Someone asked me to list ten songs from the sixties – the 1960s, I assume – that epitomize the decade. This is a ridiculous question, of course, but that never stopped me before.
1. The Twist – Chubby Checker. #1 in both 1960 and 1962. It represents all those dance crazes.
2. Runaround Sue – Dion (1961). A performer from a group, The Belmonts, goes solo.
3. The End Of The World – Skeeter Davis (1963). It went Top Four on all four Billboard charts, the ONLY song of the decade to do so. There have been several country songs that have crossed over, from Roger Miller to Glen Campbell to Jeannie C. Riley’s Harper Valley PTA.
4. Can’t Buy Me Love – The Beatles (1964). I picked this specific song for two related reasons. This was the first single from their first movie, A Hard Day’s Night. And it was #1 when the group held the top five slots on the Billboard pop charts.
5. Stop! In The Name Of Love – The Supremes (1965). Their fifth straight #1 hit, showing the group was no fluke. Also, the hand gestures were a bit of Motown choreography. The song was written by Holland-Dozier-Holland, who penned many hits for them, The Four Tops, and other artists.
6. Mr. Tambourine Man – The Byrds (1965). A folk-rock classic that also represents the songwriting of Bob Dylan.
What you want
7. Respect – Aretha Franklin (1967). It is an empowerment anthem and a song that was much more successful than the original, in this case, from Otis Redding. Good Lovin’ (Young Rascals), Go Now (The Moody Blues) – heck, here’s a whole list of artists pulling this off.
8. For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield (1967). It is almost a sixties cliche in that it appeared on many of the era’s compilations. Springfield and the Byrds helped birth CSNY, one of the first of the so-called supergroups.
9. Born To Be Wild – Steppenwolf (1968). There have been songs from movies that have appeared on the pop charts for a long time. But this is one of the first times someone took extant music and used it as the soundtrack, in this case, Easy Rider (1969). Subsequently, this has occurred in films from American Graffiti to American Hustle to every Tarantino flick.
10. Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin (1969). The New Yardbirds morphed into a sound that helped define the NEXT decade.
But what about… Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, the Rolling Stones, the Ronettes, Cream? Perfectly good choices. Put them on YOUR list of ten.