The year 1968 saw some of the most iconic releases in music history, with some of the most memorable and most used tracks in films being released during that time. It also saw some of the most interesting and unexpected releases from artists that typically didn’t conform to normal standards. In this article, we’ll use Billboard’s year-end charts to determine the 35 best songs of 1968.
1. Hey Jude – The Beatles
Hey Jude is one of the most iconic The Beatles songs out there, and it was their first single released on their Apple record label. A non-album single, it would go on to become a number-one hit in numerous countries around the world and was the best-selling track in the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada.
It tied the all-time record for the longest run in the number one spot on the Hot 100 with eight consecutive weeks and would eventually sell over eight million copies. Even today, it is considered by many to be one of the greatest songs of all time, especially if you’re asking music critics.
2. Love is Blue – Paul Mauriat
Originally known as L’amour Est Bleu, Love Is Blue started out as a French-language song in 1967. Vicky Leandros was one of the most notable performers of the track, being the first to record the French lyrics and also releasing an English version. The one we are actually discussing was recorded by French orchestra leader Paul Mauriat. This one became a number-one hit single in the US in 1968.
3. Honey – Bobby Goldsboro
Honey was first produced by Bobby Russell and Bob Shane, but it was eventually given to Bobby Goldsboro. His 1968 recording became the title track of his album that year and was a number-one hit in several different countries. The song would top the US Billboard Hot 100, US Hot Country Singles Chart, and US Adult Contemporary Chart. It additionally peaked at number two on the UK Singles Chart that year.
4. (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding
Otis Redding was a co-writer for (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay, and it remains to this day one of his most well-known songs. He would record the track twice in 1967, including once only three days before his death. It went on to become the first posthumous number-one single in the US when it topped the Billboard Hot 100, and it additionally rose to number three on the UK Singles Chart.
5. People Got to Be Free – The Rascals
People Got To Be Free was a heartfelt plea for freedom and equality, but it took that stance in an upbeat and positive way. Released by The Rascals in 1968, it played on the growing social movements of the time and capitalized on them. It would go on to reach the top spot of the Hot 100 and got as high as number 14 on the US R&B Singles chart as well.
6. Sunshine of Your Love – Cream
Cream may be known as a legendary super group today, but their efforts were just as renowned when they were still together. Sunshine Of Your Love remains one of their most popular songs and was a distinctive hit single when it was released in 1967. The track would eventually become their first and highest-charting single in the US, rising to number five on the Hot 100 and number 25 on the UK Singles Chart.
7. This Guy’s in Love With You – Herb Alpert
Several versions of This Guy’s In Love With You are out there. It seems to have originally been written by Hal David and meant for a female singer, but several artists picked it up by the time Herb Alpert got his hands on it. His version would become a number-one single on the US Billboard Hot 100, US Easy Listening Chart, and Cash Box Top 100 chart.
8. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Hugo Montenegro
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly was the title theme song for the 1966 film of the same name. It was a stunning instrumental piece that was covered in 1967 by Hugo Montenegro, but in the years since, it has been recognized as one of the most iconic scores in all of film history. His version of the track made it to number two on the Hot 100 and sat atop the easy listening chart for three weeks.
9. Mrs. Robinson – Simon & Garfunkel
Mrs. Robinson was actually the song that held our last entry out of the number-one spot on the Hot 100. Simon & Garfunkel wrote the track for the 1967 film The Graduate, and its meaning has been debated to this day—you can read my article explaining the song on here as well. It became the pair’s second track to reach the top of the charts, rising to number one on the Hot 100 and becoming the first rock song to win a Grammy Award for Record of the Year.
10. Tighten Up – Archie Bell & the Drells
Tighten Up is one of the earliest funk hits you’re going to be able to find out there. It rose to the top spot of both the Hot 100 and R&B charts in 1968 and has been listed as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine. Outside of the US, it also peaked at number three on the Canadian RPM 100.
