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51 Best 60s Songs (Top 1960s Hits)

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If you want a great decade playlist, you need to look at the 60s. Not only does this era have a variety of hits, but the 60s ushered in the rise of the hippie movement, the folk-rock experience, the blues, early hip-hop vibes, and general musical excellence all around. It’s virtually impossible to go wrong.

We have the 51 best 60s songs right here for you. Each band or singer gets only one song because so many of them could have filled this entire list on their own.  

1. Hey Jude – The Beatles

Paul McCartney wrote this song for John Lennon’s son. Julian Lennon was feeling alone after his father left his mother for Yoko Ono. The original title was “Hey Jules,” but McCartney changed the name because he thought it would sound better in the song.

Next: The best Beatles songs of all time (our complete playlist)

2. Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival

This counterculture anthem soon came to represent the anti-Vietnam war movement that had gained strong momentum by this time. The United States Library of Congress eventually added it to its National Recording Registry in 2013 for its cultural impact.

Next: The best bands of the 1960s (complete list)

3. Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash’s wife, June Carter Cash, actually wrote this song, which went on to become one of his biggest hits ever. The mariachi-esque music mixes with a country theme to tell the story of someone who has fallen hard in love.

Next: Greatest mariachi songs of all time

4. Somebody to Love – Jefferson Airplane

Turning love into action was the perfect tone for the free-love era. “Somebody To Love,” in the psychedelic rock sounds of Jefferson Airplane, was an instant classic. This wasn’t the usual sadness people experience at the end of a relationship. This song was passionate, angry, and deliciously out of control.

5. What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

If you can believe it, this song didn’t get promoted much in the United States when it first came out. As a result, it became a smash hit in the UK long before the US realized what an amazing song it was. It wasn’t until 1999 that it finally got inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Next: The best male singers of the ’60s (1960s male singers list)

6. Wouldn’t It Be Nice – The Beach Boys

This is the opening track of the album Pet Sounds, which has gone down in music history as one of the most important albums of all time. It is now the band’s most streamed song on Spotify.

Next: Greatest rock bands of all time (top bands in music history)

7. Son of a Preacher Man – Dusty Springfield

This song squeaked in at the end of the 60s and was musically a song of its time. Since then, it’s been sampled in several top songs throughout recent years. It also received a resurgence in popularity when it featured prominently in the film Pulp Fiction.

8. Daydream Believer – The Monkees

Everyone knows the magic of Davy Jones’s gentle tones as he sings, “Cheer up, sleepy Jean.” This pop music bop has remained a hit since the day it first hit the charts.

9. The Sounds of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel

Simon & Garfunkel, the folk-kings of poetry and harmony, released this quiet and introspective call to action less than halfway through the decade. They had many more hits to come, but this is considered one of their most successful ones.

Next: The greatest music duos of all time (our list)

10. Stand By Me – Ben E. King

It may have come out early in the 60s, but the impact of this song had only just begun. Everything from novels to films to video games has referenced this R&B anthem. We don’t see it stopping any time soon.

Next: Our ultimate list of the greatest songs ever recorded (top songs ever list)

11. Little Sister – Elvis Presley

This song is classic Elvis Presley rock. He sings about a younger sister he’s hoping to date. The concern on his mind is that the little sister will treat him the same way her older sister did. The fun of the song is that we never find out what happens.

Next: The greatest singers of all time (complete list of picks)

12. All Along the Watchtower – The Jimi Hendrix Experience

It’s no secret that a ton of hits from the 60s were written by Bob Dylan. This is one example. Jimi Hendrix gave one of his most impressive performances with this trippy rock song that let The Jimi Hendrix Experience show off some smooth guitar moves.

Next: The greatest guitarists of all time (complete list of picks)

13. The Twist – Chubby Checker

Dance crazes are nothing new. This song paid homage to the latest dance everyone had to do: The Twist. With renewed interest in learning song-specific dances these days, this song has experienced renewed popularity.

Next: The best dance songs for parties of all time

14. California Dreamin’ – The Mamas And The Papas

This song became a theme song for a generation; it was written on a cold night in New York when The Mamas And The Papas were far away from home. During the 60s, San Francisco was the ultimate place to be, and they expressed their homesickness in this song.

Next: The top California songs (CA anthems list)

15. House of the Rising Sun – The Animals

People have long wondered whether this song refers to a real place. In 60s songs, the lyrics could be total metaphors, or they could be direct references to actual events and locations. In any case, this song tells the story of someone whose life has gone off the rails in the city of New Orleans.   

