The 60s was one of the most prolific times for music. It was the heyday for rock n’ roll. It saw the beginning of reggae music.
There hasn’t been a more revolutionary period in musical history since. The best part about 60s music is how catchy it is. No matter what genre you prefer, there’s always an iconic song that’ll have you bobbing your head and moving your hips to the music.
Read on to discover the best 60s dance songs for your next dance party, cooking bout, or car ride.
“Twist and Shout” by The Beatles
Written by Phil Medley and Bert Berns in 1961, “Twist and Shout” has been covered by various bands, starting with the Top Notes. The most popular version of “Twist and Shout” that you’re most likely to hear on the radio or on the soundtrack of a movie is The Beatles.
Paul McCartney’s soulful voice has contagiously high energy that gets both raspy and hits unexpectedly high notes.
“Wooly Bully” by Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs
Song Year: 1965
Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs recorded this classic dance song with famed Memphis producer Sam Phillips before he opened Sun Studio. It was an instant hit, making the Billboard charts in the US and Canada.
Sam The Sham accurately portrays how the band coopted the melody from Junior Parker, changing the lyrics from “Hully Gully” to “Wooly Bully.”
“Hold On, I’m Comin” by Sam & Dave
Written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, “Hold On, I’m Coming” was a happy accident. According to the writers, they came up with it when in the middle of a songwriting session due to Porter yelling at Hayes to get out of the restroom. Hayes replied, “Hold on, I’m Coming,” and the rest is history!
“Baby Love” by The Supremes
There’s no bigger hitmaker out of Motown than The Supremes. “Baby Love” marked The Supremes' iconic monopoly of number one hits by being the first Motown group to have more than one chart-topping single.
Of course, they’d go on to have 12 top singles, a world record no one has beat to date. Today, “Baby Love” is on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
“Down on the Corner” by Creedence Clear Water Revival
Song Year: 1969
Creedence Clear Water Revival was a revolutionary band for using country and southern folk sounds and intonations in their popular rock ballads. “Down on the Corner” is one such rock ballad about a fictional band playing on the streets for change.
Writer and lead singer John Fogerty named the fictional band Willy and the Poor Boys, which he came up with as a riff on a Winnie the Poo billboard.
“Barbara Ann” by The Beach Boys
Every song by the Beach Boys is both a hit and a dance song, but “Barbara Ann” is a personal favorite. It’s hard not to howl along with the chorus on long road trips. The Beach Boys made it famous, but “Barbara Ann” was originally by The Regents.
The song was popular as sung by The Regents, but The Beach Boys’ unparalleled harmonizing topped the charts in the US, Canada, the UK, and most Western European nations.
“Hit The Road Jack” by Ray Charles
Winning the Grammy for Best R&B song, “Hit The Road Jack,” is one of Ray Charles’ most notable contributions. Whether you’re a disgruntled employer or fed up with your current love interest, no song helps you purge yourself of unwanted dramas better than this catchy tune.
Charles recorded “Hit the Road Jack” as a duo with his backup singer and mistress Margie Hendrix. If you know anything about their volatile relationship, “Hit the Road Jack” becomes even more poignant.
“I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5
Before Michael Jackson launched his epic solo career, his family band, The Jackson 5, had its own wildly successful run. “I Want You Back” was The Jackson 5’s first number one hit, led by a young pubescent Michael Jackson’s iconic voice.
The song is an inductee in the Grammy Hall of Fame and is on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
“Then He Kissed Me” by The Crystals
Song Year: 1963
Written and produced by Phil Spector, “Then He Kissed Me” has gone down in history as one of the best girl group songs of all time. It’s made Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Lead singer Dolores Brooks’ sweet voice just adds to the wholesome nature of the song’s lyrics about young love that leads to marriage.
“Do You Love Me” by The Contours
Song Year: 1962
Another Motown classic, “Do You Love Me,” gained worldwide acclaim with the newer generations as a dance song in the cult classic movie Dirty Dancing. The song itself makes mention of plenty of the most famous 60s dance moves like the twist and the mashed potato.
The song topped the charts in 1962 and then again with the release of Dirty Dancing in 1988.
“That’s How Strong My Love Is” by Otis Redding
Song Year: 1965
Originally released by soul singer O.V. Wright, “That’s How Strong My Love Is” quickly became one of Otis Redding’s most beloved recordings. His voice epitomizes the soul genre, evoking the most profound feelings from any listener.
“That’s How Strong My Love Is” is slow and sweet, making it a go-to couple’s song at weddings or a classic slow dancing tune for a high-school dance.
“I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye
Oddly, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” was sung by three different bands, all releasing their respective renditions in 1967 and 68. Perhaps the writers chose to have multiple recordings to better their chances of achieving a hit.
Their efforts bore fruit, first with the original release from Gladys Knight& the Pips, then again with Marvin Gaye. Both versions topped the Billboards and are inductees into The Grammy Hall of Fame.
“Louie Louie” by Kingsman
The Kingsmen version of “Louie Louie” is essentially a cover song of a cover song. The original song was written and performed by Richard Berry in the 50s. A second recording by Rockin Robin Roberts was a jukebox favorite.
