60s music continues to advance year by year. If you’ve made it this far after reviewing the hits of 1962, this introduction to the best songs of 1963 will seem practically unnecessary; however, if you’re new here, besides recommending that you explore the other available years on the website, we’ll explain the context of this musical list of the 60s.
Because, just as we did when discussing our favorite songs from the 50s, songs from the 60s have a context, and this context sometimes coincides with the political climate of each country, external influences, and certain revolutions that were starting to emerge (largely driven by a sort of greater societal awareness in certain areas) as you can see listening to these greatest hits of 1963.
Unlike now, each country had its own musical idiosyncrasies, even though it’s from this decade onwards that countries begin to produce popular songs in 1963 more similar to that of other countries (thanks in large part to the explosion sparked by The Beatles right from this year).
Top hits of 1963
Top songs of 1963 in English
We start, as always, by listing the English music (available at the same link where we recommend Spanish music). This year brings some very interesting novelties, with the great Bob Dylan opening the list with his song “Blowin’ In The Wind.” He’s followed by Bobby Vinton, maintaining the success he achieved in the past; the anthem of Gerry & The Pacemakers; a legendary tune by Johnny Cash; some well-known religious music; the teenage pop of The Beach Boys at the time, and a short etcetera that we’ll end with The Searchers and their catchy “Sweets For My Sweet.” In a way, it’s as if modern rock was still in its infancy, and that’s probably why it sounds so fun and childish to us now (or maybe it’s because we heard these songs as children).
Bob Dylan – Blowin’ In The Wind
The name Bob Dylan is part of the musical galaxy. He is one of the greatest stars in the history of music. That’s undeniable, even if you don’t appreciate his musical style too much (which is diverse at its core). “Blowin’ In The Wind” opened the doors of success for American folk music, which until then wasn’t considered very commercial. With lyrics that introduced the world to the talent of a poet, and with a harmonica that became his trademark (and that of other folk singers who emerged later or at the same time).
Those were tumultuous times, and the protest song was growing stronger each day, addressing issues like war, alongside the hippie movement that we’ll delve into more when talking about the year 1967. Bob Dylan was ahead of his time to such an extent that he did it again years later, even if his fans didn’t like it back then.
Bobby Vinton – Blue Velvet
Listening to this song now gives a bit of an eerie feeling, and we owe that to David Lynch. That man. Until 1986, however, it could be said that we were facing a romantic theme that focused on blue velvet to shape its way of loving and everything else that comes from such things. There’s not much more to say, except that even today you can still savor the scents of the decade before the 60s, and that even though we were close to the end of that era that has reached us through movies for those of us who didn’t grow up in the US, it wouldn’t have meant anything to us then, beyond that.
Gerry & The Pacemakers – You’ll Never Walk Alone
The anthem par excellence. Although it’s a football anthem, it didn’t originate with that intention (as far as we know). Its success dates back a long time, and yet it’s recited in football stadiums every week, appreciated by rival fans, and mythologized by different nationalities of football enthusiasts (especially English). At the end of the post, we’ll add Dropkick Murphys’ version from their latest album, so you can notice the change derived from 60 years or more of evolution in this realm of music.
Johnny Cash – Ring Of Fire
The other great voice of American music, within the folk that wasn’t really folk but rather country, was always Johnny Cash, capable of turning a genre that many disdained into the international phenomenon that many love. Because that’s how it is. Country is rather cheesy, just take a look at the singers who practice it now, but there were those who knew how to incorporate the best of music into it, in each song. Johnny Cash was undoubtedly one of them, and his personality propelled him even further as a singer in the scene and over time. He was unique, like many other artists of the past (and if we compare them to those of the present, even more so).
Lesley Gore – It’s My Party
It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to. Boldly sung, Lesley.
Many might recognize “It’s My Party” without knowing why. Maybe it appeared in a movie (we’ll let you search for that yourself), perhaps on the radio when you were still a child, or it was an LP from your parents. Who knows, but something we hear here takes us back to the childhood that many of us didn’t experience in the present.
Little Peggy March – I Will Follow Him (Chariot)
Just as with “I Will Follow Him,” the religious hymn we hinted we would show you and here it is. In which movie does it appear? This is much easier to answer. Just the choruses should be recognizable, in fact. It’s impossible not to picture nuns moving their arms energetically, right?
