Does it get any better than music in the 1960s? It was a time where it seemed no one could write a bad song.
Think of all the unbelievable musicians that captured our imaginations. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, we could go on for days.
It cannot be understated that the 1960s completely revolutionized music forever. It was by far the most influential musical decade in modern history.
Our goal is to capture the essence of the decade and try to let you feel what was going on. We are still in the process of building this site, but you can check out some of the years of the sixties in more detail below.
We will also be uploading a ton of pictures of 1960s musical artists. Read below for more in-depth information about a certain year in the 1960s.
Music in 1963
Barbara Streisand exploded into popularity, dramatically singing herself to the top of the charts. Andy Williams, a preexisting favorite, made a few new albums that ranked quite high on the charts.
Folk music peaked with Peter, Paul, and Mary, who at one point had created three of the top-six albums in the United States. A folk festival in Newport attracted over 47,000 fans, over 10 thousand more than the famed Newport Jazz Festival, in the same city.
“Pop gospel” enjoyed very brief popularity in cafes and on albums, but after a few months, the religious music was gone from nightclubs.
Jazz received a surge in popularity with adolescents and young adults. Organist Jimmy Smith attracted a majority of the attention, but shared the spotlight with Orchestra USA, a “third stream” jazz group.
Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderly, and Cal Tjader also made popular jazz music. Count Basie achieved newfound success, becoming a best-seller by making albums with Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.
Music in 1964
The music scene had never been so dominated by a single group as it was in 1964. The year is now and forever known as the “Year of the Beatles.”
A group of four young mop-tops from Liverpool, England, made teenage girls scream and faint across the globe. Wherever they went, police were under pressure to keep the thronging thousands away from the Beatles. The group was often afraid to leave their aircraft.
Millions of records were sold, and their movie “Hard Day’s Night” made over $5.5 million in under two months. Over $56 million were made from Beatlemania.
The group started playing in Liverpool clubs as the Quarrymen Skiffle Group, then the Moondogs. From 1955 on, they would be permanently known as “The Beatles.” After the release of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in 1963, their fame increased exponentially.
Japan held wonders for jazz artists like Duke Ellington, Gerry Mulligan, and Harry James. A majority of fans weer young people. Avant-garde jazz was still controversial, and generally frowned upon. The Berlin Jazz Festival attracted many, inspiring similar performances in France and other Scandanavian countries.
Music in 1965
The Beach Boys, an American group, helped popularize the “surfing sound,” selling albums all over the United States with the help of “Help Me, Rhonda.”
The Beatles, continued (if not improved) their already stratospheric popularity. Other British groups were less successful, but still somewhat popular. These included: Herman’s Hermits, Gary and the Pacemakers, and the Dave Clark Five.
The Supremes, of Detroit, Michigan, enjoyed their fair share of sales, with the hit song “Stop! In the Name of Love.”
Sonny and Cher were adored by teenagers across the country, winning their hearts, and their cash. The most popular female artist was Petula Clark, famous for “Downtown.”
Folk rock was established as a musical genre, led by artists such as P.F. Sloane, The Spokesman, and the Byrds. Bob Dylan joined in with a hit song, “Like a Rolling Stone.”
Andy Williams, Barbara Streisand, and Frank Sinatra were still going strong, writing songs for the older group of listeners. Country artists added to this collection with men like Buck Owens, George Jones, Jim Reeves, and Johnny Cash.
Jazz music suffered, struggling to keep a steady beat in the world of changing music. Even the famous Birdland jazz club in New York City was forced to close its doors. Ramsey Lewis was the most popular artist, with a bluesy style appealing to both old and young.
The tragic losses of Sam Cooke and Nat King Cole brought a sudden upsurge in sales, ensuring that their legacy would live on in vinyl collections across the world.
Music in 1966
Though the Beatles maintained their popularity in the United States with Rubber Soul, pop music leaned toward more homegrown talent.