11. Harper Valley P.T.A. – Jeannie C. Riley
Harper Valley P.T.A. is a funny song that I remember listening to with my mom in the car when I was growing up. A country track written by Tom T. Hall, it became an international hit single for Jeannie C. Riley and served as her debut record. Not only did it sell six million copies, but it also made her the first woman to top both the Hot 100 and US Hot Country Singles charts with the same song. This achievement wouldn’t be repeated for 13 years until Dolly Parton did it with 9 To 5.
12. Little Green Apples – O. C. Smith
Little Green Apples was originally written by Bobby Russell, and it would become a hit song for three different artists. The most notable one for this article was O. C. Smith’s recording of it in 1968. His version peaked at number two on the Hot 100 and R&B charts.
13. Mony Mony – Tommy James & the Shondells
Mony Mony is the most famous song recorded by Tommy James & The Shondells, and likely a track you’ve heard before whether or not you listen to the music of this era. It quickly reached number one on the UK Singles Chart and peaked at number three in the US. It’s been used numerous times in films, but it was most notably covered by Billy Idol in 1981, with his version becoming an international top-40 hit.
14. Hello, I Love You – The Doors
The Doors are well-known for not bowing to commercial pressure and having a unique sound, but Hello, I Love You was one song that saw them fit into the mold more than others. It was first recorded by the group in 1965, but wouldn’t be released until its inclusion on their 1968 album Waiting For The Sun. The song topped the US Hot 100 and the Canadian charts that year.
15. Young Girl – Gary Puckett & The Union Gap
Young Girl had the unfortunate luck of being stuck behind two of the other songs on this list. It held the number-two spot on the Hot 100 for three weeks, kept out of number one by (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay and then Honey. Despite this, it topped the UK Singles Chart and US Cash Box rankings, cementing its place as one of the most successful tracks of 1968.
16. Cry Like a Baby – The Box Tops
Cry Like A Baby was written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham and was originally performed by The Box Tops. The song was a big hit in 1968, rising to number two on the Billboard Hot 200 and staying in that spot for two weeks behind Honey. In total, it would spend 15 weeks charting on the Hot 100 and sell well over one million copies en route to earning a gold disc.
17. Tip toe Thru’ The Tulips With Me – Tiny Tim
While this song might be unnerving for quite a few people after its use in the Insidious film franchise, it was a major hit when it was originally released. Published in 1929, Al Dubin handled the lyrics of the song while Joe Burke was responsible for the music.
In 1968, Tiny Tim turned the track into a novelty hit by singing it on the television show Rowan And Martin’s Laugh-In. It would go on to become his signature song and rose as high as number 17 on the year-end charts. In the years since, it has been used prolifically in other media, with the tune, in particular, being a film favorite.
18. Grazing in the Grass – Hugh Masekela
Grazing In The Grass was first performed by trumpeter Hugh Masekela. It appeared on his debut album and would become a song he would perform throughout his life. His recording made it to the top of the Hot 100 and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2018.
19. Midnight Confessions – The Grass Roots
Midnight Confessions was originally performed by the Ever-Green Blues, but the rocking version by The Grass Roots would be the one that soared in popularity. While it never appears on their albums—outside of compilations—that didn’t stop the song from becoming their biggest hit single on the charts. It reached the top five in both the US and Canada in 1968 and was one of the most successful tracks of the year.
20. Dance to the Music – Sly & the Family Stone
Sly & The Family Stone were the real pioneers of the psychedelic soul sound, and Dance To The Music was the first song of theirs to reach the top 10 of the Hot 100 pop charts in the US. Instrumental in not only creating a new style of music but also setting the group up to become legendary figures in music history, it would eventually be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and included on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, ranking at number 23.
21. The Horse – Cliff Nobles
The Horse is an instrumental song by Cliff Nobles that had an interesting rise to the top. It served as the B-side of Love Is All Right, another one of his songs, and is simply an instrumental version of that track. Despite removing the lyrics and serving as the backside of the single release, it would become the more popular version and peaked at number two on the Hot 100 and R&B chart.
