Good Music From 1967; 27 Of The Best Songs
The late ’60s is one of the most diverse and sonically interesting periods in popular music we have ever seen. Rock and roll has taken a psychedelic bend, and soul music is at the top of its game.
Join us as we look at good music from 1967 and determine the best songs of the year.
1. “A Day in the Life” by The Beatles
It’s hard to imagine any artist taking the top spot that is not the Beatles. The lads from Liverpool were at the peak of their career in 1967 with two outstanding albums.
A Day in the Life is the album closer to the group’s seminal Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The song begins simply enough, taking you on a journey through the day in someone’s life. The song builds and adds more psychedelic elements to create something unreal. “A Day in the Life” is not only the pinnacle of good music from 1967 but one of the best Beatles recordings.
2. “Respect” by Aretha Franklin
Few songs have survived from 1967 as well as “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. No matter your age, you have likely heard this track before. The catchy hook and powerful singing from Franklin have allowed it to live on into the modern era. Otis Redding wrote the original version of the song, but music fans best remember this version.
Franklin sings about gender roles, and feminists have seen the track as an anthem of female empowerment. The soul singer won two Grammy Awards for “Respect.”
3. “Light My Fire” by The Doors
The Doors had a short career but left a big impact on the world of rock and its fans. “Light My Fire” was part of the group’s debut album and became a breakthrough hit. Today, many fans hold “Light My Fire” as the best song in The Doors discography.
The song was seen as raunchy in the 1960s, as the lyrics were erotic. While the sexually-charged lyrics may have offended some, they resonated with some fans and gave the band a spot in the psychedelic rock genre.
4. “Daydream Believer” by The Monkees
The Monkees have taken some flack since the 1960s for being too commercial and not as authentic as its peers. This is an unfair characterization of the band, and songs like “Daydream Believer” prove it.
“Daydream Believer” is a song about growing up in the suburbs. The song details someone who sits around all day daydreaming rather than taking an active role in life. The song was incredibly popular at the time and remains one of the most loved Monkees songs.
5. “Somebody To Love” by Jefferson Airplane
You cannot talk about 60s psychedelic rock without discussing Jefferson Airplane. The band is synonymous with the movement, and “Somebody To Love” remains one of the enduring hits of the decade.
The song is lyrically simple, depicting somebody hoping for a monogamous and lasting relationship. Songwriter Darby Slick saw the free love movement as being dangerous to romance and opined for a simpler type of relationship. He wrote the song after a breakup, adding to the loneliness of the track.
6. “Soul Man” by Sam & Dave
Sam & Dave had one of the biggest hits of the year with “Soul Man,” and no list of good music from 1967 is complete without it. Isaac Hayes, who later had a recurring role in South Park, wrote “Soul Man” to work through his feelings on the Civil Rights Movement and the turmoil that occurred during the decade.
Since its release, several artists have covered “Soul Man.” The most famous cover of the song comes from the film, The Blues Brothers.
7. “Sunshine Of Your Love” by Cream
While many bands were experimenting with lush productions, Cream took its sound in a different direction with “Sunshine of Your Love.” Though the song takes inspiration from the psychedelic movement of the era, it has elements of hard rock. In many ways, “Sunshine of Your Love” is a precursor for the music of the next era.
The song is a simple love song, and the members of Cream had difficulties coming up with lyrics. The music came first, but finding lyrics to fit the riffs proved challenging for the band.
8. “Nights In White Satin” by Moody Blues
The Moody Blues had one of the biggest hits of its career in 1967 with “Nights in White Satin.” The song has a distinct sound, giving it both a progressive rock and soft rock bend at the same time. Many prog rockers of the 1970s cite “Nights in White Satin” as an inspiration for their sound and style.
The song is a story of unrequited love that the singer goes through. They yearn to be with someone who means a lot to them, but it is not meant to be.