The Monkees, from California, were one of the most popular of these groups, along with Gary Lewis and the Playboys, and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Though many popular rock groups got louder, a majority turned down the volume with softer, easier listening. Some of these quieter groups included Simon and Garfunkel, The Sandpipers, and The Mamas and the Papas.
Since popular music was quieter, the blues became more and more recognized. There were fewer band groups, and artists began to be known by name. Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Jimmy Smith, and Otis Redding were a few of these blues men.
Selling millions of records, Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass was very popular with both young and old, introducing a Mexican-inspired sound to popular music.
Jazz was more listened to than usual, especially at colleges offering courses on the subject. Jazz was spread farther into foreign countries. Earl Hines and Clea Bradford went on a six-week tour in the USSR.
The Stan Getz Quartet played jazz for the king and queen of Thailand at a state dinner in Bangkok. Young people were encouraged to try their hand at jazz in the International Competition for Modern Jazz in Vienna, Austria, where scholarships and money were awarded to most successful.
Music in 1967
Aretha Franklin came back strong, singing loud and proud in her hit songs “Respect” and “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.”
Other similar artists making similar breakthroughs included Dionne Warwick, the Four Tops, and the Supremes.
Lulu, a 19-year-old English girl, was a smash hit in the movie “To Sir, With Love”, singing the title song.
Other hit songs included “The Letter” (The Box Tops), “Happy Together” (The Turtles), “Ruby Tuesday” (The Rolling Stones), and several songs by the Beatles: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “All You Need Is Love,” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
Vocal duos became more popular, too, with Sam & Dave (“Soul Man”) and Peaches & Herb (“Love Is Strange”).
Jazz music stumbled, having a rough year after growing somewhat in 1966. Many album-buying fans who had left rock music returned. The few jazz artists who stayed somewhat popular were Archie Shepp, Gary Burton, Charles Lloyd, and John Handy.
The most accepting crowds were found in Europe, as George Wein (orchestrator of the Newport Jazz Festival) discovered. When Wein brought Shepp, Burton, Thelonious Monk, Sarah Vaughan, and Miles Davis across the Atlantic, the artists played for nearly full houses.
“Cannonball” Adderly, however, found a foothold in the United States with his hit record, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!”
Music in 1968
In 1968, music was influenced by the what was going on in the outside world, with many artists sharing their political, religious and societal views.
Nancy Wilson (“Black Is Beautiful”), Country Joe and the Fish (“The Harlem Song”), Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and even the Beatles (“Revolution”) joined in.
Tiny Tim added his eccentric personality to the mix, recreating old hits such as “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.”
Pop music became more synthesized, literally. Radio stations started to give increased air time to music with newfangled electronic synthesizers.
Jazz re-established itself, showing possible signs of stabilizing in the United States and foreign countries. Jazz best described the mood of the United States after Robert F. Kennedy’s death, with performances by Woody Herman, Horace Silver, and Duke Ellington played in tribute.
Three young boys captured the attention of many jazz fans: 14-year-old Craig Hundley, 12-year-old J.J. Wiggins, and 14-year-old Gary Chase. The trio played at festivals and concerts, with their maturity displaying the continued love for jazz by the younger generation.
Other popular musicians included Gerry Mulligan, Count Basie, and Dizzy Gillespie.
Music in 1969
Though festivals in general were popular throughout the year, they were all dwarfed by the immensity of the famous Woodstock music festival. The crowd was so massive that a majority of the fans couldn’t even hear the music.
In a similar performance, Bob Dylan drew 200,000 to the Isle of Wight for a two-day festival.
With the disappearance of many groups, new groups were appearing, trying to appeal to the multifaceted likes and dislikes of popular music. Sly and the Family Stone, Blind Faith, and Credence Clearwater Revival were a few of these new bands. The Beatles produced one of their best albums yet, Abbey Road and broke up soon after — the end of an era.
Country music expanded, with Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, John Hartford, and others achieving new found success.
Duke Ellington’s 70th birthday inspired a great jazz performance at the White House. After a formal dinner and a speech by President Nixon, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Mary Mayo, and Joe Williams performed some of the Duke’s greatest hits of his 40 year career.