Finally, after many months of work, research and ranking of hits, I reach the end of the best songs of the 60s. Here you have more than 30 songs that represent the most emblematic and unforgettable songs of 1969 in English.
This year I give rise to a better understanding of what the music of the 70s was like, with the beginning of new genres within rock, the evolution of bands that resisted as emblems for more than 10 years and the end of the hippie movement in favor of punk movements that represented the last great change forward in rock, since later pop and electronics would be the most advanced genres when it came to providing attractive new developments on a commercial level.
However, if there is precisely something that stands out in the music of 1969 in English, it is precisely the hippie movement. Mainly because of the famous musical event known as the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, which took place from August 15 to 18 at the Bethel farm in New York, near Woodstock. Names such as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Joan Baez, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Country Joe and the Fish, Ten Years After and Sly & the Family Stone were part of the event, which attracted more than 400,000 people. Rolling Stone named it one of the 50 events that changed rock history.
The best 1969 music in English
B.J. Thomas – Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head
I begin the list with Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, a ballad written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach for the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, released in 1969. The song, in the voice of B. J. Thomas, has gone down in the history of the music not only for winning an Oscar for Best Song of that year, but for its enormous quality and even for how good it sounds if you are riding a bicycle with your Homer or your Marge.
Bob Dylan – Lay Lady Lay
Lay Lady Lay is a country song written by Bob Dylan that he first released on his 1969 album Nashville Skyline. Although musically atypical for Dylan, the single with the B-side Peggy Day reached number 7 on the US charts.
Originally, Dylan is said to have written the piece for the movie Midnight Cowboy, but it was not finished in time. Recordings took place on February 14, 1969 in Nashville with producer Bob Johnston. As with all the songs on the Nashville Skyline album, Dylan sings a rather atypical vocal line to it. His voice sounds different from previous recordings, that is, deep and clean. Dylan later explained his voice change by saying that he quit smoking shortly before recording began.
After moving away from the folk scene and becoming a rock musician, he experimented with country music after a serious motorcycle accident in 1966. His 1967 work John Wesley Harding contained early influences from this genre, especially in the songs Down Along the Cove. and I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, on which Dylan also used guitarist Pete Drake.
Cliff Richard – Congratulations
Despite being best known as the British participation in the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest, held precisely in London, the subsequent launch and worldwide success obtained in 1969 has led me to feature it here.
Cliff Richard is one of Britain’s most successful local pop stars, although I’m more familiar with Congratulations than anything else. In fact, he has more than 130 singles, albums and EPs in the UK Top 20, more than any other artist as of 2021. He has had 14 number one singles in the UK (or 18, according to the UK’s methodology counting). Finally, he holds the record (with Elvis Presley) of being the only one to appear on every UK singles chart in its first six decades (1950s to 2000s).
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon Rising
Although my lists usually contain a maximum of three songs per artist, in the case of Creedence I make an exception because not all the songs belong to the same album, and therefore there are more songs.
Bad Moon Rising is a song written in 1969 by the great John Fogerty and was the first single from the album Green River. The song reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one in the United Kingdom, where it stayed for three weeks in September. The song was released as a single along with “Lodi” as a B-side on May 3, 1969 and also on the album Green River which was released on August 3, 1969.
The lyrics of this song warn of an imminent apocalypse. Fogerty said in a 1993 interview that he was inspired after watching the 1941 fantasy film The Devil and Daniel Webster (All That Money Can Buy), which begins with a scene involving a huge storm.
Bad Moon Rising has been recorded by a large number of artists. Jerry Lee Lewis recorded it twice, in 1973 on the album The Session, and in 2006 on the album Mean Old Man on which John Fogerty also appeared. Emmylou Harris recorded it in 1981 for the album Evangeline and, as if that were not enough, it has been included by Rolling Stone magazine as number 364 among the 500 best songs of all time.
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Born On The Bayou
Born on the Bayou is the first track from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s second album, Bayou Country. It was released as the B-side of the Proud Mary single that reached number 2 on the Billboard, proving that that single was the best. Songwriter John Fogerty composed the song related to the south of the country, even though he did not live or travel much there, talking about a mystical childhood and a time full of warmth.
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Down On The Corner
Down on the Corner is another song by the American band Creedence Clearwater Revival, equally legendary. It appeared on their fourth studio album, Willy and the Poor Boys (1969), demonstrating that Fogerty and the rest of the band were in a creative moment that was unrepeatable and enviable for many other bands. The song peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 on December 20, 1969. The flip side, Fortunate Son, peaked at number 14 on the US charts on November 22, 1969, the week before Billboard changed its methodology to have both sides.
The song tells the story of the fictional band Willy and the Poor Boys, and how they play on street corners to cheer people up and beg for nickels.
