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60s in Music

6 June 2020

1960s... When both innovation and confusion were blended all around the world. As musiconline, we explored the '60s, which witnessed the emergence of many new genres, in our blog series where we examine changing musical styles every 10 years. 90s, 80s, 70s and now let's look at how the music types were in the 60s, which artists were popular together.


In the period between 1950 and 1963, the sound, style and beliefs of the 50s were reflected in the 60s, and most of the hit recordings were made by artists who found mainstream success in the 1950s such as Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Dion and Belmonts, The Everly Brothers. In 1963 and the following years, a number of social influences radically changed popular music and gave rise to the diversity we experience with music today. The assassination of Kennedy, the escalation of the war in Vietnam and the progress of the civil rights movement had greatly influenced the mood of American culture, and music began to reflect this change. British Invasion started with The Beatles' arrival on the music scene and changed the way people interact with music and musicians.

British Invasion

"The British Invasion is a phenomenon in which music formations that sprouted in Britain became popular in the United States, along with other elements of British culture from the mid-1960s onwards.”

Many English rock bands and pop art have achieved success in the United States and worldwide. These bands began to exhibit an American Rock'n Roll and R&B event in their sound, and as they gained popularity, they entered the realm of new music, creating their own uniqueness. The first band that comes to mind when talking about the British Invasion is The Beatles, who entered the US music scene at 1963 but became popular after being shown on The Ed Sullivan Show at 1964. The most influential band of the '60s has many music records since album sales and number one singles until today, but retains the title of being one of the most popular bands of all time. Bands such as The Who, The Rolling Stones, Cream, The Yardbirds, Donovan, Manfred Mann, The Kinks, Herman's Hermits, Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield, The Animals were among the top bands of the era.

Popular Music Genres in the '60s

Motown and R&B

'Motown Sound' and popular R&B music were of great importance in the ' 60s in terms of the integration of the Civil Rights Movement and American society. Motown began its career as a Detroit-based record label in the late '50s and early ‘60s but grew considerably more popular worldwide. Motown Records consisted mainly of African-American bands, singers, songwriters and management. Two of Motown sound's most influential bands are The Miracles and The Supremes. Other popular Motown and R&B artists include The Temptations, The Marvelettes, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and The Jackson 5.

Surf Rock and Psychedelic Rock

Surf Rock had emerged as more of an instrumental dance music in Southern California and had been quite popular until the British Invasion took over the music scene. However, surf rock's reputation spread to wide audiences, gaining popularity with songs about girls, cars and often teenagers. The most influential and popular band to emerge from the genre is The Beach Boys, with their vocal harmonies and well-crafted compositions. We can say that the Beach Boys are the only band that has come out with this genre and continued their success. Other notable names include Jan and Dean, The Ventures and The Champs.

Psychedelic Rock was associated with Psychedelic music, hippie counterculture, and hallucinogenic drug use, which was hugely popular in the second half of the '60s, and was created to enhance the experience of listeners using mind-altering substances. The bands used various instruments such as sitar, tabla, harpsichord, and most were influenced by Eastern and Indian music. Along with Folk Rock, Psychedelic Rock became two of the most recognizable sounds associated with the ‘Summer of Love’ wave created by hippies in 1967. Many popular rock bands, including The Beatles, The Doors, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Pink Floyd and The Yardbirds have also experienced with this genre.

Folk Rock and Protest Music

Folk rock took to the stage as a popular genre in the mid-60s and grew up influenced by protest movements active in these turbulent times. Much of the Folk rock and protest movement was born out of a group of singer-songwriters influenced by folk musicians of the 1930s. Bob Dylan had been one of the most important songwriters of the decade, with many popular bands including The Byrds, Peter, Paul and Mary. Dylan, who released his debut album in 1962, is well known for his unusual voice and is characterized by this melodic voice.

Protest Music was markedly different from folk rock in that it always had a message. Songs in this genre were often born as a response to social injustice, cultural changes, and news. And in many cases, protest had brought awareness to the younger generation. Names such as Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, The Mamas & The Papas, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills & Nash are just a few of the genre's popular names.

Some songs that were popular in the '60s

It’s now or never - Elvis Presley (1960)

Stand by me - Ben E. King (1961)

Surfin’ Safari - The Beach Boys (1962)

Ring of Fire - Johnny Cash (1963)

Where did our love go - The Supremes (1964)

My Generation - The Who (1965)

Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones (1966)

Mellow Yellow - Donovan (1966)

Happy Together - The Turtles (1967)

Hey Jude - The Beatles (1968)

Space Oddity - David Bowie (1969)

If you have any other songs from ‘60s in your mind, don’t forget to write us .

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