With Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, Sean Connery as James Bond, and Alfred Hitchcock making everyone fear birds, pop culture was colorful in 1963.
Popular music came in a variety of genres. From the reigning favorite surf rock, to mashed-potato style dance hits, and soulful rhythm and blues; the singles charts were full of songs meant to get people moving.
Here is a breakdown of the best songs from 1963 – enjoy!
1. “Surfin' USA” by The Beach Boys
The first song on our list is one of those iconic songs in history that symbolizes an entire culture. “Surfin' USA” was a national phenomenon, though it became synonymous with California's laid-back and sunny energy.
Not many people are savvy of the fact that this American rock classic is a rewrite of a different song: “Sweet Little Sixteen” by one of rock's founding fathers Chuck Berry.
The upbeat hit mentions several surfing locations, including areas in Hawaii, Australia, and of course, California. This song hit the international music charts and gave The Beach Boys a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
2. “The End of the World” by Skeeter Davis
This country song sees many features in the media and is highly recognizable. It was released at the end of 1962 out of Nashville and reached its peak on the music charts in the spring of 1963.
It has an eerily easy-listening vibe for a song about earth-shattering heartbreak. Poetically, the song played at Skeeter Davis' own funeral.
3. “Rhythm of the Rain” by The Cascades
Number three on our list features the male ensemble vocal style popular that year, seen in The Beach Boys' success and others. It had international appeal and made chart appearances in many countries.
Some people refer to this song as a One-Hit Wonder, but it is a wonder indeed.
4. “He's So Fine” by The Chiffons
Males ensembles weren't the only ones charting in 1963. Many golden-oldie playlists feature this doo-wop pop classic by The Chiffons.
Capitol Records famously turned down “He's So Fine” on the grounds of it being too corny. The group's management team tried ten record labels before New York City's Laurie Records bought the single.
It went on to top global music charts and is now one of the most iconic songs in popular soul music history.
5. “Blue Velvet” by Bobby Vinton
This song was originally recorded and brought to fame by Tony Bennett. It has since been recorded by many artists, including Bobby Vinton. His version is the most successful.
A film titled “Blue Velvet” was inspired by the jukebox hit, which itself came from the writer's experience pining after a woman in a blue velvet dress.
6. “Hey Paula” by Paul and Paula
“Hey Paula” is a classic American pop song with all the sappy, schmaltzy sentiment you would expect from a love song of this era.
It made the music charts under the pop and R&B hit categories. It set the stage for the Paul and Paula duo to record more successful love songs.
7. “Fingertips” by Little Stevie Wonder
Number seven on our list is a unique song because it is mostly instrumental.
Stevie Wonder, going by the stage name Little Stevie Wonder at the time, played the harmonica and bongos in a now-famous live performance at Chicago's iconic Regal Theater in 1963.
The recording saw success on the R&B Singles and Pop Singles charts. The vocals are spur-of-the-moment and engage with the audience.
8. “Can't Get Used to Losing You” by Andy Williams
This song plays on the popular ensemble style by stacking the recording artist's vocals. It was massively popular in the UK and the US, topping Easy-Listening music charts.
9. “My Boyfriend's Back” by The Angels
Deemed one of the 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs ever by Billboard, this catchy 1960s anthem never gets old.
It has been covered by too many other recording artists to count. It has been in marketing campaigns, feature films, television series, and a Broadway production.
10. “Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto
This song made its way to American music charts from Japan. Its catchy melody has vast global recognition.
“Sukiyaki” is not the original song title but rather an American nickname given to be more easily said and remembered by English-speaking listeners. Sukiyaki is a traditional Japanese beef dinner, unrelated to the song's romantic and poetic context.
Despite American pop culture's warping of the song, it captured our hearts and our ears.
11. “So Much in Love” by The Tymes, Good Music From 1963
True to early 1960s fashion, this hit features a vocal ensemble. It's a cheerful, melodic tune about a heartfelt summer romance.
“So Much in Love” reached the R&B Singles chart and was the band's first popular single. Other, more recent R&B groups have successfully covered this catchy song.
12. “Puff, the Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul, and Mary
Number twelve on our list is an American folk song based on a poem written by the lyricist's college roommate in 1959. The song has a fairytale-like nature and centers around a young boy's friendship with a magical dragon.
The song had mass appeal. Despite a cultural theory that the lyrics contained multiple drug references, the song's creators refute the idea.