9. “Purple Haze” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Few artists embodied the wild spirit of the decade quite like Jimi Hendrix. His guitar playing and tuning are unlike anything ever seen before or after, and it is no wonder that “Purple Haze” is one of the best songs of 1967.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded “Purple Haze” together and it has endured as one of the signature songs of the band. The lyrics are open for interpretation, with many fans insisting the song is about drugs. Hendrix denied those claims and said he felt it was a love song.
10. “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum
“A Whiter Shade of Pale” remains one of the most successful singles in history, and it is the signature song of Procol Harum. The song was an inspiration to many artists, and it is an inspiration for many prog rock bands that came after Procol Harum’s hay day.
Fans have spilled plenty of ink debating the meaning of the lyrics, though lyricist Keith Reid said the song was always supposed to be straightforward. Reid got the idea for the song while at a party, and he said the song is a simple story of love between two people.
11. “Hello, Goodbye” by The Beatles
Honestly, we could fill half this list with Beatles songs from 1967. Still, “Hello, Goodbye” from “Magical Mystery Tour” is a standout in the band’s catalog that year. The song has simplistic lyrics, but the lush production makes it a classic.
Paul McCartney said he sat down to write it with an aide for the band. He said words and asked her to say the opposite. This process became the backbone of the track. The band released it as the a-side of a single with “I Am the Walrus,” much to the chagrin of John Lennon.
12. “All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan
“All Along the Watchtower” is not a song many music critics associate with Bob Dylan. Jimi Hendrix’s cover the following year is typically held up by fans as the superior version. However, despite all of those caveats, the Bob Dylan version is remarkable in its own right.
Dylan sings about a joker and thief as they head toward the titular watchtower. Critics have endlessly debated about the deeper meaning of the song, including justice or the Bible. No matter your interpretation, this song remains one of Dylan’s best.
13. “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison
Rock and roll was more diverse than just psychedelic music in the 1960s, and Van Morrison showcased that with his hit single “Brown Eyed Girl.” The song is a straightforward pop and soft rock track, but every element is handled exceptionally well. It was a smash hit at the time and remains the signature track of the singer-songwriter.
“Brown Eyed Girl” is a simple song about looking back on a former romance. The lyrics were controversial at the time, with some radio stations censoring the lyrics or refusing to play the song.
14. “Heroes and Villains” by The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys took pop music to a new peak in 1966 with the album “Pet Sounds.” 1967 was a tumultuous year for the group. Frontman Brian Wilson attempted to complete his opus, “Smile,” but various factors led to the project being scrapped and him taking a back seat in the band.
The Beach Boys released “Smiley Smile” using material they recorded during the year, and it featured one of the group’s best songs “Heroes and Villains.” Wilson saw the song as a parody of western films. He wanted the song to surpass any of his other recordings, and while it didn’t, it is still an incredible testament to the band’s brilliance.
15. “I Can See For Miles” by The Who
The Who were part of the British Invasion. While the group did not reach the same heights as the Beatles or Rolling Stones, it still managed to churn out several successful tunes. “I Can See For Miles” was one of the biggest songs for the band, and it remains a staple in the greatest hits collections.
Paul McCartney used the song for inspiration when he wrote “Helter Skelter.” He wanted to write a song that was heavier than “I Can See For Miles.”
16. “My Back Pages” by The Byrds
While it is not the Byrds' signature song, nor is it one they wrote, “My Back Pages” is still one of the best songs of 1967. The Byrds bring its trademark jangly guitar riffs to the song that give it an interesting sound.
Bob Dylan originally wrote “My Back Pages” in 1964. He wrote the song to work through his changing feelings with the folk protest movement and folk protest songs of the decade. He seems to have fallen out of love with the movement and is looking for something new.
17. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell made “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” into a pop staple with their version of the track in 1967. The song embodies the typical soul sound that fans associate with Gaye, and it remains a staple song in both artists' catalogs.
Numerous artists have turned out their rendition of the tune, including, most famously, Diana Ross in 1970.
