Many people believe that the 60s have changed the music world forever, creating songs that will live forever.
From The Rolling Stones to The Beatles to Led Zeppelin, here are the best 60s songs.
1. “Come Together” – The Beatles
This classic hit from the English rock band The Beatles is one of the most popular songs of the 1960s.
Written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon-McCartney, ‘Come Together’ appears on their 1967 album ‘Abbey Road’.
The song, which hit number 1 in the USA, was inspired by a request from Timothy Leary to write a song for his campaign for governor of California against Ronald Reagan, which quickly ended when Leary was sent to prison.
2. “God Only Knows” – The Beach Boys
“God Only Knows” is a song by the Beach Boys from their 1966 album Pet Sounds.
It is a Baroque-style love song distinguished for its subversion of typical pop music formula.
It is often praised as one of the greatest songs ever written and as the Beach Boys’ finest record.
3. “Good Vibrations” – The Beach Boys
This successful hit by the American rock band The Beach Boys topped charts in several countries including the UK and the US, making it one of the most popular songs in the 1960s.
Released in 1967, ‘Good Vibrations’ was the most expensive of all 60s songs ever recorded.
Over 90 hours of tape was consumed in the recording sessions, with the total cost of production estimated to be tens of thousands of dollars.
4. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” – Aretha Franklin
This song by American soul singer Aretha Franklin is truly one of the greatest hits of the 1960s, reaching number 8 on the Billboard top 100.
The 60s hit only made history in the UK singles chart a week after her death, finally becoming a hit almost 51 years after it was first released.
5. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” – The Rolling Stones
Coming from a partnership between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, this popular song of the 1960s features a riff by Richards.
The riff by Richards is widely considered one of the greatest hooks of all time.
The song lyrics refer to sexual frustration and commercialism and, in the UK, the song initially was played only on pirate radio stations because the lyrics were considered too sexually suggestive.
6. “Like A Rolling Stone” – Bob Dylan
Critics have described this hit of the 60s as revolutionary in its combination of musical elements and the youthful and cynical sound of Dylan’s voice.
It completed the transformation of Dylan’s image from folk singer to rock star and is considered one of the most influential compositions in pop music.
According to the review aggregator Acclaimed Music, ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ is statistically the most acclaimed song of all time, making it one of the best songs of the 60s.
7. “Be My Baby” – The Ronettes
‘Be My Baby’ is a song by the American girl group The Ronettes that was released in August 1963.
The song was the Ronettes’ biggest hit, reaching number 2 in the US.
It is often ranked among the best songs of the 1960s and it is regarded by many as the greatest pop record of all time.
8. “My Generation” – The Who
The 60s hit by the rock band The Who quickly became one of their most recognizable songs.
‘My Generation’ was named the 11th greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone.
It became part of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and is even inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic and significant” value.
9. “Eternal Flame” – Bangles
This sensitive song was inspired by two eternal flames that meant a lot to writer Billy Steinberg.
The first was at the gravesite of the late Elvis Presley, and the other at a synagogue in Palm Springs.
The powerful meaning was captured in this song and definitely made it the success it is today.
10. “Dancing in the Street” – Martha and the Vandellas
‘Dancing in the Street’ was written by Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter, and Marvin Gaye.
The song highlighted the concept of having a good time in whatever city the listener lived in and was inspired when Stevenson saw people cooling off in Detroit, as they appeared to be dancing.
11. “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” – Marvin Gaye
The 60s hit by Gaye has become an acclaimed soul classic and is still relevant today.
In 1998 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic and significant” value.
In 2004, it was placed 80 on the Rolling Stone list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time then re-ranked at 81 in 2010, proving its success.
12. “Georgia On My Mind” – Ray Charles
“Georgia on My Mind” is a 1930 song first recorded by Hoagy Carmichael.
However, the 60s hit has been most often associated with soul singer Ray Charles, who recorded it for his 1960 album The Genius Hits the Road.
13. “Sweet Caroline” – Neil Diamond
In a 2007 interview, Diamond stated the inspiration for his song was John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline.
