We continue with our list of the top songs of 1964. And as always, as an introduction, we’ll provide you with some historical context that will place you in that era, more or less. We’ll start with what we love the most, cinema. This year saw the release of “Woman in the Dunes,” an extremely evocative Japanese film with a grainy black and white that stays true to the film’s title and the book from which it draws its main story.
It’s also the year of “Dr. Strangelove,” “The Strange Voyage,” and “I Am Cuba.” Among other things, 1964 stood out as a great year for horror films (in the eyes of that time, but also in ours), with masterpieces like “Onibaba,” “Kwaidan” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” But we shouldn’t forget, lastly, about other great works of cinema: “A Fistful of Dollars,” “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” and “The Gospel According to St. Matthew.”
Moreover, 1964 was primarily a year of politics. Colonial independence, famous speeches at the UN, Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment, missile launches during the ongoing Cold War, and the official and definitive publication blaming solely Lee Harvey Oswald for President Kennedy’s assassination. It also served as the starting year for the adventures of Mafalda, which, amidst its humor, remained a reflection of the madness of its time. Madness and even a lack of hope for the future that the present never allowed them to see too much of.
Top 38 songs of 1964
Best songs of 1964 in English
Remember that you have more songs from the 1960s available on our website. Go back to the songs of the year 1963 and discover the music that was made then, both in English and in Spanish, French, Italian, or Portuguese. Similarly, we will do the same below. First in English, and then in Spanish, assuming as always that these won’t be the only languages you’ll encounter in each section, despite the clear separation.
When we talked about music of the 1950s, we omitted the language part, but at the same time, we kept the same approach to organizing each list. First, the hits that emerged from territories far from us by sea and, above all, culture, and then the ones closer in terms of language and culture (often separated by the sea too). The year 1964 is key in our list, as you’ll see below. The number of songs that appear is spectacular… and many of them will sound familiar to you, no matter your age.
Chuck Berry – You Never Can Tell
And what better way to start off the year 1964 than with one of the most famous songs in the world? “You Never Can Tell” has always enjoyed fame. After all, Chuck Berry was a global rock star, but what turned this song into a legend was undoubtedly its appearance in Pulp Fiction, the film that turned Quentin Tarantino into one of the most interesting emerging directors of his time back in 1994, confirming his talent and attracting an increasing number of followers with subsequent projects.
Dean Martin – Everybody Loves Somebody
With “Everybody Loves Somebody,” on the other hand, what comes to mind for us is a scene from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” which, when it comes to improving a song, perhaps made Dean Martin’s song a bit more ridiculous. However, in its effort to make an already well-known song unforgettable, which it already was in the 90s, we can say that it achieved great success in the memories of future generations (thanks to how often various channels of Antena 3 are capable of constantly airing the entire series). Long live reruns.
Diana Ross & The Supremes – Baby Love
Or simply The Supremes, if you prefer, but both at that time and years later, it was Diana Ross who established herself as the lead voice and who stood out for the group’s audience and producers.
Julie Andrews – A Spoonful Of Sugar
Mary Poppins with a little bit of sugar goes down easier. At least that’s what the song said. Including a song by Julie Andrews from the 60s, preferably from a musical, is synonymous with success. Who doesn’t know or enjoy her singing? Disney and she were destined for the enduring glory of cinema, as time has shown many years later. With this and other lyrics from some of the most famous musicals in history, even if they are not always considered the best on critics’ lists.
Manfred Mann – Do Wah Diddy Diddy
“Do Wah Diddy Diddy” is another one of those songs associated with childhood (for some of us), perhaps because of our parents, perhaps due to television, perhaps because it’s true that over time they started being used to liven up children’s gatherings in certain environments. Who knows at this point. What we do know is that this is another one of those underrated or forgotten classics, not being part of a band with big hits over many years.
Mary Wells – My Guy
What a year! All the songs are amazing. Sure, it’s true: not all of them are to your taste, not all of them are of the same genre, some even sound a bit old-fashioned today (because they are old, indeed), but if listening to “My Guy” doesn’t put you in a good mood, you’re probably not made of flesh and bone, because they’re the ones that react best to these pleasant and easy-to-listen sounds.
Nina Simone – Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
But hey, in this music blog, we have material for all tastes. If you’re into jazz and you believe that versions rarely improve the original, welcome to Nina Simone’s song, a fantastic tune in every sense and in every genre in which it has been interpreted. That in itself says a lot about the composition, which The Animals and many others would modify in subsequent years. This, however, is the original version, the ultimate icon.
