37 Best 60s Songs

Best 60s Songs

The 1960s was an incredible time for music. From rebellious rock and roll to funky soul, musicians created some of the best hits of this decade.

We have compiled a list of some of the best 60s songs to fuel your groove.

Contents

“What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong

Song Year: 1968

When Armstrong released “What a Wonderful World” in 1968, he had no idea it would become one of the biggest selling songs of his career. The record transcends decades and audiences, featuring in many popular film soundtracks.

Armstrong composed this song during a turbulent time in history, during the Vietnam War. Louis Armstrong’s song begs listeners to see beauty in the little moments and believe in hope.

“Come Together” by The Beatles

Song Year: 1969

Of course, dozens of Beatles songs could have fit in this best 60s songs list. However, “Come Together” has an authentically 60s history.

John Lennon wrote this Abbey Road song as part of the well-known psychedelics advocate Timothy Leary and his political campaign for California Governor.

“Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys

Song Year: 1966

A revolutionary song at the time for its composition and unique instruments, “Good Vibrations” is based on one of member Brian Wilson’s childhood memories.

When he was younger, Wilson’s mom always said dogs could pick up on a human’s energy or “vibration,” barking and growling at bad ones. The Beach Boys’ massive hit answers the question — what if people could do the same?

“(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin

Song Year: 1967

Aretha Franklin’s gospel and soul roots sit at the forefront of “Natural Woman” like her other top hits from the 60s. The song still sparks strong emotional pulls over 50 years after its release.

The intense vocal prowess of Aretha on this track instantly captivates her audience. Listeners feel each lyric she sings in this hope-filled love song.

“California Dreamin’” by The Mamas & the Papas

Song Year: 1965

“California Dreamin’” is a quintessential soundtrack for the American 1960s, gaining popularity due to the Vietnam War counterculture movement.

Can you believe someone else, specifically Barry McGuire, first recorded this song? Thankfully, The Mamas & The Papas also got ahold of this song. It is not only iconic but also their best-known track.

“I’m a Believer” by The Monkees

Song Year: 1967

This single was originally written by Neil Diamond and released in the mid-1960s by The Monkees. “I’m a Believer” became an instantaneous number one hit for the group, launching their success.

The song still maintains relevance today. Rock band Smash Mouth’s 2001 cover for the movie Shrek reinvigorated the public’s love for this track.

“Dancing in the Street” by Martha and the Vandellas

Song Year: 1965

Martha and the Vandellas made their mark in the 60s with “Dancing in the Street,” climbing both pop and R&B charts. This upbeat tune remains the group’s best song, even today.

This song became so popular that stars like David Bowie and Mick Jagger produced their own covers, gaining even more traction than the original.

“Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison

Song Year: 1964

Less than three minutes long, Roy Orbison’s 60s single undoubtedly impacted pop music as we know it.

While many now associate the tune with Julia Roberts, Orbison originally wrote the song about his wife.

At its peak, “Pretty Woman” topped both US and UK charts while also winning critically acclaimed awards — this song is that good.

“Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond

Song Year: 1969

This track is one of Neil Diamond’s greatest hits, and it is easy to see why. Its quaint tune and catchy lyrics mean everyone wants to sing along. The song even has a unique history, too.

“Sweet Caroline” was initially written for former President John F. Kennedy’s daughter Caroline. On Caroline’s 50th birthday, Diamond finally performed the song for her.

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love

Song Year: 1963

Did you know this holiday season playlist classic originated from the 1960s? Darlene Love released the song on a 1963 Christmas compilation album. Listeners call it a seasonal staple.

From 1986 to 2014, Darlene Love performed the song on the Christmas episode of David Letterman’s late-night show.

“Nothing but a Heartache” by The Flirtations

Song Year: 1969

This soulful 60s song, performed by the Flirtations, tells the sad story of a woman disappointed by the man she loves.

Accompanied by a bright and cheery instrumental, this tune encourages listeners to groove on through the heartbreak.

“She’s Not There” by The Zombies

Song Year: 1965

Though a native British group, this is the only song of The Zombies to reach heights in the UK charts. Originally a single, “She’s Not There” was eventually put on their album Begin Here over a year later.