The Beach Boys – Surfin’ U.S.A.
Whose side are you on, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? Well, some would be on The Beach Boys’ side, we suppose. Not only because they emerged around the same time and received similar attention, or because they started with something similar to rock, with catchy melodies and unbeatable choruses. It’s also because they were able to evolve as much as the aforementioned parallel bands. While the others reached psychedelia through drugs, The Beach Boys reached crystal-clear pop through the same means. Interesting, isn’t it? Drugs affect the brain based on how the brain was before.
The Beatles – Twist And Shout
“Twist And Shout” is a version of a song by The Isley Brothers (who already appeared with “Shout” among the songs of 1959). It was a huge hit, both in its original version and in this version. Let’s not forget that back in the 50s and 60s, making versions of more or less recent songs was commonplace. Achieving considerable success through a cover isn’t something Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and company invented (it’s something that has been used even by Limp Bizkit and many others over time), but you do need some talent to improve on the original version.
Though tastes vary, The Beatles’ version conveys a lot of energy. The voice we hear manages to convey what only black voices of that time seemed capable of doing, and the electric guitars transformed it into something different, separate from the genre to which it was attached since its inception.
The Crystals – Da Doo Ron Ron
It’s truly impressive. How can something composed in the 60s sound so fresh and at the same time naive or youthful to someone listening in 2017? It’s something the 60s have, it’s undeniable. Talking about 60s music means talking about the best decade of music, alongside the 70s. However, music from the 70s became much more serious, even without being so, as if the maturity of the previous decade affected everyone upon entering the 70s. Who knows, but we’ll definitely find out when we get there.
The Ronettes – Be My Baby
The start of “Be My Baby” has been imitated to the point of saturation (or honored). It’s very simple, so much so that one could say it’s even easy to unintentionally imitate it, but despite its simplicity, it always brings us back to this song and not any other. It belongs to it, perhaps because its simplicity forever reinvented pop with The Ronettes’ voices giving it their all in their unique way. What a lively tune.
The Searchers – Sweets For My Sweet
Remember, this music was what young people liked back then. Those choruses, those voices, those choruses. That nostalgia? We don’t know what it gave them, but that was modernity for them. We hope you still enjoy The Searchers today, but be careful with the excess of sugar, in any case.
Top songs of 1963 in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian and Catalan
As we mentioned when discussing contexts, in Spain and Europe, things were still quite different, especially when talking about the early years of 60s music in Spanish. While The Beatles and The Beach Boys were already giving their best in English-speaking lands, and that influence was starting to spread to other countries, the melodic song was still thriving quite comfortably. Artists who, also with their own personalities and unique singing styles, have made it to our days with less freshness than modern rock but still appreciated by our evolved ears.
Antonio Machín – Toda Una Vida
Indeed, the 50s extended a few more years in Spain and Europe. Not much longer, but just look at the artists who achieved success during this year. Like Antonio Machín, a star throughout a decade and more in the world of music. At 60 years old, this Cuban artist settled in Spain maintained a spotless career filled with immortal boleros and hardly any musical downturns. “Toda Una Vida” could be considered his last great hit.
And a whole life is what the great Charles Aznavour has had in the music industry. A man capable of reinventing himself in each decade without abandoning his own and unique style. “Et Pourtant,” which had a Spanish version, is a tribute to life from the perspective of someone who loves but isn’t loved in return. Or something like that. And look how many great hits he has, but perhaps this one is one of the more contemporary ones from an instrumental and production standpoint.
We have Charles Aznavour twice. Well, it’s clear we’re talking about a musical legend here. “La Mamma,” both in its French and Spanish versions, is something unique. While the lyrics themselves are something few other artists could recreate with so much feeling, the musical composition conveys even more, immersing us completely in this story.
Chicho Sánchez Ferlosio – Los 2 Gallos
Also known as “Gallo Rojo, Gallo Negro,” depending on sources. It’s said to be about the political situation and the Spanish Civil War, and it was released in the midst of 1963. We shouldn’t forget that starting in 1959, Franco’s regime opened its doors or borders a bit in search of fresh funds and tourism for the country (or so they say).
