In the 1960s, a new type of music emerged as one of the most popular forms of entertainment. This time period saw some of the most iconic and influential songwriters in history emerge with their contributions to pop culture. The Beatles, Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, and many other well-known artists became popular during this era. Today we are going to be discussing some of these amazing musicians who helped shape our generation with their amazing songs!
Many people refer to the 1960s as “the greatest decade in music.” This is because of all the famous songwriters that emerged during this time. Check out this list and the impressive music these artists created and see for yourself.
Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead
Jerry Garcia was one of the most influential musicians of the 1960s. He was the lead guitarist and vocalist for the band The Grateful Dead, and his unique style helped to shape the sound of psychedelic rock. They are recognized for their independent work ethic, encouraging “bootleg” recordings of their music. As a jam band, the band encouraging recordings of the live shows and many versions of their songs exist.
This was a truly cutting-edge band that broke with many conventions of how a musical act was “supposed” to operate. The band remains popular today and are often cited as an influence by many modern artists.
“Touch of Grey”
Jimi Hendrix was one of the most influential and iconic musicians of the 1960s. He is considered to be one of the pioneers of psychedelic rock, and his unique style has been emulated by many artists over the years.
Hendrix began playing guitar at a young age, and quickly developed a talent for music. He soon began performing with various bands, and his skills on the guitar quickly made him a popular musician.
In 1967, Hendrix released his first album “Are You Experienced?” which became a huge success. His follow-up album “Electric Ladyland” was released in 1968 and is often considered to be his masterpiece.
Hendrix was known for his electrifying performances, as well as his innovative use of effects pedals. He often used distortion and feedback to create a unique sound that was unmatched by any other musician at the time. Sadly, Hendrix died in 1970 from an accidental overdose. However, his music continues to be popular and influential today.
“Are You Experienced?”
The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys are an American rock band formed in 1961. They were highly influential in the 60s.
Brian Wilson was the main songwriter and producer for the Beach Boys. He was responsible for creating many of their most popular songs, including “Surfin’ USA,” “I Get Around,” and “Good Vibrations.”
Wilson was a musical prodigy and began writing songs at a young age. He soon teamed up with his brother Carl to form the Beach Boys. The band became hugely successful, and Brian’s songs helped to define the sound of the 60s.
In 1966, Wilson released the album “Pet Sounds” which is often considered to be one of the greatest albums of all time. The album was a commercial failure at the time, but has since been recognized as a masterpiece.
Their primary sound centered around vocal harmonies which helped to make them unique from other groups during this time period.
“Surfin’ U.S.A.” credited to Chuck Berry and Brian Wilson
“I Get Around”
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice”
Procol Harum was a British rock band formed in 1967. Their musical style was a unique blend of blues, classical, and psychedelic influences. They are recognized as one of the most innovative bands of the 60s.
In 1967 they released the single “A Whiter Shade of Pale” which is considered one of the anthems of the Summer of Love. The song was a huge hit and is considered a classic today. The lyrics are haunting and poetic, and the song has been covered by many different artists over the years. The song has been cited as one of the most influential songs of all time and has been popular for decades.
“A Whiter Shade of Pale”
Henry Mancini was an American composer and conductor who was born in 1924. He is most famous for his work in film and television.
Mancini began his career as a jazz pianist, and soon began composing music for films. He worked on many popular films of the 1950s and 60s, including “The Pink Panther,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and “Peter Gunn.”
In 1962, he won an Academy Award for Best Original Score for his work on the film “Days of Wine and Roses.” He also won 4 Grammy Awards throughout his career and 20 Grammy Awards.
Mancini’s work was often characterized by its lighthearted and upbeat sound. He was one of the first composers to use jazz and lounge music in soundtracks. He is considered one of the most influential American composers, and his work helped to define the music of the 1960s.
Bob Dylan is one of the most iconic songwriters of the 20th century. He rose to fame in the early 1960s with his songs about love and relationships. His lyrics were poetic and haunting, and he was able to capture the mood of the era perfectly.
Dylan’s music was a unique blend of folk, blues, and rock influences. He was often considered the voice of his generation, and his songs continue to be popular today.
In 1965, he released the album ” Highway 61 Revisited” which is considered to be one of his greatest albums. The album is a scathing indictment of American society and features some of Dylan’s most famous songs, including “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Ballad of a Thin Man.”
In 2004, Dylan was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his contributions to popular music. He continues to make music today and is considered one of the most influential musicians in history.