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate Son
Fortunate Son is the penultimate song by Creedence. As I already mentioned when talking about the previous song, it was released on their fourth studio album, Willy and the Poor Boys in November 1969. This soon became an anthem of the anti-war movement, an expressive symbol of the opposition of the counterculture to the American military participation in the Vietnam War and solidarity with the soldiers who fought it. In fact, the song has appeared widely in pop culture depictions of the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement.
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Proud Mary
Proud Mary is the last song by the American band that I incorporated at the end of the decade, again written by the band’s singer and guitarist John Fogerty, who even in 2024 maintains a great hair worthy of admiration.
The song was the band’s first to enter the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number two. It was written on the steamboat “Mary Elizabeth” owned by the Grafton family and was released as a single along with the aforementioned Born on the Bayou as a B-side on January 15, 1969 and is part of the album Bayou Country that was released on January 5, 1969. Rolling Stone magazine also included Proud Mary on its famous list, in this case at number 156.
The song was later recorded in 1969 by soul singer Solomon Burke, who had a small hit with it, but nothing compared to the version that Ike & Tina Turner recorded in 1970, which was released as a single in January 1971 and was became a great American and European hit, and which you can find in the list of songs from the 70s in English.
David Bowie – Space Oddity
Space Oddity is one of David Bowie’s most famous songs, released as a single on July 11, 1969 and on the album Space Oddity which was released on November 4, 1969.
The song, from Bowie’s second album, became Bowie’s first hit and reached number 5 in the UK charts and number 124 in the US. It was after the success of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, that the album was released in 1972 by RCA to give it a new boost in the United States and the rest of the world.
Dusty Springfield – Son Of A Preacher Man
Son of a Preacher Man appears on the album Dusty in Memphis and was written by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins for Aretha Franklin, although she refused to record it. However, when she heard Dusty Springfield’s performance, she also recorded a version of the song. By then, Springfield’s version had already become a hit.
Dusty Springfield’s version was produced by Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin for her first album on the Atlantic label and became an international hit with a top 10 hit in the US and a top 9 hit in the UK in 1968. The album Dusty in Memphis was released in stereo although the single was remixed and released in mono.
Elvis Presley – In The Ghetto
In the Ghetto is a gospel-inspired song with social commentary written by Mac Davis. The song became famous in 1969, when Elvis Presley released it as a single. It became a huge international success and, for the first time in several years, Presley once again reached the top 10 of the singles charts in the United Kingdom and the United States, after smashing it with great songs in the 50s.
On side B is the song Any Day Now, not so famous. However, both songs were later included on one of Presley’s most acclaimed albums, From Elvis in Memphis. The lyrics are about a young man in one of Chicago’s slums who enters a crime scene and his evolution there. At the end of the song, it is sung that at the same time he falls, a child is born in a poor neighborhood who will likely find a similar future.
Elvis Presley – Suspicious Minds
Suspicious Minds is the other great song that served to vindicate the figure of Elvis, written and recorded for the first time by Mark James in 1968, although his recording was not successful. Through producer Chips Moman, the song ended up in the hands of Elvis Presley, who recorded it in January 1969.
It was released as a single in August of the same year with I’ll Think of Me as the B-side. The single was very successful and it was the last time Presley topped the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
The lyrics is about a love relationship that cannot continue unless both parties stop distrusting each other. A notable detail of the recording is its false fade-in. The studio recording never appeared on any album, but the live version has been featured on several albums due to its enormous success.
Frank Sinatra – My Way
Speaking of legendary singers from the 50s who once again occupied first place on the sales charts, the fact that Frank Sinatra is the next name on this list is paradigmatic. My Way, originally a 1967 French song titled Comme d’habitude, is a song composed by Jacques Revaux and Claude François in 1967. The English text was written by Paul Anka in 1968 and was not a translation of the French original, whose lyrics was written by Claude François and Gilles Thibaut.
Anka was on vacation in Paris, heard the song and immediately thought of Sinatra. Anka’s own record company questioned this and wanted him to record it himself. Paul Anka is said to have responded: “No, I’m not the one who will do this, I know a guy who will…”
Frank Sinatra’s cover version of the song spent 75 weeks in the top 40 of the British Singles Chart from April 1969 to September 1971, which is a record for the longest time a single has spent on the chart.
As a curiosity, David Bowie wrote an English version of the song before Paul Anka, with the title Even a Fool Learns to Love. However, this version was never used.
Joe Cocker – With a Little Help From My Friends
With a Little Help From My Friends (composed by Lennon and McCartney) is a song by The Beatles found on the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but it is one of the few that has worked better in the voices of other artists. In this chaos, from the characteristic voice of Joe Cocker.