What is unique about this song? “She’s Not There” marked the first time a song with an accompanying electric piano charted in the UK.

“My Generation” by The Who

Song Year: 1965

When The Who released this song, it instantly became an anthem for a 60s culture striving for acceptance while pushing for a bit of rebellion. “My Generation” says you do not have to fit in, and that is okay.

Of course, the song’s backstory helps bolster its rebellious attitude. A conflict between band member Pete Townshend and Queen Elizabeth apparently inspired the song.

“I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye

Song Year: 1968

Did you know this version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” was almost never released?

The Motown label rejected the original song recorded by Smokey Robinson and passed it along to Marvin Gaye. Motown also rejected Gaye’s version. Thus, another artist released this 60s classic.

Eventually, the Marvin Gaye version debuted, and listeners loved it, making it the biggest Motown hit of the time.

“Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Song Year: 1969

How could we compile a list of the best 60s songs without mentioning one of the greatest Vietnam War protest songs ever recorded?

This powerful rock and roll song details the growing distrust and anger toward the government that citizens felt during this turbulent time. “Fortunate Son” helped amplify the voices of the youth so authority figures could no longer ignore them.

“A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke

Song Year: 1964

This Sam Cooke hit is one of the most recognizable songs related to the 60s Civil Rights Movement in the US.

This song demands change while also promising hope for a better future. The lyricism is so impactful that other singers of the time, like Aretha Franklin, produced their own covers of the track.

“You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes

Song Year: 1966

This 60s hit from The Supremes is upbeat with a tender-hearted message. At its core, it is a song of encouragement for those inevitable times when you feel lonely and loveless.

While The Supremes sing very personal lyrics, their sentiment transcends. Every listener can listen along and think of experiences from their love lives. No wonder it was such a popular tune!

“I Like It Like That” by Pete Rodriguez

Song Year: 1967

“I Like It Like That” is one of the most popular and influential Latin R&B songs to ever chart in the United States.

You may have heard a version of this song recently, as the rapper Cardi B sampled it in her 2018 hit “I Like It.”

“These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra

“These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra

Song Year: 1965

Nancy Sinatra shouts warnings to her potential lovers in “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” As the old saying goes, if you play with fire, expect to get burnt.

Nancy knows her man has been flirting with other women, and she is not afraid to call him out in the form of a catchy and wildly popular 60s hit.

“I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher

Song Year: 1965

As much as the 60s highlighted protest and rebellion, it was also a time about coming together and loving. “I Got You Babe” hit the radio with the warm flirtations of young romance.

Although, despite dedicating their love to each other through song, Sonny and Cher eventually split up and divorced.

“The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson

Song Year: 1967

Simply listening to the cheery instrumental, you never realize how sad Smokey Robinson claims to be. Throughout the entire song, Robinson cleverly includes little reversals that reveal the hurt he truly feels behind his smiley facade.

Robinson’s songs are masters of happy yet sad sounds. “The Tears of a Clown” is no exception.

“Astronomy Domine” by Pink Floyd

Song Year: 1967

Astronomy (of course) refers to the branch of science that studies the universe and space. Did you know that “Domine” means lord or master in Latin?

Considering the meaning behind the title reveals so much more within the lyrics to this Pink Floyd 60s hit.

“Fist City” by Loretta Lynn

Song Year: 1968

As the title claims, Loretta Lynn is not afraid to throw a punch or two, especially when it comes to warding off other women trying to flirt with her man.

Her fierce and blunt lyricism proves one truth about the 1960s — citizens were more than willing to fight to protect the people and causes they love.

“It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” by Bob Dylan

Song Year: 1965

Probably the most impressive part of this blues song (and what makes it one of the best from the 60s) is Dylan’s tight-knit rhyme scheme throughout his lyrics.

Within the clever rhymes, Bob Dylan packs each verse with poignant imagery, expressing his growing disdain for the increasing hypocrisy of American culture of the time.

“Sister Ray” by The Velvet Underground

Song Year: 1968

The pure chaos that ensues during this over 17-minute long track from The Velvet Underground represents the experimental side of 1960s music.