22. I Wish It Would Rain – The Temptations
I Wish It Would Rain was the title track and main focus of The Temptations’ 1968 album. It rose as high as number four on the Hot 100 and took the top spot of the US R&B chart in 1968, cementing a place as one of the most successful songs of the year. Later covers would be produced by artists like Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight & The Pips, and Bruce Springsteen.
23. La-La Means I Love You – The Delfonics
La-La (Means I Love You) is the most well-known song The Delfonics ever produced. Originally released in 1968, the track would rise to number four on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the R&B chart. Several notable covers have been released for the song, including a rocksteady version from Alton Ellis & The Flames.
24. Turn Around, Look at Me – The Vogues
Glen Campbell released Turn Around, Look At Me as a single in 1961, and it turned out to be a modest hit for him. The Vogues’ version of the song in 1968 would become much more popular though, reaching number seven on the Hot 100 and number three on the Adult Contemporary chart.
25. Judy in Disguise (With Glasses) – John Fred & His Playboy Band
John Fred & His Playboy Band found perhaps their biggest hit with Judy In Disguise (With Glasses). The song took the top spot of both the Hot 100 and Cash Box Top 100 in 1968 while also rising to number three on the UK Singles Chart.
26. Spooky – Classics IV
Mike Shapiro was the saxophonist who originally performed Spooky, and it earned him a modest hit on the charts in 1967. This song about a spooky little girl found more success in the hands of the group Classics IV, becoming a Halloween favorite and rising as high as number three on the Hot 100 in 1968.
27. Love Child – Diana Ross & The Supremes
Love Child was a record-setting song for Diana Ross & The Supremes. In only three weeks it broke into the top 10 of the Hot 100, eventually getting to and holding the top spot for two weeks. It was the group’s 11th number-one single in the US and a massive achievement.
28. Angel of the Morning – Merrilee Rush
Angel In The Morning is an old pop song that many artists have covered over the years, but Merrilee Rush’s version was the first to break onto the charts. In 1968, it rose to number seven on the Hot 100 and number one on the Canadian RPM charts.
29. The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde – Georgie Fame
Georgie Fame became interested in singing about Bonnie and Clyde after seeing the gangster film about the duo. His song The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde would take the top spot on the UK Singles Chart and make it to number seven on the Hot 100.
30. Those Were the Days – Mary Hopkin
Those Were The Days originated as a Russian romance song, but Gene Raskin put English lyrics to it, and it became a hit in the West as well. Mary Hopkin’s debut single was this track, and it was a number-one hit on the UK Singles Chart and Canadian RPM chart. In the US, it rose to number two on the Hot 100.
31. Born to Be Wild – Steppenwolf
Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild is a song that has appeared in movies and television over and over again to the point that it’s almost ubiquitous in pop culture. Originally released in 1968, the track became a biker anthem and has been described as the first-ever heavy metal song. It rose to number two on the Hot 100 and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
32. Cowboys to Girls – The Intruders
Cowboys To Girls was a big crossover hit in 1968. The R&B single rose to number six on the Hot 100 and took the top spot on the US Billboard Hot Black Singles chart.
33. Simon Says – 1910 Fruitgum Company
Simon Says was another entry that capitalized on the growing bubblegum pop trend and was the 1910 Fruitgum Company’s biggest hit single. It took number four on the Hot 100 and number two on the UK Singles Chart.
34. Lady Willpower – Gary Puckett & The Union Gap
Lady Willpower was a huge hit for Gary Puckett, rising to number two on the Hot 100 and number 26 on the easy listening chart. It eventually went on to sell over one million copies and earned a gold disc as well.
35. A Beautiful Morning – The Rascals
A Beautiful Morning was the first song The Rascals released after shortening their name from The Young Rascals. It peaked at number three on the US Hot 100 and became an RIAA-certified million seller.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
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