In fact, despite being a slower version, it maintains the rock force, being remembered for the great success it was when it was played at the Woodstock Festival, being a kind of anthem for the hippie generation, later recovered for the series of television The Wonder Years.
In Cocker’s version, the line of text in the first verse was changed from “What would you think if I sang out of tune?” to “What would you do if I sang out of tune?” This change later became the norm, in both The Beatles and The Young Ideas versions they sang later, despite having recorded them before.
Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love
Whole Lotta Love is a classic rock hit based on You Need Love by blues musician Willie Dixon (although no credits were given on the first edition of the single). With it, Led Zeppelin began to become a musical myth at the end of 1969. A mix of blues and hard rock that included a Theremin when it was not yet as well-known an instrument as it is today. Jimmy Page liked to experiment with the instrument and used it many times live. These hums are perceived incorrectly if the song is played on a music system that has only mono option, since these sounds move between the two stereo channels.
Whole Lotta Love was Led Zeppelin’s first single released in the United States and was also the only one to reach the top 10; largely due to the fact that Led Zeppelin barely released singles and that many of their most famous songs, such as Stairway to Heaven, for example, were never released as singles.
Marvin Gaye – Too Busy Thinking About My Baby
Originally from The Temptations and included on their 1966 album Gettin’ Ready, the best-known version (at least in Spain) is the work of Marvin Gaye, a single that was released after the success of I Heard It Through the Grapevine a year earlier. The song’s lyrics feature the male narrator arguing that he “don’t have time to discuss the weather” or “think about what money can buy,” because when he thinks about his wife, “I don’t have time for anything else.”
Neil Diamond – Sweet Caroline
The orchestral arrangement of Sweet Caroline is loved by everyone, even by those who don’t know it, as is its chorus. This is thanks to the song using wind and string instruments arranged by Charles Calello. The song became a big hit for Neil Diamond in the United States in 1969, but it took two years for it to have anything like that in Europe.
Diamond has said that he was inspired after seeing a photo of Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy. But he has also considered his then-wife Marcia as inspiration for the lyrics.
Neil Young – Cinnamon Girl
Cinnamon Girl was included as the introductory song on Young’s second solo studio album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. It was also released as a single and became a huge hit around the world. Neil Young co-wrote this song with Down by the River and Cowgirl in the Sand during a period when he was seriously ill with flu and fever at his then home in Topanga, California.
Peter Sarstedt – Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)
Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) is a song by British singer-songwriter Peter Sarstedt recovered by Wes Anderson for the short film Hotel Chevalier. Described as “a faux European waltz tune” and a very simple arrangement of strummed acoustic guitar and bass with short bursts of French accordion at the beginning and end.
The song, despite its formal simplicity, has lyrics as magnetic as the melody. It’s about a girl named Marie-Claire who grows up in the poverty-stricken streets of Naples, becomes a member of the jet set, and goes to live in Paris.
The lyrics describe her from the perspective of a childhood friend; It is not clear if the friendship has lasted over time, although it seems not. In fact, the rhetorical question of the title suggests that her glamorous lifestyle may not have brought Marie-Claire happiness or satisfaction.
Although Sarstedt himself was not French, the song benefited from the contemporary awareness in Britain of French and Belgian singers such as Serge Gainsbourg and Jacques Brel (born in Belgium of Flemish descent).
The lyrics contain a large number of contemporary and other references:
- Marlene Dietrich: German-American actress and singer.
- Zizi Jeanmaire: French dancer.
- Pierre Balmain: French elegant fashion designer.
- Boulevard Saint-Michel: street in the Latin Quarter of Paris.
- Rolling Stones: the band, not the magazine.
- Sacha Distel: French singer and musician.
- Sorbonne: University of Paris.
- Picasso: Spanish pioneer of modern art.
- Juan-les-Pins: fashionable seaside resort on the French Riviera.
- Topless: in relation to the swimsuit first conceived by Austrian-American fashion designer Rudi Gernreich in 1964.
- Saint Moritz: trendy ski resort in Engadin, Swiss Alps.
- Napoleon Brandy: a brandy blend in which the youngest brandy in the blend has been aged for at least six years.
- Aga Khan: Islamic leader who traveled the world and owned a racehorse.
Rare Earth – Get Ready
When the group Rare Earth was going to record their first album for Motown, they had not gathered enough material for it. This led them to cover The Temptations’ original song and this is how Get Ready came about. At first, their version lasted a total of 21 minutes, but as the album did not sell well, they made a three-minute version of the song that was released as a single, with much greater success. This also caused the original album to start selling better.