Some rumors claim that the band recorded this song in one take, and the band chose to leave every mistake. The producer of The Velvet Underground’s was so shocked by this choice that he left in the middle of recording.

“Season of the Witch” by Donovan

Song Year: 1966

Donovan manages to sneak some psychedelic sounds into this beloved song, helping define the groovy music style of the 60s.

“Season of the Witch” remains quite popular today, with features on several film and TV show soundtracks. Even modern musicians like Lana Del Ray produced their own covers.

“Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers

Song Year: 1965

Writers named the song “Unchained Melody” after the relatively unknown prison film Unchained. Todd Duncan originally recorded the song as the film’s theme song.

“Unchained Melody” is one of the most re-recorded songs to date. The Righteous Brothers recorded their version in the mid-1960s and are one of the most popular covers of the tune to date.

“I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5

Song Year: 1969

Like some of the other great Motown 60s songs on this list, The Jackson 5 use a bright, chipper beat to hide more painful lyrics. A man discovers how much he loves a girl too late — after she already has another guy.

“I Want You Back” quickly became a sensation, reaching number one on charts worldwide.

“Walk On By” by Isaac Hayes

Song Year: 1969

“Walk On By” was not meant for Isaac Hayes. A musician named Dionne Warwick originally recorded this song. Eventually, Hayes created the soulful version we know and love today.

What would we have done if Hayes never released his iconic cover?

“Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell

Song Year: 1968

Glen Campbell managed to record a timeless song with “Wichita Lineman.”

As the name alludes, the city of Wichita, Kansas, inspired this song. It is one of three smash hits Campbell wrote about American-midwestern cities.

“Stand by Your Man” by Tammy Wynette

Song Year: 1969

In “Stand by Your Man,” Tammy Wynette calls on her inner strength while staying with her partner through his evident infidelity.

Have you been a fan of this hit song since the 60s, or did you first hear of it when Hillary Clinton mentioned some of the lyrics of this song during one of her husband’s infamous cheating scandals?

“Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash

Song Year: 1963

Another musician originally recorded this song. However, Johnny Cash re-recorded it in 1963. Quickly, it became the biggest hit single in his career.

“Ring of Fire” sat at number one on the charts for seven weeks when it was first released, and it has sold over one million downloads to date.

“Space Oddity” by David Bowie

Song Year: 1969

One unique aspect of Bowie’s “Space Oddity” is that it sets up a storyline that he later expands upon in more songs. Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” and “Hallo Spaceboy” add to this single’s incredible tale.

Other artists even joined in on the storytelling, releasing their own singles based on David Bowie’s song.

“Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” by James Brown

Song Year: 1965

This summertime song features an upbeat, soulful tune different from James Brown’s typical sound of the time.

The singer encourages listeners to add a pep to their step as he sings about classic 60s dance moves like the twist and the mashed potato.

“At Last” by Etta James

Song Year: 1960

Many think the best music from the 1960s is funky rock and roll, but Etta James proves skeptics wrong with “At Last,” a powerful love ballad.

While Etta James released “At Last” in 1960, songwriters wrote the original song almost two decades prior as part of a 40s film soundtrack.

“Fingertips Part 2” by Little Stevie Wonder

Song Year: 1962

At just 12 years old, Stevie Wonder recorded one of the best songs of the 1960s. He became the youngest person in history to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart when the live version of the single rose to number one.

What were you doing at 12 years old?

“The Sounds of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel

Song Year: 1965

Simon and Garfunkel originally recorded “The Sounds of Silence” as a soft, acoustic ballad. Most did not appreciate this version, to put it lightly.

In 1965, Simon and Garfunkel released a new version of the song, becoming an instant hit and charting in multiple countries.

Top 60s Songs, Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed reading (and listening) through our list of the best songs of the 60s.

60s music is characterized by various genres and sounds — jazz, pop, soul, and rock and roll. No matter your taste in music, there are songs on this list you will love to listen to!

Looking for more? Check out our other best music lists on topics like songs about the future or songs about the ocean.

P.S. Remember though, none of what you’ve learned will matter if you don’t know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career’ ebook emailed directly to you!

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