He even sang the song for her at her 50th birthday celebration in 2007!
Cash Box called the song “sensational,” highlighting the fact that Diamond’s “material and production sound takes on a completely different dimension in this love ballad’.
It’s no wonder that ‘Sweet Caroline’ is still so successful and relevant today!
14. “Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
This 60s hit by the American rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival soon became an anti-war movement anthem and a symbol of solidarity with the soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War.
The song has been featured extensively in pop culture depictions of the anti-war movement and, therefore, continues to remain relevant today.
15. “River Deep Mountain High” – Ike & Tina Turner
This hit of the 60s was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, however, it didn’t perform well when it was initially released in 1966.
It was, however, successful in Europe.
Spector (the writer and producer) claimed to be pleased with the response from the critics and his peers, but he then withdrew from the music industry for two years, beginning his personal decline.
16. “I’m Still In Love With You” – Alton Ellis
Both when it was released in 1967 and in recent times, this song has had an enormous impact on the evolution of reggae.
‘I’m Still In Love With You’ has been covered many times, including by artist Sean Paul, carrying the song into the modern day.
17. “My Way” – Frank Sinatra
‘My Way’ is a hit popularized in 1969 by Frank Sinatra set to the music of the French song “Comme d’habitude” first performed in 1967 by Claude François.
Its English lyrics were written by Paul Anka and are unrelated to the original French song.
The song was a success for a variety of performers including Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Sid Vicious.
Sinatra’s version of the popular song of the 60s spent 75 weeks in the UK Top 40, which is 2nd place all-time.
18. “You Can’t Hurry Love” – The Supremes
This famous 1960s song, recorded by The Supremes on the Motown label, topped the US Billboard pop singles chart, made the UK top five, and made the top 10 in the Australian Singles Chart.
It was released in 1966 but, sixteen years later, it would become a number-one hit in the UK when Phil Collins re-recorded the song.
19. “I Like It Like That” – Pete Rodriguez
‘I Like It Like That’ was initially a hit for boogaloo musician Pete Rodriguez in ‘67 and was one of the most influential boogaloo songs of the era.
The song mixed together a number of styles, famous for its blend of English lyrics, samba rhythms, and Cuban melodies.
20. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” – Frankie Valli
The song, recorded as a single in 1967, was among Valli’s biggest hits.
It earnt a gold record, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a week.
The song is a staple of television and film soundtracks, even being featured as part of the plot of some films.
21. “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” – Nancy Sinatra
The popular 60s song “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” became an instant success and, in 1966, it topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
It replicated this move in similar charts across the world, becoming a huge success for Nancy Sinatra, with Cash Box describing it as a “funky, slow-shufflin’ folk-rocker about a gal who serves notice on her boyfriend that she can’t be pushed around.”
22. “I Want U Back” – The Jackson Five
‘I Want You Back’ is the first national single by the Jackson 5, and is one of the most famous songs of the 1960s.
It went to number one on the Soul singles chart for four weeks and held the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for a week in 1970.
23. “California Dreamin’” – The Mamas and the Papas
The lyrics of this hit express the narrator’s longing for the warmth of Los Angeles during a cold winter in New York City.
Originally sung by Barry McGuire (in which The Mamas and the Papas sang backup), they later released their own version as a single in 1965.
24. “Light My Fire” – The Doors
‘Light My Fire’ originated in early 1966 as a composition by Robby Krieger, who said that he was inspired by the melody of “Hey Joe” and the lyrics of the Rolling Stones’ “Play with Fire”.
On taking his initial composition to the rock band, John Densmore suggested that it should have more of a Latin rhythm,
Thus, a great 60s hit was born!
25. “Walk On By” – Isaac Hayes
The Song, originally sung by Dionne Warwick in 1963, reached 30 on the hot 100 charts when Funk/soul musician Isaac Hayes released a cover version in 1969 and transformed the song into a twelve-minute funk vamp.
Hayes’ version was also featured in the film Dead Presidents.
