21 Best Songs From 1965

The 1960s were a time rife with change. By 1965 people talked with increasing openness about the need for better civil liberties and environmental awareness.

They were also a time full of experimentation. That got reflected in the decade's music, so when talking about good music from 1965, the selections can be varied and eclectic. Here are some of the best songs from 1965.

1. “Help!” by The Beatles

It’s impossible to talk about good music in 1965 without talking about The Beatles.

The song was one of many successful collaborations between McCartney and Lennon. Talking about the title in an interview, McCartney said it came from how overwhelmed the band felt by their sudden and overwhelming success.

They started music on a lark and wound up the sensation of the decade. It was a lot to process while continuing to produce music, and some of that confusion inspired “Help!”

2. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones

 “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” came from a collaboration between Rolling Stones band members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

The lyrics explore the sexual frustration of the speaker, reflecting the increasingly relaxed attitude of young people in the sixties towards sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

It was an immediate success with the Stones’ contemporaries, but the sexualized content horrified radio stations. Many stations tried to censor the song; Initially, listeners wanting to hear the song had to resort to pirate radio stations.

3. “Downtown” by Petula Clark

Today, most younger listeners recognize Petula Clark’s “Downtown” because it was featured on the hit TV show “Lost.”

But before that, it was one of the best songs of 1965.

Tony Hatch wrote the song after visiting New York City. He gave it to Clark, who recorded and released it in 1964. The combination of its upbeat rhythm, propulsive pacing, and lyrics anyone could pick up ensured it was at the top of the billboard charts by the time 1965 rolled around.

4. “Cryin’ in the Chapel” by Elvis Presley

By the time Elvis Presley recorded “Crying in the Chapel,” several versions existed.

Artie Glenn wrote the song in 1953, and his son, Darrell Glenn made it a hit. Other notable versions included performances by:

  • The Orioles
  •  June Valli

But in 1965, Presley decided he would make his own version.

People loved it. Presley’s rendition outperformed the original Darrell Glenn version. In its heyday, it ranked third on America’s top one hundred charts. In the UK it did even better, reaching number one. Consequently, when talking about good music from 1965, you must mention Presley’s version.

5. “Chi Il Bel Sogno di Doretto” by Leontyne Price

Not all good music from 1965 was doo-wop, folk, or even all that modern.

Classical music was also changing. By 1965, one of its most notable names was African-American soprano Leontyne Price.

Most viewers recognize it as the aria that opens the 1980s adaptation of “A Room With a View.”

Here Price makes it sound like liquid gold as she floats her top notes and imbues the music with a warm, shimmering quality.

6. “My Girl” by The Temptations

Another staple of good music from 1965 is The Temptation’s upbeat “My Girl.”

It stands out as the first Temptations song to feature David Ruffin on vocals. Previously, the band had used Kendricks and Williams on its vocal lines. But the warm and mellow tone produced by Ruffin proved perfect for “My Girl.”

Jaunty and doo-woppish, it was originally intended for The Miracles. When The Temptations got the recording, they were allowed to create their background harmony because their technique was notoriously good.

It was a vote of confidence that paid off when The Temptations made “My Girl” a household hit almost overnight.

7. “Stop! In the Name of Love” by The Supremes

“Stop! In the Name of Love” combines two 1960s staples; Motown and themes of love.

The free love movement had everyone talking and singing about love, so it was the natural subject for this Supremes song.

Also increasingly prevalent was Motown, a type of rhythm and blues music that relaxed singers’ vocal technique and was popular with girl groups and solo artists.

It’s distinctive to pop music because it retains the musical ‘polish’ of more serious musical styles, but without the stress on clarity of sound and diction, you hear in classically-trained singers.

8. “The Name Game” by Shirley Ellis

When talking about good music from 1965, Shirley Ellis’ “The Name Game” is an excellent counterpoint to Motown.

Stylistically, it’s closer to R&B, with its near-speech patterns. But it shares a similar musicality to Motown music.

9. “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds

Another important genre when discussing good music of 1965 is folk. One of the biggest contributors to the American Folk Revival was artist Bob Dylan, who wrote and sang “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

But the version The Byrds recorded in 1965 made it a song for the ages.

Many of the sixties folk songs people remember championed a specific cause. “Tambourine Man” famously breaks from that pattern. Instead, it’s full of surreal imagery that anticipates some of The Beatles' more experimental songs while still being lyrical.

10. “A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane

“A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane

 Another source of evolving but good music from 1965 was jazz.

Tenor saxophonist John Coltrane famously recorded this song in a single session. It’s a jazz suite, so uses classical musical conventions within the bounds of the more musically fluid jazz genre.

Viewed by many as a display of genius, this jazz suite prominently features Coltrane’s artistic talents to explore the power of music.

11. “Do You Believe In Magic” by The Lovin’ Spoonful

As the lyrics of “Do You Believe in Magic” stress, the magic of the title isn’t the spells and chants variety. It’s about our ability to spread happiness.

That ties it in with some of the themes permeating 1960s music.

It was also an immediate success. When The Lovin’ Spoonful released it on an album by the same title, it skyrocketed to number nine on America’s music charts, making it not only one of the best songs of 1965 but one of the top ten.

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