totally relatable song for awkward romantics everywhere. And I was eventually able to hear him for what he is and not what I was searching for when I first discovered him.

But I really can’t help it that every time I hear “A Sweet Summer’s Night on Hammer Hill,” I fantasize about my own sweet summer’s night with a wild-haired young Gene Wilder in a lab coat. And for that (and the handclaps), the song will always have an extra-special place in my heart.


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