16. Wild Thing – The Troggs

This song managed to express a risqué theme in the music alone. That may have shocked some parents at the time, but it was a feat of musical genius, and no one can deny it.    

17. Respect – Aretha Franklin

Otis Redding actually wrote and recorded this one first, but it was stage diva Aretha Franklin who really brought it to life.

Next: The greatest, most impacful female singers of the 1960s

18. Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison

If you haven’t sung “Sha-la-la, la-la, la-la, la-la, la-la tee-da” with about a hundred other people at a bar, you probably haven’t left the house in the past 60 years.

19. My Girl – The Temptations

This is another song that inspired books and movies to come after it. There’s something so wholesome and relatable about this song that it may be rooted in the 60s, but the message is timeless.

Next: The top film soundtracks of all time

20. I Got You (I Feel Good) – James Brown

Not every song in the 60s was a protest song or a psychedelic rock experience. Some, like this, just let people cut loose and enjoy the things they were feeling happy about at the moment.  

21. Space Oddity – David Bowie

David Bowie sang out the 60s with this oddity, and it solidified his place in rock and roll history. With his Ziggy Stardust persona, he became one of the most interesting people in music.

22. You Can’t Always Get What You Want – The Rolling Stones

As with The Beatles, it’s difficult to pick just one Rolling Stones song to represent their contribution to the 60s. This one, though, can’t be ignored. It’s a message of hope, even when things seem like they’re going wrong.    

23. I Heard It Through the Grapevine – Marvin Gaye

When you hear this song, you have to start moving your body. Don’t even try to fight it. There’s no resisting this amazing beat.     

24. Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In – The 5th Dimension

Originally in the Broadway play Hair, this hippie anthem also hit the radios when The 5th Dimension released their recording.

25. I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) – Four Tops

This is another excellent bop of a song that is also great for family gatherings and safe to play around the kids. It’s part of the Motown movement that inspired several generations of musicians to come. Many of the songs we love today found their inspiration in Motown. 

26. (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding

A soulful look at homesickness, this song tells the story of a man who can’t afford to get back to Georgia. He left, thinking he would find everything he wanted, but now he seems to regret that decision. This is a feeling many hippies had once they reached San Francisco and found they missed their hometowns.

Next: The saddest, most teary eyed sad songs of all time

27. She’s Not There – The Zombies

In this debut single by The Zombies, the lyrics describe a woman who is not able to commit to her relationships. The fascinating way they describe her “not being there” aided in making this an instant favorite, and it put The Zombies on the musical map.    

28. You Don’t Own Me – Lesley Gore

Lesley Gore was known for her good-girl persona, with her flip hair-do and pop music songs. That’s why this was such an important release when it came out. The lyrics state firmly that she is not interested in being a brainless girl who is just someone’s plaything. This was early in the 60s with the social justice movements, but Gore had already shown up.

Next: The top songs about social justice of all time

29. Blowin’ in the Wind – Bob Dylan 

With this song, Bob Dylan summed up much of his generation’s feelings about the world at the time. There was both civil and political unrest in the United States, and the world seemed like a scary place. “Blowin’ In The Wind” has been covered countless times. The poetry of these lyrics has appeared in books, films, and even school lessons.      

30. Oh, Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison 

Roy Orbison was blind, but his biggest hit is about how beautiful a woman walking by is. His voice was part of the soundtrack of the 60s, and this song has inspired popular media since then, including the award-winning film Pretty Woman.

31. Light My Fire – The Doors

With its unmistakable opening keyboard riff, “Light My Fire” became synonymous with the sound of The Doors. This band explored Jim Morrison’s poetry in its lyrics, and it also embraced the psychedelic rock scene that was happening at the time.

32. Green Tambourine – The Lemon Pipers

This strange psychedelic pop song hit number one on the charts when it was released. It was the first of this subgenre to go green—sorry, gold. 

33. Glad All Over – The Dave Clark Five

The title tells you everything you need to know about this song. It’s a happy-making tune that is dangerously catchy. You’ll find yourself singing it all day… and you’ll be glad all over.   

34. Cathy’s Clown – The Everly Brothers

It might be surprising to some to know that The Everly Brothers were a major inspiration to Simon & Garfunkel. Sweet, family-friendly songs, like “Cathy’s Clown,” were among the early titles that Simon listened to when he was writing his own poetry.