26. “Sunshine of Your Love” – Cream
With elements of hard rock, psychedelia, and pop, this alternative single is one of Cream’s best-known and most popular hits of the 60s.
Several rock journals have placed ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ on their greatest song lists, such as Rolling Stone, Q magazine, and VH1.
27. “Israelites” – Desmond Dekker & The Aces
Sung in Jamaican English and written by Dekker for his group, some of the song’s lyrics were not readily understood by many British and American listeners.
Despite this, the single was the first UK reggae #1 and among the first to reach the US top ten.
It has been described as a “timeless masterpiece that knew no boundaries”.
28. “Stand By Your Man” – Tammy Wynette
“Stand By Your Man” was the most successful record of Wynette’s career, and is one of the most familiar songs in the history of country music.
It was popularized due to the uprising of the feminist movement in the 1960s and was ultimately one of the most important 60s songs.
29. “Leader of the Pack” – The Shangri-Las
This song, by the American girl group The Shangri-Las, has been described as a “teenage tragedy song”.
It is one of the group’s most well-known songs and became a popular cultural hit.
The writer, Morton, said he “got a bottle of champagne, two cigars” and “went into the shower, sat down, drank the champagne, smoked the cigars, and wrote the song on a shirt cardboard with my kid’s crayons.”
30. “Tossin’ and Turnin’” – Bobby Lewis
This 60s hit by Bobby Lewis dominated the Hot 100 for seven weeks after it was released in 1961.
Many would call Lewis a one-hit wonder if it wasn’t for his next hit “One Track Mind”.
31. “It’s Now or Never” – Elvis Presley
This song is one of the best-selling singles of all time, selling 20 million copies for Presley!
It was Elvis’ biggest international single ever, spending weeks at number one in both the US and the UK.
The inspiration for the hit came from his time in the army, as he heard the tune and melody when stationed in Germany.
32. “Sherry” – The Four Seasons
According to the writer, Bob Gaudio, this great hit of the 60s only took 15 minutes to write and was initially named “Jackie Baby”, in honor of the first lady at the time.
In a 1968 interview, Gaudio revealed that the inspiration for the song was the ‘61 Bruce Channel hit “Hey! Baby”.
33. “People Got To Be Free” – The Rascals
Released at the end of the turbulent summer of 1968, this song was light at the end of the tunnel for people in the 60s.
“People Got to Be Free” was initially perceived by some as related to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and of Robert F. Kennedy earlier that year, it was recorded before the latter’s death.
According to The Rascals, it was partly a reaction to an encounter wherein the long-haired group was threatened by a group of rednecks after their tour vehicle broke down in Florida.
34. “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” – Four Tops
“I Can’t Help Myself” is one of the most well-known Motown hits of the 60s and is among the decade’s biggest hits.
Billboard described the song as a “spirited, fast-paced wailer performed in [the Four Tops’] unique style.”
35. “Honky Tonk Women” – The Rolling Stones
The song was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards while on holiday in Brazil from late 1968 to early 1969, taking inspiration from Brazilian “caipiras” (inhabitants of rural areas of parts of Brazil).
A “honky tonk woman” refers to a dancing lady in a western bar, making this a popular cultural hit.
36. “I Get Around” – The Beach Boys
Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, the lyrics to this 60s hit describe the group’s reaction to their newfound fame and success.
“I Get Around” represented both a response to the British Invasion and the beginning of an unofficial rivalry between Wilson and the Beatles.
37. “The Loco-Motion” – Little Eva
This classic song is an enduring example of the dance-song genre, being only the second song ever to reach number 1 by two different musical acts.
King stated in her “One to One” concert video that, when the song became a smash hit, Eva Boyd ended up having to create a dance to go along with the song.
Thus, a classic was born!
38. “Help” – The Beatles
“Help!” served as the title song for the 1965 film and its soundtrack album.
It was released as a single and quickly became number one, staying in the top spot for three weeks in the US and the UK.
