The 40 Most Influential Songs of the 1960's - early 70's
Hippies use music to express themselves emotionally, spiritually, and politically. Music can make a statement, give voice to a movement, even unite us. As hippies explore their inner world, music guides them along in their quest for meaning. Without drugs it can get you high. With drugs..., well, let's just say, music can be a religious experience.
To explain the impact of music as a social phenomenon, we need to go back before the hippies to the Civil Rights Movement. The protesters would sing a song called "We Shall Overcome". The Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, "One cannot describe the vitality and emotion this hymn evokes across the Southland. I have heard it sung in great mass meetings with a thousand voices singing as one. I've heard a half dozen sing it softly behind the bars of the Hinds County Prison in Mississippi. I have heard old women singing it on the way to work in Albany, Ga. I've heard the students singing it as they were being dragged away to jail. It generates power that is indescribable. It manifests a rich legacy of musical literature that serves to keep body and soul together for that better day which is not far off."
So the early sixties saw music becoming more than just entertainment. It was now music with a message. And the messages our poets sang helped us identify with important issues and events greater than ourselves. They spurred us to action. These songs had an impact on the consciousness of not just hippies but all society. Some of these songs also broke new ground musically. One way or another they hit us deeply, made us think, made us dream, made us feel as one people.
In the songs below you can find the source inspiration for much of the music that has been made since. This includes Heavy Metal, Punk, Disco, Rap, Hip Hop, and Techno. Unfortunately, there's not room on this list for many great artists whose whole body of work had an impact, but never had that one song.... Some of the artists in this list, many of the greatest, devoted the last years of their lives to sharing their music with the world. They touched millions of us, each in a unique way.
This list is in chronological order (as much as we can determine). Just click on the album title (not necessarily the original), to get more information about it or to purchase it.
Comments are welcome!
Where Have All The Flowers Gone? - Pete Seeger/Peter, Paul & Mary (1962) Around the Campfire Pete deserves credit along with Woody Guthrie and others for keeping traditional folk music alive in the U.S., They wrote and sang songs about ordinary folk and life in this country. Songs that we baby boomers sang in school like "This Land is Your Land" and "If I Had a Hammer". These songs put subtle yet influential messages in our virgin brains, whose seeds would fruit in our teenage years.
Puff the Magic Dragon - Peter, Paul
and Mary (1963) Around
the Campfire A drug song or a fairy tale? Depends on who's
listening. After all Jackie Paper needs his friend Puff to have fun,
and don't forget the sealing wax Jackie! This is still a popular
The Times They Are A-Changin' - (1964) Bob Dylan Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Again, Dylan's forceful uncompromising lyrics tell it like it is! This song was prophetic.
She Loves You - The Beatles (1964) 1962-1966 (Red Album) Their first hit single in the U.S., this record is so full of joy, you couldn't help but be happy listening to it. The Beatles' infectious harmonies, their haircuts, their appeal to teenage girls made their first trip to the U.S. to be on Ed Sullivan one of the high points of Rock and Roll. Beatlemania was here to stay.
Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones (1965) Hot Rocks 1964-1971 This song of social angst hit our collective button, and gave the Stones one of their greatest hits.
Mellow Yellow - Donovan (1966) Donovan's Greatest Hits This song had thousands of people doing some very weird things with bananas. Some people are still trying to figure it out. I think it was plot by Chiquita to improve sales.
Turn! Turn! Turn! - (Pete Seeger/The Byrds) (1966) The Byrds Greatest Hits Very old lyrics (biblical), with a very timely message.
California Dreamin' - The Mamas & The Papas (1966) If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears We'll probably never know how many people went to California after hearing this song. I know I did!
Yesterday - The Beatles (1966) 1962-1966
(Red Album) The best song Paul McCartney ever wrote (according
to John). A melancholy ballad lamenting a lost love, it affected
just about everybody.
Purple Haze - Jimi Hendrix (1967) Are You Experienced? You ran right out and bought the record, "Are You Experienced?". Then you rushed home, put it on the turntable, and this was the first song you heard. What went through your mind? All of a sudden music was REALLY GROOVY, man!
San Francisco - Scott McKenzie (1967) San Francisco the Very Best of Scott McKenzie This wonderful song captured the spirit of the Summer of Love and made our spirits long to be in Haight-Ashbury. "Be sure to wear a flower in your hair." It was McKenzie's only hit because he didn't want to be famous.
Somebody to Love - The Jefferson Airplane (1967) Surrealistic Pillow The first hit off their Surrealistic Pillow album. When Grace Slick belted this song out, we all knew just what she meant.
