Top 10 Decade Defining Songs: 1960s

Script written by Sean Harris. A controversial period of modern history, the revolutions we’re concerned with here were being staged across our airwaves. For this list, we’ve looked at a combination of the 1960s’ most commercially successful songs, as well as the most influential records and the tracks that best reflect the period. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 decade defining songs of the 1960s. Special thanks to our users Alex Guzman, Alex Uhl, Oliver Swen, MrRock4Evr, neeljoshi, Brian Silva, Jack Morris, Princess Caticia, Jaime Enrique Gutierrez Pérez, dosmaniac007 and Awesome One for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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A controversial period of modern history, the revolutions we’re concerned with here were being staged across our airwaves. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 decade defining songs of the 1960s.

For this list, we’ve looked at a combination of the decade’s most commercially successful songs, as well as the most influential records and the tracks that best reflect the period.

#10: “Hit the Road Jack” (1961)
Ray Charles
Our list, and the sixties in general, begins with a whole lotta soul! Released in ‘61, “Hit the Road Jack” is the earliest record to make our countdown, and it sets a silky smooth standard. Ray Charles had grown up learning classical piano, but always had a hankering for R&B. This record was the second of his three U.S. number ones – major proof that his genre preferences were justified! “Hit the Road” is rhythm and attitude; it still gets fingers snapping even now!

#9: “Mrs. Robinson” (1968)
Simon & Garfunkel

First heard on the soundtrack to the movie “The Graduate,” the ‘Mrs. Robinson’ character in the song came to represent Dustin Hoffman’s older love interest in the film. However, the four-minute number was actually originally written with President FDR’s wife, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, in mind. Her tireless campaign work for equal rights meant that she was loved by the American people, and this song pays homage to her. It also mentions legendary baseball player Joe DiMaggio as a hero of the past. It’s folk rock, and frank sentiment.

#8: “You Really Got Me” (1964)
The Kinks

After their first two singles flopped, there was a lot riding on this record – ultimately, it carried The Kinks to number one in the UK, and confirmed them as major players in the British invasion of America. Guitarist Dave Davies achieved the dirty, distorted sound of the single by slashing his amp with a razorblade, thus inspiring a wave of technology to mimic the effect. The song captured exactly what ‘60s rock was all about – simplicity, sexuality, and innovation.

#7: “Respect” (1967)
Aretha Franklin

While it was originally written and released by Otis Redding, it wasn’t until Aretha Franklin got hold of this track that “Respect” really caused waves. She added the iconic chorus hook, and she smothered it in sassiness! Her version turned the tables on the men, showing women that their voices could be heard just as loudly. Gone were the days that respect (and success) were male-only privileges! We don’t need to spell it out for you; this song was a winner!

#6: “Like a Rolling Stone” (1965)
Bob Dylan

One of the most influential musicians of all time, not just the sixties, Bob Dylan’s highest of high points has to be “Like a Rolling Stone.” Lyrically, it’s lengthy, which makes its chart success a bit unusual – but with words this wise, it isn’t hard to see why people loved it! Detailing the story of a character that’s fallen out of high society, it’s a perfect example of Dylan’s ability to use music as a soapbox – to him, there was more to rock than rhythm.

#5: “My Generation” (1965)
The Who

It may’ve been released in the sixties, but this song is carried through time, as applicable to the next generation as it was to the one before it. Stuttering into success in more ways than one, it was their first of four efforts to break into the top 5 in the UK – and it only scraped into the top 75 in the U.S.! The vocally impeded sound was feared to be offensive upon release, but has since become iconic. And the guitar-smashing finale is just plain awesome!

#4: “Good Vibrations” (1966)
The Beach Boys

In 1966, this became the most expensive record ever produced, costing around $50,000. It also demanded almost 90 hours of studio time, and many of those minutes passed without the full Beach Boys line-up present due to touring commitments. As a result, the original recording is actually a fantastic melee of session performers. They’re expensive vibrations, time-consuming vibrations, but ultimately they’re ‘good,’ and they’re worth it!

#3: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (1965)
The Rolling Stones

Written in America during their first state-side tour, legend has it that following a less-than-successful gig, Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards awoke in the middle of the night with this riff fully-formed in his head. The band would record and release it within 3 weeks, scoring themselves a number 1 in America and Britain! It’s social frustration, sexual frustration, and musical pleasure. It’s a double negative, but do we really care? “Satisfaction” defined this decade in a big way!

#2: “All Along the Watchtower” (1968)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Written and recorded by Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix released his version of “All Along the Watchtower” after he heard a tape recording of the folk singer’s original. The cover had such an impact that Dylan himself changed the way he played his own song to mimic it! A showcase of scintillating guitar music, it’s a brand that was Jimi’s own. He spent days and weeks in the studio, tweaking and overdubbing the material, until he achieved the classic that we enjoy today.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- “Stand by Me” (1961) Ben E. King
- “Be My Baby” (1963) The Ronettes
- “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1968) Marvin Gaye
- “Light My Fire” (1967) The Doors
- “For What It’s Worth” (1967) Buffalo Springfield

#1: “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (1963)
The Beatles

Their first U.S. number one, this record provoked a British invasion of America, and turned Beatlemania into a multi-national frenzy. John Lennon and Paul McCartney co-wrote the song, and they collaborated on the vocals to produce a sound that became so Beatles, and so sixties! The hysteria surrounding the Liverpool 4-piece was so loud that Lennon later admitted to playfully changing the lyric ‘hand’ to ‘gland’ during live shows! In truth, whatever they sang was successful – they set the sixties trend, and shaped modern music.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite sixties song? For more timeless Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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