18. “Somethin’ Stupid” by Frank and Nancy Sinatra
Crooners like Frank Sinatra were largely an anachronism by 1967. Nobody told the Sinatras though, as they turned out a performance of “Somethin’ Stupid” that lives on today. The duet proves that there was still a place for classic crooners in the new age of psychedelic rock.
“Somethin’ Stupid” is a cute love song that tells the story of the early part of a relationship. The singer accidently says they love their partner and worries that it may be too early or have ruined the evening.
19. “I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James
Etta James put her spin on “I’d Rather Go Blind” in 1967. Ellington Jordan originally wrote the song, but James was the first person to record and release a version of the track. Since its release, “I’d Rather Go Blind” has become a staple of soul music.
James first heard of the song while visiting Jordan in jail where he showed her the skeleton for the track. She got to work making her version soon after.
20. “Ruby Tuesday” by The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones were beginning to pick up momentum in 1967, and “Ruby Tuesday” helped the band continue its push into the mainstream. The song is more straightforward and smoother than many later songs by the group, but it stands up to the rest of the band’s discography.
Keith Richards claimed writing credit for the song and said it was about his girlfriend Linda Keith. “Ruby Tuesday” also inspired the name of the popular restaurant chain.
21. “Heroin” by The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground was at the cutting edge of music in 1967. Teaming up with Andy Warhol, the group created one of the first punk recordings of all time and laid the foundation of the burgeoning punk movement in the United States.
“Heroin” was controversial at the time, to say the least. The song, written by Lou Reed, depicts a person using and abusing heroin. The song does not outright condemn heroin use, adding to its controversial nature.
22. “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks
The Kinks hoped to get in on the action of the British Invasion with “Waterloo Sunset,” but the song was a flop in the United States. It charted in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, but did not even crack the top 100 in America.
Regardless of its failure to chart in America, “Waterloo Sunset” is still one of the band’s best songs. The singer describes watching a couple walking across a bridge in Waterloo and considering the world around them.
23. “Dance to the Music” by Sly & the Family Stone
Sly and the Family Stone did not originally want to take a pop sound when making “Dance to the Music.” After much insistence from executives and producers, the group acquiesced and created a psychedelic soul sound for the track.
“Dance to the Music” is the perfect song for a party. The beat is funky and perfect for dancing to, as the name of the song implies.
24. “Happy Together” by The Turtles
After writing the lyrics to “Happy Together,” Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon searched for a band to record it. Several bands turned down the offer until the Turtles took a crack at a recording. It was a lucky break for the band, as the song became a smash hit and put it on the map.
The song is simple, but the production gives it a psychedelic bend. The lyrics contain a straightforward love song, while the heavy production adds layers to the track.
25. “A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin was busy in 1967, and “A Natural Woman” was another classic she turned out during the year. Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote the song for Franklin to contrast the idea of a natural man, or perhaps find companionship for him.
The song was not a smash hit for Franklin, but it did remain a signature song for her up until her death.
26. “All You Need is Love” by The Beatles
John Lennon wrote one of his best songs with “All You Need is Love.” Lennon saw it as an anthem for the Summer of Love, and the ideas present in that movement. The song moves the band past rock and roll, with an orchestra playing and heavy sampling.
The song begins with a refrain from “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem. It also borrows from an older Beatles song, “She Loves You.”
27. “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson
Jackie Wilson turned out one of the best soul and R&B hits of the year with his recording of “Higher and Higher.” Gary Jackson, Raynard Miner, and Carl Smith originally recorded the song, but Wilson made it his thanks to a spirited performance.
The song is a typical Motown soul recording dealing with love. While it may lack points for originality, it does all the little things well.
Good Music From 1967, Final Thoughts
There was so much good music from 1967 it was hard to narrow the list so much. What do you think some of the best songs of 1967 are? Did we miss your favorite? Let us know!
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