The 60s hit was credited to Lennon–McCartney and, during an interview with Playboy in 1980, Lennon recounted: “The whole Beatles thing was just beyond comprehension. I was subconsciously crying out for help”.
39. “The Twist” – Chubby Checker
This Chubby Checker hit was inspired by the twist dance craze of the 60s, making it a huge success.
The song reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960, where it stayed for one week.
It later set a record at the time as the only song to reach number 1 in two different hit parade runs when it topped the charts again for two weeks in 1962.
40. “I Got You (I Feel Good)” – James Brown
First recorded for the album ‘Out Of Sight’ and then released as a single in 1965, this 60s hit was Brown’s highest-charting song and is arguably his best-known recording.
The lyrics have James Brown reveling in how good he feels, now that he has the one he loves.
41. “Folsom Prison Blues” – Johnny Cash
This 60s hit combines elements from two folk styles, the train song, and the prison song, both of which Cash used for the rest of his career.
Cash performed the song live to a crowd of inmates at Folsom State Prison in 1968 for his live album ‘At Folsom Prison’.
42. “Dazed and Confused” – Led Zeppelin
When the Yardbirds disbanded in 1968, Led Zeppelin decided to record the song.
It only took two takes!
Other than the lyrics and vocals, the song remained very similar to that performed by the Yardbirds earlier that year.
43. “Gimme Shelter” – The Rolling Stones
Released as the opening track from The Rolling Stone’s 1969 album ‘Let it Bleed’, the song covers topics of war, murder, rape, and fear.
The heavy topics make it one of the most important hits of the 60s.
It features guest vocals by American singer Merry Clayton.
44. “Think” – Aretha Franklin
The 60s hit, written by Franklin and her then-husband Ted White, was incredibly successful.
“Think” reached number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming her seventh top 10 hit in the US.
It also reached number 1 on the magazine’s Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles, Aretha Franklin’s sixth single to top the chart.
45. “I Wanna Be Your Dog” – The Stooges
“I Wanna Be Your Dog” was released as the group’s debut single from the band’s ‘69 debut album.
The well-loved 60s song is part of the soundtrack of numerous films, such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), Friday Night Lights (2004), How I Met Your Mother (S2E16 “Stuff”, 2007), and many more.
46. “Then He Kissed Me” – The Crystals
These sweet lyrics are a narrative of a young woman’s romantic encounter and eventual engagement with a young man.
The Crystals’ ode to monogamy gave comfort to indie pop bands who longed for a time when music wasn’t so sexual, making this an important 60s song.
47. “At Last” – Etta James
Etta James’ rendition of ‘At Last’ was the title track on her 1960 debut album At Last! and was eventually inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
Most recently, Celine Dion and Beyoncé have also had chart successes with the song, proving that this great 60s hit has stayed relevant through the years.
48. “I’m Waiting for the Man” – The Velvet Underground
The lyrics of this 60s hit describe a man’s efforts to obtain heroin in Harlem.
In various reviews, it is described as “tough garage rock”, “proto-punk classic”, and “one of the all-time classic rock songs.
It has renditions by a number of artists, including David Bowie and the Stooges.
49. “Waterloo Sunset” – The Kinks
“Waterloo Sunset” was The Kinks’ first single that was available in true stereo.
The track reached number 2 on the British charts in 1967 and was a top 10 hit in Australia, New Zealand, and most of Europe.
The 60s hit was rumored to have been inspired by the romance between two British celebrities, actors Terence Stamp and Julie Christie, stars of the movie Far from the Madding Crowd.
50. “These Days” – Nico
It may come as a surprise that Browne wrote this popular 60s song at age 16.
Its lyrics deal with loss and regret, and its closing lyrics are thought by many to be an acknowledgment of the chanteuse’s intense heroin addiction: “Please don’t confront me with my failures/I had not forgotten them.”
Best 60s Songs – Final Thoughts
The 60s are thought by many to be the decade that music came to life, and this list of the best songs of the 60s supports that.
Take another read when you need the soulful melodies of the Supremes, the rock anthems of the Beatles, or the heavy psychedelics of the Stooges.