35. Happy Together – The Turtles

This rock group was influenced by the folk-rock movement and came out with this chilled-out vibe that was perfect for the 60s. Rather than being a dance song about being happy, this has more sway and is for chilling. It worked. 

36. Pinball Wizard – The Who

Another Broadway musical is attached to this song: The Who’s Tommy. In it, a deaf, dumb, and blind boy sure plays a mean pinball. How do you think he does it? Later, Elton John would perform this in the film version of the musical. 

Next: Best Broadway and musical songs of all time

37. Runaway – Del Shannon

Del Shannon’s voice is iconic, and the accompanying music in this song is almost haunting. Fans couldn’t stop listening to their records as soon as they got their hands on them. This stayed at number one for four weeks straight

38. Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond

Did you know there’s a challenge to see who can avoid singing “Dun, Dun, Dun!” after Neil Diamond sings “Sweet Caroline” in this song? Test your family. Play this song and see what they do.   

39. Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers

This became one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century. That’s a huge honor, and it’s well deserved. Since the 60s, we’ve heard it in movies, TV shows, and all over the radio, and we’ve loved every second. 

40. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right – Peter, Paul & Mary

Another Bob Dylan song here. Peter, Paul & Mary covered many of his songs, but this one is easily one of the best adaptations. Possibly the best breakup song ever written, this has the unforgettable, stinging line, “I ain’t saying you treated me unkind, You could have done better, but I don’t mind, And you just sorta wasted my precious time.” Oof. 

41. Mellow Yellow – Donovan

Donovan was the ultimate cool when he hit the scene. And his “Mellow Yellow” summed up his persona as a guy who had achieved maximum chill. After that, everyone called him “Mellow Yellow, quite rightly.” 

42. Greenback Dollar – The Kingston Trio

How many songs can you think of that say “damn” from the 60s? At least one. It used a folk song style to tell the story of an average person trying to make his way in the world. This was folk rock at its finest. 

43. You Can’t Hurry Love – The Supremes

These ladies were the Schuyler Sisters long before Hamilton was a thing. Their hits were numerous, and “You Can’t Hurry Love” is credited with being one of the early beginnings of Motown. Of course, we can thank Motown for much of the music that came later, as it influenced R&B, hip-hop, and soul. 

44. Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A season) – The Byrds

This song became so iconic that it has been used in many documentaries about the 60s. If there were an “official” song of the decade, this would be in the running.  

45. Heartbreaker – Led Zeppelin

Though Led Zeppelin mostly came to fame in the following years, they released some amazing jams at the tail end of the 60s. Rock fans rejoiced because “Heartbreaker” was an epic tune. 

46. Crazy – Patsy Cline

Country music may be a divisive topic, but nearly every music fan agrees that Patsy Cline was a genius. Her recording of “Crazy” goes down in history as one of the best songs ever made. With the simple melody that accentuates her unmatched voice and the lyrics that cut to the heart of a sad relationship, this is not a song to forget.

Next: Our list of the most famous and best female singers ever

47. These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ – Nancy Sinatra

An ode to go-go fashion and to women everywhere, this song was a call to arms. Ladies of the 50s had been stepped on in their relationships, jobs, and communities. Now, this song says, Ladies, get your boots ready. You’re going to do the stepping for once.

Next: Ultimate list of the best 1950s songs

48. Chapel of Love – The Dixie Cups

This song has such pleasant harmonies that people love to cover it. It’s even a favorite with kids who like to practice singing with their friends. And when it was first released, it was number one on the charts for nearly an entire month. That’s some staying power. 

49. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow – The Shirelles

Here’s another delightful R&B pop song that you can imagine slow dancing to at the sock hop. It may seem innocent enough today, but several radio stations at the time banned it for what they considered to be racy content. We wonder what they’d have done with the songs of today!    

50. Then He Kissed Me – The Crystals

Billboard listed this at 8th place in their top 100 Girl Group Songs of All Time. This was a classic the moment it came out and paved the way for girl groups of the future. The lyrics are adorable, all about a first kiss moment, but they are also a powerful depiction of what many teens and young adults were going through at this time in their lives. 

51. I Think We’re Alone Now – Tommy James & The Shondells

This pop hit has been covered many times since its first release. The song tells the story of two young lovers who run off into the dark so they can have some time alone together. Since the 60s, it’s come up in nearly every decade, sometimes in interesting ways. For example, this song was once used in a horror film

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