“Blowin’ In The Wind”
“The Times They Are a-Changin'”
“Like A Rolling Stone”
Scott Walker is an American singer-songwriter who was born in 1943. He is most famous for his work with the Walker Brothers, a band he formed in the mid-1960s.
The Walker Brothers were a pop trio who were very successful in the 1960s and 70s. Their sound was a unique blend of soul, pop, and rock music.
In 1967, they released the album “Scott 1” which featured the hit singles “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)” and “Make It Easy on Yourself.” The album was a huge success and helped to make Scott Walker a household name.
“The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)”
“Make It Easy on Yourself”
Neil Diamond is an American singer-songwriter who was born in 1941. He is most famous for his hits of the 1960s and 1970s, including “Sweet Caroline,” “Cracklin’ Rosie,” and “Song Sung Blue.”
He has released over 30 albums throughout his career, and has sold over 125 million records worldwide.
Diamond is a Grammy Award-winning artist, and has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He continues to make music today, and his songs are still popular with audiences all over the world.
“I’m A Believer” recorded by The Monkees
Otis Redding was a popular soul singer of the 1960s, with hits like “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” and “Respect.”
His career began when he signed with Stax Records in 1962, where he recorded his first album, Pain in My Heart.
He released “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” in 1967. The song has remained popular and is often considered one of his greatest songs.
He died in a plane crash at age 26 in 1967 before he could achieve further success with his music. He has received many posthumous awards including two Grammys and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”
John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival
John Fogerty is best known for his work as the singer and songwriter for Creedence Clearwater Revival, an iconic American rock band from the 1960s and 1970s.
The band released the album “Cosmo’s Factory” in 1970. The album featured hits like “Proud Mary,” “Born on the Bayou,” and “Bootleg.”
In 1972, Fogerty left Creedence Clearwater Revival due to creative differences with his brother Tom Fogerty. After leaving, he released solo albums including “Blue Moon Swamp” and “Centerfield.”
He has won numerous awards including a Grammy Award and induction into the Hall of Fame twice: first as a member of Creedence Clearwater Revival and then as a solo artist.
“Bad Moon Rising”
“Born on the Bayou”
Van Morrison is a popular singer-songwriter from Northern Ireland who is most famous for his hits of the 1960s and 1970s, including “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Moondance,” and “Wonderful Remark.”
Early in his career he performed with the band Them, and later embarked on a solo career.
In 1967 he released his album “Astral Weeks,” which was critically acclaimed and helped him break into mainstream success.
He has released over 30 albums throughout his career, and has sold over 70 million records worldwide. Morrison is a Grammy Award-winning artist, and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“Brown Eyed Girl”
Sam Cooke was one of the most popular R&B singers of the 1950s and 60s. He is known as a pioneer of soul music. Some even say that he invented the genre of Soul with his smooth vocals.
Cooke’s career began to take off in 1957, when he released “You Send Me.” The song was a huge success, reaching number one on Billboard’s Rhythm & Blues Singles chart.
Throughout the next few years, he released many successful singles, including “Chain Gang,” “Wonderful World,” and “Twistin’ The Night Away.”
He was an influential figure who helped shape the sound of soul music for decades to come. Cooke died in 1964 at age 33.
He has received many posthumous awards including being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
“A Change Is Gonna Come”
Roy Orbison was a popular singer-songwriter from Texas who is most famous for his hits of the 1950s and 60s, including “Oh, Pretty Woman,” “Only the Lonely,” and “In Dreams.”
He began his music career in the early 1950s, and achieved mainstream success in the 1960s. Orbison was a Grammy Award-winning artist, and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Roy Orbison’s music style was distinctively rockabilly, a type of country-influenced rock and roll. He borrowed from the country genre with its ‘shuffle’. This shuffle would consist of a strong beat on the off-beat.
“Only the Lonely”
“Oh, Pretty Woman”
Pete Townshend of The Who
Pete Townshend is best known as the songwriter and guitarist for The Who, an iconic British rock band. Townshend wrote many of the band’s most famous songs, including “I Can’t Explain,” “My Generation,” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
The Who rose to fame in the early 1960s, and achieved mainstream success in the 1970s. They are considered one of the most influential rock bands of all time. They are credited with inventing the “rock opera,” the power chord, and the windmill strum.
They pretty much invented so many of the rock traditions taken for granted today such as destroying guitars on stage and setting off explosives inside of drum sets (causing the drummer to experience permanent hearing damage.)
Townshend has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, once as a member of The Who and once as a solo artist.