Roy Orbison – Oh, Pretty Woman
In the collective memory of the Spanish audience, Roy Orbison is the one from Pretty Woman (the 1990 movie). If it was a big hit in this country before that, we don’t know, but we do know that its current relevance comes from those images and that film, which is a success in every new television airing, despite the criticism and praise… and despite being repeated for the umpteenth time. But not to diminish the achievements of Roy Orbison, it’s worth remembering that he had several more musical successes in his career, globally (at least as of today, they’re remembered). It’s quite an accomplishment, really.
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds Of Silence
Simon & Garfunkel are, for many, the revitalizers of folk-pop music, leaving behind the protest tone, but introducing a new way of listening to music, much more relaxing than the usual folk, but still not forgetting the lyrics. Even though it’s not their first album (it’s their second), it’s the most recognized, along with subsequent ones. Their success transcended borders and reached other countries. Old friend darkness, I’ve come to talk with you again (as we would say in our Spanish version). However, “The Sounds Of Silence” already appeared on their first album, but it doesn’t sound the same as the version that truly succeeded.
Stan Getz, João Gilberto & Astrud – The Girl From Ipanema
We’ve chosen this version, just as we could have chosen any other. The Girl From Ipanema is a classic and features three classics in itself, three unique singers that Brazil has given, and the entire world has enjoyed (not only with this song).
The Animals – House Of The Rising Sun
We continue with another song that was translated into Spanish by one of our Spanish bands. This was a common practice following the explosion of Anglo-Saxon rock globally, as seen in the songs of 1951. Anyway, sometimes words only detract; the description of this song, and generally of all the songs performed by bands that started with “The” during this decade, are true hits, and as such, actions speak louder than words (it’s a pity that there are 8 more songs from groups with the same determiner following this, because along with the link to listen to each track, a small introductory text will appear just like in the rest).
The Beach Boys – I Get Around
The greatest folk-pop group in history? We just talked about Simon & Garfunkel and gave them all the credit for current folk-pop, and then The Beach Boys come along and almost make us change our minds. But let’s be honest, the year 1964 is an incredible year, giving us a glimpse of what’s to come. This decade, which for many starts dying at Woodstock, but for others only prepares us for the following decade, which will fill us with another kind of rock. Rock, now somewhat dead for the masses, but 40 or 50 years ago, the best thing there was for the masses back then, especially for the youth. But when we talk about rock, of course, we also talk about The Beach Boys, because it’s more about the spirit (and their drugs?).
The Beatles – Can’t Buy Me Love
It’s time to introduce the most famous band in the world, almost without a doubt. The group that Maggie Simpson listens to on her birthdays, but the group that made an entire generation of teenagers dance (especially females). That long-haired band, as they said in the newsreels, although in their early days, it was more about the hair in the fringe than on their shoulders (then they went to India, and you won’t believe what happened next).
The Beatles – Hard Day’s Night
Although we have a habit of not including more than 3 songs per year from the same band or artist, in this case (and a few others), the exception is based on the album from which each song comes. Since “Hard Day’s Night” is part of the soundtrack of A Hard Day’s Night, and because every track presented here is a true gem of its time and is worth remembering, we offer 4 songs instead of 3.
The Beatles – I Want To Hold Your Hand
In reality, we’d like to think that there’s still someone to whom The Beatles (or Queen in the next decade) could be a discovery, but it’s hard to believe. Another option would be, for instance, to let a listener who’s tired of The Beatles, Bowies, and Beach Boys, get a fresh perspective here, one unaffected by trends or third-party opinions, and let them be swept away by the simplicity, often, of the music that changed the Western world to a great extent (and some of the Eastern world as well).
The Beatles – She Loves You
It’s hard to think of rock artists from the 60s as if they were today’s football players. But when you do think about it, it seems that it was the norm. To think that The Beatles stopped performing live when the money from their sales was so great that they could focus solely on creating new albums, or the importance of that last rooftop concert as a formal farewell to the band – these things give you a glimpse of what that era was like, the fame, and the magnitude of their message, aesthetics, and any phrase they uttered. Just watch their interviews, both together and separately, after the final breakup and the start of their solo careers.
The Kinks – You Really Got Me
Something that makes The Kinks a bit overshadowed as a contemporary rock band of The Beatles, despite having a number of high-quality tracks on each of their albums and often being harder musically. As evidenced by this song, with its guitar distortion, its chorus, its everything.