Rolling Stones – You Can’t Always Get What You Want
You Can’t Always Get What You Want is a song by the Rolling Stones that appears on the group’s album Let It Bleed on December 5, 1969. The song was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and reached number 101 on the Rolling Stones magazine ranking of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
The song features Rolling Stones music producer Jimmy Miller on drums instead of the Stones’ regular drummer Charlie Watts, and the London Bach Choir singing choir.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want is the Stones’ equivalent of Hey Jude, and Jagger said in a pre-release interview that “I like what the Beatles did with Hey Jude, the orchestra isn’t there to cover everything, but it was something extra, we can do something like that on our next album.”
Shocking Blue – Venus
Venus is a pop song composed by Dutch musician Robbie van Leeuwen. It was recorded in 1969 by the group Shocking Blue and released in July of this year in its country of origin, the Netherlands. It became popular in several European countries a few months later and in 1970 reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States, where it also later went gold.
The song was later recorded by the group Bananarama, who had a huge hit with the song in 1986.
The 5th Dimension – Aquarius / Let The Sun Shine In
Also known as Medley: Aquarius / Let the Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures), it has several titles. Among them, it is commonly called Aquarius / Let the Sunshine In, but also The Age of Aquarius or directly Let the Sunshine In.
Ultimately, it is a mix of two songs written for the 1967 musical Hair, the work of James Rado and Gerome Ragni (lyrics) and Galt MacDermot (music), released as a single by the American R&B group The 5th Dimension.
The song spent six weeks at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart in the spring of 1969 and was eventually certified platinum in the United States by the RIAA.
The Archies – Sugar, Sugar
The Archies were an American virtual pop and rock group formed in 1968 and based on the cartoon series Archie Andrews. The music was written and performed by studio musicians. The singer on most of the songs was Ron Dante.
The Archies emerged when pop group The Monkees were offered to record the song Sugar, Sugar for their television show, but declined. Since producer Don Kirshner wanted to release the song, he assembled a group of studio musicians who did record it.
Instead of finding studio musicians to perform it in public, Kirshner created a cartoon pop group based on the teenagers from the Archie series, who were allowed to perform the music on television.
The Beatles – Come Together
Come Together is a Beatles song, mostly written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon and McCartney. The song is the opening track on their album Abbey Road (1969) and was also released as a single with Something. The song reached number 1 in the United States and number 4 in the United Kingdom.
Come Together began as Lennon’s attempt to write a song for Timothy Leary when he campaigned against Ronald Reagan to become governor of California, which ended quickly when Leary was imprisoned for marijuana possession. What’s a little strange about this song is that George Harrison wrote 2 lines of the lyrics but didn’t get credit for it.
The Jackson 5 – I Want You Back
Many of The Jackson 5’s songs were written by The Corporation, a band formed by Berry Gordy, Alphonzo Mizell, Deke Richards and Freddie Perren.
The Jackson brothers’ group enjoyed many years of success at Motown, but their first big hit was I Want You Back, which reached number one on many charts.
As an anecdotal fact, it was the only single released from the group’s debut album Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5.
The Ventures – Hawaii Five-O
The Ventures are an instrumental rock band formed in 1958 by Don Wilson and Bob Bogle in Seattle, USA. After playing with several local music groups, they eventually became a full-fledged group with Nokie Edwards on lead guitar, Don Wilson on backing guitar, Bob Bogle on bass and drummer Mel Taylor.
The Ventures’ first big hit came in 1960 with Walk Don’t Run, but nothing can compare to how successful and remembered Hawaii Five-O still is.
The Who – Pinball Wizard
Pinball Wizard is a song written by Pete Townshend and released by The Who in 1969. The song was the biggest hit from the rock opera Tommy, but was also among the last songs to be included on the music album. Both the film and the song are about how the main character Tommy becomes a master of pinball games and is written from the perspective of the former pinball master impressed by this fact.
Wallace Collection – Daydream
Although all of the music from 1969 is in English, not all of the groups are English-speaking. An example is the Belgian band Wallace Collection, who released Daydream in 1969. It was composed by band members Sylvain Vanholme and Raymond Vincent, with David MacKay on production.
The song belongs to the symphonic pop/rock genre very much of the time and uses strings and flutes that take you towards a rather dreamlike state that can be intuited from the title.
The song was a hit in continental Europe, although popularity did not reach English-speaking countries, despite the use of English lyrics. However, its appearance in films has led to the appearance of cover versions in other voices or to samples for rap songs.
Zager & Evans – In The Year 2525
Zager and Evans was a rock musical duo formed in 1968. The duo consisted of Denny Zager and Rick Evans, using their last names to define the band’s name.
In 1969 the song In the Year 2525 appeared, which became the only big hit for the duo, who broke up two years after the success of In the Year 2525 and after several albums and songs that went unnoticed.
(Madrid, 1987) Novelist by vocation, SEO specialist by profession. Music lover, cinephile and reading lover, but in “amateur” mode.