“Baba O’Riley” (also known unofficially as “Teenage Wasteland”)
Jimmy Page was a popular and influential guitarist who was best known for his work with the rock band Led Zeppelin. He is considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time, and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice- once as a member of Led Zeppelin and once as a solo artist.
Page first rose to fame in the early 1960s as a session musician, playing with artists such as The Kinks and The Yardbirds. In 1968, he formed Led Zeppelin with Robert Plant, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones. The band became one of the most successful and influential rock bands of all time.
“Good Times Bad Times”
“Dazed and Confused”
The Beatles were a popular and influential rock band from Liverpool, England. They are considered one of the most successful and influential bands of all time. They were part of the British Invasion which was a movement during the 1960s where many British artists became highly popular in the US.
The Beatles achieved mainstream success in the 1960s, and are credited with changing the face of rock music.
Every member of the Beatles went on to have a successful solo career after the band broke up in 1970.
Most of the band’s songs were written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership is one of the most successful in music history. The partnership caused them to be the most influential songwriting duo of all time.
Paul McCartney of the Beatles
Paul McCartney wrote many of The Beatles songs. He later went on to have a very successful solo career.
He continued to release music after the break up of The Beatles and achieved mainstream success in the 1980s as co-founder of the band Wings.
Paul McCartney has been involved in writing more than 100 number one hits as a solo artist and as a member of bands such as Wings and The Beatles.
“Let It Be”
John Lennon of The Beatles
John Lennon would often write lyrics first, and then Paul McCartney would come up with the melody later on. John Lennon wrote his lyrics with clever wordplay and imagery, while McCartney usually wrote simply about everyday life.
“Ticket to Ride”
“Love Me Do”
George Harrison played the lead guitar in the Beatles. His playing was one of the most distinctive in The Beatles. He contributed several of the most well-known songs of The Beatles.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
“Here Comes the Sun”
Ringo Starr was a popular and influential drummer who was best known for his work with the Beatles. He is considered one of the greatest drummers of all time, and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice – once as a member of the Beatles and once as a solo artist.
Starr first rose to fame in the early 1960s as a drummer for The Beatles. He sang lead vocals on several popular Beatles songs, as well.
“Don’t Pass Me By”
Lou Reed of The Velvet Underground
Lou Reed was a songwriter and guitarist from Brooklyn, New York who is known for his solo career as well as his work with the band The Velvet Underground.
The band’s early music was heavily influenced by the avant garde and experimental music of the time.
“Pale Blue Eyes”
Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel
Paul Simon is a singer-songwriter and musician who first rose to fame in the early 1960s as one of the lead singers and songwriters for the folk duo Simon and Garfunkel.
The duo achieved mainstream success with their hit song “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.
Simon later went on to have a successful solo career, releasing numerous popular albums such as “Graceland” and “Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits”.
“The Sound of Silence”
“Bridge Over Troubled Water”
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are an English rock band originally formed in 1962. The group currently consists of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood.
They were part of the British Invasion which included The Beatles and other British bands who achieved mainstream success in the United States in the 1960s.
Their early music was influenced by American blues and rock & roll artists such as Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf, and Chuck Berry. Later on in their career they incorporated genres such as reggae into their music.
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
“Paint It Black”
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Smokey Robinson is an American singer, songwriter, and record producer who first rose to fame as the frontman of the Motown group The Miracles.
After leaving The Miracles, Robinson went on to have a successful solo career, releasing numerous popular albums such as “A Quiet Storm” and “Smokey”.
Robinson is also widely recognized as one of the most successful songwriters in history, having written or co-written dozens of hit songs for artists such as The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and The Supremes.
“The Tears of A Clown”
“You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me”
“I Second That Emotion”
Carole King is a singer-songwriter and musician who first rose to fame in the early 1960s. She rose to fame as part of a songwriting duo with her husband Gerry Goffin. Together they wrote many hits that were performed by other artists. She also wrote many hits herself. King later went on to have a successful solo career in the 1970s.
“The Loco-Motion” recorded by Little Eva, Grand Funk Railroad, and Kylie Minogue
“One Fine Day” recorded by The Chiffons
“(You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman” recorded by Aretha Franklin
That’s a wrap!
The 1960s were an eclectic decade of many amazing music artists. Each one had their own style, but all shared the common goal to make beautiful music.
Some of the most iconic pop music of our time was released in the 1960s. These songwriters also set a precedent that would be followed by future generations of musicians and composers alike.
I hope you’ve been inspired by these songwriters as much as I have. As always, thanks for reading. As always, thanks for reading!