The Swinging Blue Jeans – Hippy Hippy Shake
We return to childhood (if we’ve ever left it). Apparently, some of these one-hit wonder groups still continue to perform, often with the descendants of the musicians themselves, and they make a living from that. The truth is, listening to this song, you can imagine yourself at a fair, or at a summer party in your town, provided you live in a village that’s suitable for dancing to this (given the current average age of our villages, although you know what happens in summer).
The Trashmen – Surfin’ Bird
We wrap up the English-speaking year with a song that, for many, belongs to the Ramones, and it does, but not in this version (for us, the best one). “Surfin’ Bird” (pay attention!) is born from the combination of two Rivingtons hits, “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” and “The Bird’s Word.” What is now known as a mash-up, but created by a band with the premise of combining two songs. Hats off to them, because, of course, a DJ today could take melodies, a rhythm, whatever, and blend them seamlessly, but here they almost had to compose a song from scratch. And it’s true, it sounds like the Ramones, but it’s not them (others would be later, but not in this version).
The Trashmen’s success came in this year, even though the original release was in 1963 (November, to be exact).
Best songs of 1964 in French, Italian and Spanish
Regarding 60s music in Spanish, there’s little more we can tell you that we haven’t already mentioned in the past. Charles Aznavour continues to lead our charts with more and more songs because he’s worth it. Meanwhile, due to the increasing number of songs, we’re also adding more tracks in other languages. In short, here you have an extensive array of songs in French, songs in Spanish, songs in Italian, and songs in Portuguese that you’ll appreciate in all the possible versions that exist, and we propose them below.
Aznavoice is a true classic in our charts and hardly requires any introduction or presentation anymore. Given his presence, it’s obvious that we must highlight his ability to navigate every year effortlessly, surpassing stages and surviving other more trendy genres of that time, such as rock. The melodic song had clear global exponents, and Charles Aznavour was one of them, capable of reaching the youth of his time and appearing musically in Nouvelle Vague films, the most modern thing of the moment (when being cool was modern, like now, but without Twitter and Instagram).
In Spain, in Spanish; in France, in French. His work has been translated and sung (by himself) in dozens of languages, and even today in his concerts, he often alternates between languages based on where he is, despite not remembering certain languages well due to his advanced age (which doesn’t prevent him from continuing on stage and even releasing new albums, like the one containing Avec Un Brin De Nostalgie. Representing until the end, as an actor and as a singer. An artist like him is rare these days.
Fabrizio De Andrè – La Guerra Di Piero
Fabrizio De Andrè, the Italian Leonard Cohen, wasn’t particularly popular outside his borders, despite dedicating himself to a type of music that would explode in Spain at the end of the decade and the beginning of the next, through the voices of Serrat, Raimon, and many others who were starting to compose their greatest hits during these years. The folk protest song lasted as long as it did, but for those who liked it, it was fruitful with anthems. In the link, you’ll find the song with Spanish subtitles (recommended).
Françoise Hardy – Mon Amie La Rose
Françoise already appeared on this list with her biggest worldwide hit (and consequently, her most well-known song) from among all the songs of the year 1962. Nonetheless, this song serves as another demonstration of what European music offered during this decade, when there was more variety of styles, genres, and languages on radios and in stores. At this time, Hardy seemed a bit melancholic, or maybe only while writing, distancing herself from the joy displayed by her contemporaries of the period.
Gelu Y Tito Mora – No Te Creo
Over time, many singers have been forgotten and then rediscovered, sometimes after their passing, rectifying to some extent the lack of interest from previous years, even though the individual might not be able to appreciate it. Tito Mora didn’t even reach that point, as news of his passing was noted, but it didn’t go further, despite a career filled with successes as a singer and a songwriter.
No Te Creo is one of those morning songs that, if more well-known, would now be highly acclaimed by the modern crowd in each group of friends. But since we’re here for that reason too, we’re doing it for you.
Useless and unverified information: For a while, when Las Ketchup became famous with Aserejé, it was said that these sisters were Gelu’s nieces, who many might remember for the soccer song (also remembered on our lists).
Gigliola Cinquetti – Non Ho L’Età
Non Ho L’Età, in Italian, preserving the song’s original language, was the greatest success of the very young Gigliola Cinquetti (she was 17 in ’64). It’s a genuine classic of European music, one of the most recognizable voices of her time beyond her country, and not without reason, with a somewhat strange lyric even when heard today, like so many others (although it might have been the same in its time).
Jacques Brel – Amsterdam
Jacques Brel is one of the favorite singers of this blog, with a multitude of immortal songs that no one should miss or be unaware of. Fond of lyrics about ports and seas, he also dedicated a song from his repertoire to Amsterdam before it became known for what it is now in Spain, where statistics indicate that anyone who wore purple before that color belonged to a political party went there with their first paycheck or first salary to then talk about the little pastry they had in a restaurant and the effect it had on them afterwards.
Johnny & Charley – La Yenka
La Yenka was a true craze in 1964. An invented dance that was imitated and repeated to exhaustion, reaching us as a somewhat lazy anecdote that we don’t understand too well, because in our eyes, its innocence limits its future, something that modern folks in each group of friends nowadays are unable to see: the perishability of their movies and series due to their low quality and being a bit bad.
Laura – Qué Suerte
In our musical research spanning over a decade, one of our great discoveries from the 60s is this song. It’s nothing extraordinary, but its freshness and yé-yé simplicity represent the best and worst of that movement that lasted so little but gave so much at the same time, with singers who appeared and disappeared without notice, like a very danceable sigh.
We’ve left out Alicia Granados from our selection, a very interesting case of yé-yé music in Spain, due to all that she contributed in her short career. El Juguete Extraordinario is a good example.
Leo Dan – Decí Porqué No Querés
We don’t want to overwhelm you, reader, but this is what the 60s were. Also, this. This rhythmic and loving music kept playing and was reaching its peak dissemination in a year that had already experienced the best of Anglo-Saxon pop music and was translating it into other languages, attracting singer-songwriters who until then tended to stay within calmer horizons.
Lita Torelló – La Más Bella Del Baile
And we continue for bingo, but don’t worry, the next group breaks the trend a bit.
Lone Star – La Casa Del Sol Naciente
Lone Star, one of the great rock bands of the 60s, began like many others, by covering English-language songs. In this case, they were The Animals, just as others were The Rolling Stones, others were The Beatles, and so on, until they dared to create their own music, each with different results, but all meritorious.
Los Brincos – Flamenco
Los Brincos are one of the great bands in Spanish music. Not only for what they meant at the time or for their ability to create successful singles, but because Flamenco is an impeccable song that almost improvises a new subgenre of the music of this country, beyond the rock that was just starting then, with a song that already in its title clearly expressed that fusion that would truly develop decades later. If you don’t know Flamenco, or don’t know what year it’s from, after the first listen, you’ll think it’s current, because it is. A true classic full of energy and youthful rage. Rage that’s somewhat dissipated, but well, you understand… If only they had released more singles like this.
Los Gatos Negros – Tú Serás Mi Baby
Another version that had quite an impact in Spanish-speaking countries was Tú Serás Mi Baby by Los Gatos Negros, another of those groups that capitalized on the need of many to understand the song lyrics and translated them with greater or lesser success, favoring musicality, really.
Los Pekenikes – Los Cuatro Muleros
Los Pekenikes, a kind of origin of what would become the future rock of the country, were a very interesting musical experiment. In terms of sound, melodies, and genres, all the members of this band embarked on long careers, for the most part. Only Los Relámpagos cast a shadow.
Manolo Escobar – Madrecita, María Del Carmen
Manolo Escobar, recently deceased, is one of the great singers of Spain, whether his genre is liked or not. It’s a genre that has long been left behind, very far behind, but in the early ’60s and late ’50s, it turned every successful artist into a social phenomenon, for whom they made movies and gave more songs.
Marie Laforêt – La Plage
Marie Laforêt is known for several reasons, and forgotten for one, time. If you’re a fan of French music, however, this artist is probably a central reference in chanson, despite having had a short career. La Plage and her debut album are part of the history of music, renewing genres in both vocals and melody.
Micky Y Los Tonys – Hay Tantas Chicas En El Mundo
Micky continued his solo career (as we’ll see), but his big success was with Los Tonys. Another of those successful artists who appeared in some movies due to their fame, joining yé-yés and non-yé-yés, showing what youth and aspirations (and dreams) were like back then.
Serge Gainsbourg – Couleur Café
Serge Gainsbourg, a madman who seemed more sane in his beginnings than later. Age does that. Depending on your taste, you might find this version of himself more interesting, or the later one. But we love them all.
(Madrid, 1987) Novelist by vocation, SEO specialist by profession. Music lover, cinephile and reading lover, but in “amateur” mode.