Gelu – El Partido De Fútbol
Gelu is part of Spanish popular culture due to songs like this. He’s so famous even today that it’s not worth discussing him here, right? Because in fact, he’s made it even to the news and other programs, overusing it.
Gino Paoli – Sapore Di Sale
As we mentioned at the beginning, this list also includes 60s music in Italian. Another giant of music, Gino Paoli, launched himself into international stardom with “Sapore Di Sale.” If you listen to the song, you’ll notice the various forms that pop music took back then, in contrast to the similarity it has now, regardless of the country (except Asia, whose industry follows a different rhythm, like their heads).
Jeanne Moreau – Le Blues Indolent
Jeanne Moreau is mainly known for her career as a film actress, but in 1963, she released some quite interesting musical work. Mixing jazz with pop, and resulting in a 60s French chanson, at a time when this genre was highly regarded (although it would peak in the 40s and 50s). The actress from movies like “Elevator to the Gallows” or “The 400 Blows,” among countless others, took a risk and won, once again. Her songs are highly recommended.
Jorge Ben – Rosa, Menina Rosa
And here’s an example of 60s music in Portuguese, coming from Brazil. Which musical genre are we talking about here? It’s obvious. Maybe you feel like dancing rather than reading, so we’ll give you time to listen to “Rosa, Menina Rosa” by Jorge Ben Jor.
Los Catinos – Se Oculta El Sol
Los Catinos are somewhat forgotten in the collective imagination of the decade, but “Se Oculta El Sol” is much more famous than they themselves are. They should count themselves lucky. While it has aged quite a bit, it still holds some interest for a new listener.
Mariachi Vargas De Tecalitlán – Cielito Lindo
A classic of Mexican music, without a doubt, is “Cielito Lindo.” There are so many versions of this song that it’s harder to pick the best one. From here, we’d like to believe it’s this one by Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, but to each their own.
Raimon – Al Vent
One more example of the list’s great linguistic variety, although in this case, it’s quite obvious. We find it in Raimon and his 60s song in Catalan. The singer-songwriter, who recently retired from the stage, was another of those combative artists who used their lyrics to fight against the dictatorial system that existed in Spain at the time. It’s a kind of protest music that seems to disappear and reappear every now and then. Some might remember Raimon being booed during a concert for speaking in Catalan and the scolding José Sacristán gave to the audience later on (after being booed as well).
Rita Pavone – Cuore
But let’s switch things up. Rita Pavone, who also appears twice on this list, was the darling of half of Italy during the 60s. With a face that seemed like she hadn’t broken a plate in her life, and embracing the ye-ye charm that was beloved by the youth of the time (or at least some of them), she was capable of delivering great ballads and getting people to dance with others.
Rita Pavone – Il Ballo Del Mattone
Just like with “Il Ballo Del Mattone.” This song, rediscovered in Nueve Reinas (Nine Queens), is what’s known today as a hit, a dance floor filler. If you don’t feel good vibes with this song, maybe you don’t have blood in your veins.
Rosalía – Dile
We won’t tire of saying it: the 60s opened the doors even wider than the 50s did for song versions and translations. “Dile” comes from “Tell Him,” and Rosalía, the good one, turned it into a hit by adding that ye-ye touch we mentioned a few lines back. Music was starting to split into two distinct avenues of clear success, as we’ll see as the years go by, and sometimes they would even converge into one. Eventually, pop and rock united, as demanded by the youth.
Silvana Velasco – Jardín De Rosas
More famous for Duncan Dhu’s version, the truth is that in both cases it is a version of Rose Garden, a country song that became a total hit through the voice of Lynn Anderson. Each one will prefer their own, but it is clear that everyone drinks a little from the others.
Stella – Pourquoi Pas Moi
Stella turned this single, over the years, into an emblem for the LGTB movement, or so one could read when years later the then model Mareva Galanter recovered it for the project Ukuyéyé which, as As you can tell from the name, he would take ye-ye songs and cover them with a ukulele. Porquoi Pas Moi was the first single.
(Madrid, 1987) Novelist by vocation, SEO specialist by profession. Music lover, cinephile and reading lover, but in “amateur” mode.