The Kingsmen decided to cover it after listening to the Roberts rendition played on repeat from their local music club’s jukebox. The Kingsmen’s version of Louie Louie topped the charts for six weeks, becoming the most popular version and the Kingsmen’s signature song.
“Respect” by Aretha Franklin
From the Queen of Soul herself, “Respect” is one of the most iconic songs in history and the unofficial theme song for the feminist movement. Ironically, the song was originally written and performed by Otis Redding, a soul giant in his own right.
Aretha’s version is on the top 5 songs of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, an inductee in the Grammy Hall of Fame, a two-time Grammy Award-winning song, and it's one of the rare songs on the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry.
“The Loco-Motion” by Little Eva
“Loco-Motion” was part of the early 60s dance song craze along with the twist and the mashed potato. It’s not a profound song, but one meant for dancing. It even describes the dance, compelling listeners to move along to the catchy melody.
However, Eva herself created the dance after recording the song.
“I’m a Believer” by The Monkees
Written by famed 60s musician Neil Diamond, “I’m a Believer” was The Monkees’ biggest hit, topping the U.S. Billboards and selling the most copies of any other single during 1967. It’s an upbeat, high-energy, and endearing song for any generation.
Baby Boomers know it from its radio days, while kids and young adults associate it with the hit movie Shrek.
“You Really Got Me” by The Kinks
This groovy mid-60s hit by British garage rock band The Kinks is the masterful fusion of rock n roll with Blues. Written by lead singer Ray Davies, “You Really Got Me” took inspiration from blues guitar riffs, while the lyrics are a rock n roll love story.
The song was an instant hit in the UK and The Kinks' breakthrough song to US audiences.
“Uptight” by Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder’s long list of hits and Grammys occurred mainly during the 70s, but “Uptight” marked an important milestone in the young singer’s career. Stevie Wonder had been a soprano singer child prodigy, and “Uptight” was one of his first tenor songs.
It was also one of the first chart-topping songs and the first of his songs to receive two Grammy nominations.
“These Boots Are Made for Walking” by Nancy Sinatra
This song has been used in countless movies, commercials, and covers that anyone young or old is bound to know it. “These Boots Are Made for Walking” is a sexy yet foreboding song written by songwriter and singer Lee Hazelwood.
Hazelwood wanted to record it himself, but Sinatra convinced him that the lyrics called for a woman’s voice.
“007 (Shanty Town)” by Desmond Dekker
There’s no catchier or cheerful music than reggae, and the 60s was a pioneering era for the genre. Desmond Dekker’s hit, “Shanty Town,” is a subcategory of reggae known as “rock steady” written by Dekker and famed Jamaican producer Leslie Kong.
“007, Shanty Town” talks about the hit bad-boy movies of the times like James Bond and Ocean’s Eleven, which were hits with the bad boys of Jamaica, known as “rude boys.”
“Son of A Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield
Song Year: 1968
Written by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins, “Son of A Preacher Man” was meant for Aretha Franklin. Dusty Springfield, a British singer, landed the recording instead. The song earned platinum status in the UK and topped the Billboards in the U.S.
Today, “Son of a Preacher Man” is best known for the soundtrack of the movie Pulp Fiction. The song introduces the seductive character of Mia Wallace, played by Uma Thurman.
“For Your Love” by The Yardbirds
The Yardbirds had always been known as a British Blues band, so the choice to record a pop-rock song like “For Your Love” was controversial. Lead guitarist Eric Clapton was the biggest dissenter and ended up splitting from the group because of it.
“Wild Thing” by The Troggs
“Wild Thing” epitomizes the deviant sexuality burgeoning in the 60s. It was first recorded by the Wild Ones but failed to gain popularity until The Troggs released their recording a year later.
“Everyday People” by Sly & the Family Stone
“Everyday People” characterizes the fight for racial and gender equality as a call for everyone to get along despite racial differences. A fitting song for Sly and the Family Stone, one of the first racially integrated bands in history.
“Please Mr. Postman” by The Marvelettes
Song Year: 1961
Not only was “Please Mr. Postman” The Marvelletes' debut song, but it was also Motown’s first number one hit. It was such a success that the Beatles covered it a few years later. In 1975 The carpenters covered it, and it once again climbed to the top of the Billboards.
“54-46 That’s My Number” by Toots and the Maytals
Before Bob Marley made reggae a worldwide sensation, Toots and the Maytals introduced reggae to the world with this defining song. Toots Hibbert wrote it about his stint in jail for marijuana possession.
“I Got You” by James Brown
We’re ending it on a high note with one of the best dance songs in history, James Brown’s saucy and soulful “I Got You”. If this song doesn’t make you feel good, then nothing will. VH1 praises it as one of the best dance songs of the 60s.
Top 60s Dance Songs, Final Thoughts
Whether you’re alone in the kitchen or on the dance floor at a wedding, this list of the best 60s dance songs will have you bumping and grooving for any occasion.