27 Best Songs From 1966

It’s difficult to talk about what constitutes good music in 1966 because it wears many different hats. Some of the best songs of 1966 are pop songs, but others are folk songs, and one or two are even jazzy.

So, what makes for good music in 1966? The sixties was a decade that saw many changes. Oftentimes artists tackled current events in their music, meaning they had extra resonance and longevity. But some are simply love songs, and there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

Let’s have a look at the best songs from 1966.

“California Dreamin’” by The Mamas and the Papas

The couple behind The Mamas and the Papas wrote ‘California Dreamin’ during an abnormally cold New York winter. Michelle Phillips was homesick for California, and John Phillips spent his days composing melodies.

It was the perfect storm for creating one of the best songs of 1966.

 “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys

You can’t discuss good music from 1966 without mentioning The Beach Boys.

The band had multiple hits that year, but ‘Good Vibrations’ is one of the best-known. Much of that has to do with its catchy melody.

But “Good Vibrations” also has the distinction of featuring on the television show Lost, where the chorus played a vital part in one of the season finales.

“Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones is another cornerstone of good music from 1966. Like many notable artists of the time, they had several hits that year, but one of the highest-scoring on the music charts was “Paint It Black.” 

“Paint It Black” is distinctive for its eclectic instrumentalization. Attentive listeners will hear:

  • Sitar
  •  Harmond Organ
  •  Castanets

Unsurprisingly, the song’s origins come from one of the band members improvising wildly on the sitar. Everyone contributed a phrase or a melodic line, and the result was an unlikely rock ‘n roll success.

“I Am A Rock” by Simon and Garfunkel

“I Am A Rock” is another of the best songs from 1966. Written by folk-rock duo Simon and Garfunkel, it’s gentler listening than some of the other songs on this list.

At the song’s heart is a reworking of a famous line by John Donne. But whereas Donne rejects the idea that we can thrive without human connection, Simon and Garfunkel’s speaker says otherwise.

It’s a melancholy song because it turns out Donne knew best. To become an island is to be alone, isolated, and unhappy.

 “Turn, Turn, Turn” by Pete Seeger and Judy Collins

Folk music played a vital part in determining the sound of good music in 1966. The sixties were a time of change, and many musicians used their music to champion causes like

  • Civil Rights
  • Environmental preservation
  •  Ending the Vietnam War

This last underpins Pete Seeger’s composition “Turn, Turn, Turn.” This anthem for peace takes The Book of Ecclesiastes as its text. It promises there will be a time for peace, and from the first, it was an audience favorite.

In 1966, Seeger collaborated with Judy Collins on a version of the song that became one of the year’s biggest successes.

“Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles

“Eleanor Rigby” often gets described as a collaboration between Lennon and McCartney, but most of the compositional heavy lifting was done by McCartney.

It marks the beginning of the Beatles' transition from catchy, upbeat pop music to more experimental pieces.

Bizarrely, it initially appeared as the A-Side to “Yellow Submarine.” With its narrative of loneliness and desolation, it's hard to think of anything more antithetical to Star’s jaunty melody about a bright yellow boat.

 “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?” by Jimmy Ruffin 

Another part of good music in 1966 was Mowtown. “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?” as sung by Ruffin is an excellent example.

Ruffin was the older brother to the vocal lead of the equally popular sixties group, The Temptations. In “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?” he explores the pain and grief of lost love through the musical combination of Mowtown and ballad singing.

“Last Train to Clarksville” by The Monkees

 Monkees members Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wrote “Last Train to Clarksville” in July 1966. A month later, it was one of the best songs of 1966.

It was The Monkees’ debut song, and to ensure its success, it played with the musical conventions that made The Beatles so popular.

But it had serious undertones. The speaker urging his sweetheart to meet him at the train station, perhaps for the last time, is thought by many to be heading off to the Vietnam War.

 “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes

 Another example of Mowtown’s contribution to the best songs of 1966 is “You Can’t Hurry Love.”

Sung by The Supremes, the song recalls a mother’s advice to her daughter about the nature of love and romance. Weighty themes anywhere else, but here they’re made fun and catchy. It was The Supremes’ seventh hit and was popular in North America and Britain.

“Monday, Monday” by The Mamas and the Papas

1966 was a good year for The Mamas and the Papas. Another of the best songs of 1966 is their piece, “Monday, Monday.”

Composer John Phillips wanted a song with universal appeal, and when the rest of the band heard the lyrics, they were unconvinced. Listeners everywhere were. As it turned out, few things were as universal as the flat feeling that came with restarting the work week.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *