The 1960s were the most important decade in terms of cinema and music. Thanks to both, we can at least see the reflection of a changing society and what the 1960s music was like. In this sense, it is also worth noting the progression. From the beginning of the decade, after the popular and bustling ’50s, up to the last year, when Woodstock happened, and hippies were everything.
In this case, we start with the basics: the year 1960 was in cinema the year of The Apartment, Le Trou, Psycho, or Spartacus. It’s the year of La dolce vita, of Ozu and Naruse. The year 1960 is the year of À bout de souffle and Ingmar Bergman and Jungfrukällan (The Virgin Spring). But what was the music of the ’60s like, both internationally and nationally?
Just as we did with the music of the ’50s, in this decade we will prioritize various varieties of artists and 1960s music groups. Therefore, also due to the number of songs chosen, there is a limitation when offering you the songs. Here, for example, you will only find 10 of the best songs of the ’60s, but we follow up with a Spotify playlist that includes 750 tracks in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, or Italian.
The best 60s songs. International and national hits
Although in reality, the correct thing to say is Anglo-Saxon music of the ’60s and Romance languages, we will not be the ones to be demanding about this definition. Naturally, this means that, as you will see, this list of songs has 500 songs of the ’60s in English, but also includes even more 1960s music in Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian (in this case including 250 tracks). This happens because the blog is Spanish, but what is important goes beyond the lyrics and also includes many other successful languages during this period, such as French or Italian. Moreover, even there, you will also read how we correct ourselves as much as now asking for forgiveness. Because, effectively, not all will be in Spanish (although the vast majority are), nor Portuguese: they will be in Romance languages.
Time passes relentlessly, but in this case, it happened vertiginously. The change of the decade (from the ’50s to the ’60s) was very special for all music lovers. The arrival of a new rock feeling, an evolution of that born years before (such as in blues), was already at the door; but even so, it is very significant to us, seen today. It was like going from 10 km/h to 200 in one second. Perhaps it was due to the widespread use of drugs, the hippie sensation of freedom, and the world in which everyone lived, due to Vietnam. Who knows why, but there it was: the musical revolution in the world with the best of 60s music.
To get to know all the songs, visit the first playlist of the decade, and follow here to read about the most notable songs of the ’60s that we have available in each of our lists. Although if you prefer to browse other years, in our menu we leave the independent link for each one.
Ray Charles – Hit The Road, Jack (1960)
One of those inimitable artists, capable of everything, like becoming a musical legend. This song is one of the most famous of the great Ray Charles, the genius singer, and songwriter. It needs no introduction, as it is one of the most famous Rhythm & Blues songs of the ’60s.
Chubby Checker – Let’s Twist Again (1961)
The memory I have of this song comes from the year 1989, when Jive Bunny And The Mastermixers did Swing The Moodmas, where you hear Let’s Twist Again in a remixed version that whistled for months and months on the radios. Perhaps that’s why this original version is less unbearable for those who suffer from it in the variant for discos at weddings. Some years later Mambo No. 5 would come, and many perceptions of this style disappeared.
The twist did not go down in history as a genre or as a dance. A shame, because many herniated discs would now be inoperable, for sure. However, Chubby Checker was able to take advantage of this moment to triumph and become a kind of immortal.
Ben E. King – Stand By Me (1962)
Stand By Me, the film starring young actors like Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, or Kiefer Sutherland, revitalized the success of one of those immortal songs by Ben E. King (which even led to the making of a new music video, if memory serves). We’re talking about the year 1986, quite some time ago, but of course, even further back from the original date.
Jorge Ben – Rosa, Menina Rosa (1963)
And here is an example of Brazilian 1960s music, hailing from Brazil. What musical genre are we talking about then? It’s obvious. Perhaps you feel like dancing and not reading, so we’ll leave a moment for you to listen to Rosa, Menina Rosa, by Jorge Ben Jor, a single that’s part of the album Samba Esquema Novo. Bossa Nova always in our hearts.
In Spain, in Spanish; in France, in French. Maybe there’s also a version of Que C’Est Triste Venise in Portuguese or English, but I don’t know it? His work was translated and performed (by himself) in dozens of languages, and even at the end of his life, in his concerts, he used to alternate between his language and the local language where he was, despite not exactly remembering which language, given his advanced age (which did not prevent him from continuing on stage and even releasing new albums). Representing until the end, as both an actor and a singer, an artist who, for many, no longer exists.
The Animals – Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (1965)
How can there be so much good music in a single decade? It’s spectacular. We keep playing, and each new song seems better than the previous one. If you were to make an album with just what’s heard in the first five years, you would have an album you’d never tire of listening to.
We refer now to The Animals this time, specifically to their version of Nina Simone’s song published a year earlier. Because even though it’s a cover, you can listen to both songs back-to-back and feel entirely different emotions. And even knowing and associating that they are the same song, between them exist the typical differences of strong personalities.
The Animals were one of the reference English R&B groups during the ’60s, and their influence isn’t due only to this track. The House Of The Rising Sun is also nothing to scoff at.
Los Bravos – Black Is Black (1966)
Who isn’t familiar with the well-known sound of Los Bravos? Black Is Black was the first Spanish rock song to cross the borders of the Iberian Peninsula.
It reached number two on the UK music charts, number four on the Billboard Hot 100, and number one on the Canadian Singles Chart itself.
Besides, Black Is Black has had numerous versions, among which stand out those by Johnny Hallyday, La Belle Epoque, Rick Springfield, or La Unión.
Leonard Cohen – Suzanne (1967)
Here’s the most recognized Canadian singer and songwriter in music. His way of dressing, his way of performing, along with his voice, humor, and lyrics, made him unique. We recommend that you listen to Suzanne, and if you like it and are not familiar with it, delve into the complete album (called Songs Of Leonard Cohen) and follow him throughout his career.
Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World (1968)
The release of What A Wonderful World marked both the return and farewell of Louis Armstrong. We talked a lot about him when discussing the music of the ’40s, with significant classics that have endured, but this last one is surely the most remembered of his discography, along with Hello, Dolly! and his collaborations with Ella Fitzgerald.
I don’t know if you’ve had the opportunity to see him in motion beyond his performances. There’s a video on the internet from an old American TV show where anonymous people had to guess who a person was by asking the host questions. Well, it’s quite enjoyable to watch Louis Armstrong on What’s My Line?
The Beatles – Come Together (1969)
Come Together is a Beatles song, mainly written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon and McCartney. The song is the opening track on the Abbey Road album (1969) and was also released as a single alongside Something. The song reached number 1 in the US and number 4 in the UK.
Come Together started as Lennon’s attempt to write a song for Timothy Leary when campaigning against Ronald Reagan to become the governor of California, which quickly ended when Leary was arrested for marijuana possession. What’s a bit strange about this song is that George Harrison wrote two lines of the lyrics, but he didn’t receive credit for it.
(Madrid, 1987) Novelist by vocation, SEO specialist by profession. Music lover, cinephile and reading lover, but in “amateur” mode.