White Rabbit - The Jefferson Airplane (1967) Surrealistic Pillow This song, with references to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and certain drugs, got us high just listening to it. Feed Your Head!
I Am the Walrus - The Beatles (1967) 1967-1970 (Blue Album) Beatle fans debated the meaning of the lyrics in this John Lennon tune. The Beatles were in their most experimental phase in the studio and many of the special sound effects that were to become a Beatle trademark can be heard here. And just what DID the chorus sing at the end of the record?
With a Little Help from my Friends - The Beatles (1967) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Not a drug song! Yeah, and Yoko's the best thing to ever happen to the Beatles. Not! Ringo's singing was fortunately overshadowed by the lyrics and placement on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The best version ever done was by Joe Cocker at Woodstock!
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds - The Beatles (1967) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Gee, they couldn't even fool ol' pussy footin' Spiro Agnew into believing it was just about a girl (with Kaleidoscope eyes!). Now we knew just what inspired the Beatles latest creative spurt.
Nights in White Satin - The Moody Blues (1967) Days of Future Past or Time Traveler The Moodies succeeded big time by blending their form of introspective rock with classical music, thanks to the London Symphony Orchestra. Days of Future Past was one of the first concept albums with smooth segues between tunes (like Sgt. Pepper). Justin Hayward's haunting vocals highlight this song.
Light My Fire - The Doors (1967) The Best of the Doors One of the top hits of all time. Who didn't get turned on by Morrison's sexy lyrics? The arrangement of Light My Fire, especially Ray Manzarek's keyboards make this a psychedelic classic.
For What it's Worth - Buffalo Springfield (1967) Retrospective: The Best of Buffalo Springfield. A cautionary tale for those who go up against the system. Buffalo Springfield with Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay helped popularize folk rock.
Born to Be Wild - Steppenwolf (1968) 20th Century Masters: The Best Of Steppenwolf As the lead song on the soundtrack to Easy Rider this was sure to be a hit. It captures the spirit of the open road, freedom, bikers. This song also was responsible for the term "Heavy Metal" as in "heavy metal thunder..."
Piece of My Heart - Janis Joplin (1968) Cheap Thrills with Brother & The Holding Company or Janis Joplin's Greatest Hits Janis rips through this one like a tortured feline. She could put more feeling into one song, than many people put into their whole lives. We feel your pain, Janis!
Dance to the Music - Sly and the Family Stone (1968) Greatest Hits This funky tune was the precursor to Disco music. Sly embodied the upbeat, funkadelic sound that was widely copied by many.
Eve of Destruction - P.F. Sloan/Barry McGuire (1968) Anthology A somewhat depressing but powerful political statement. This came out at the height of the Vietnam War, during all the protests. It added fuel to the fire.
Hair - Hair: The American Tribal Love Rock Musical (1968) The song Hair from the broadway musical of the same name was a hippie anthem of sorts until the Cowsills recorded a teeny bopper cover version. The play was a great success in spite of or because of the live nudity. Another hit song Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In was covered by The Fifth Dimension.
Suite Judy Blue Eyes - (1969) Crosby, Stills & Nash. Crosby, Stills & Nash also 4 Way Street This was the first song CS&N played at Woodstock. It went over well. Their tight harmonies and excellent song writing scored right from the start.
Fortunate Son - Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969) Chronicle: The 20 Greatest Hits CCR has had so many hits, but this one hit a nerve, and was used appropriately in Forest Gump's soundtrack. An anti-war/anti-draft song it reflected the sentiment at the time.
Truckin' - The Grateful Dead (1970) American Beauty One of the legendary Dead's few commercial hits. Once you got this song in your head, you couldn't get it out, and before you knew it you were a "dead head". The Dead became the epitome of the trippy hippy band. And what a long strange trip they took....
Let It Be - The Beatles (1970) Let It Be Another McCartney hit, supposedly a tribute to his mother, Mary, not a drug song, yeah, right.
Woodstock - Joni Mitchell/CS&N (1970) Deja Vu - CS&N's version was the big hit. And it hit the mark describing not only the event, but the experience of a whole generation.
Black Magic Woman - Santana (1970) The Best of Santana Santana pioneered latin/rock/jazz fusion, and this song was their greatest hit. We couldn't stop dancing while Carlos Santana's scorching riffs burned into our brains. There have been many imitators, but no band ever did it better.
Imagine - John Lennon (1971) Imagine or Lennon Legend - The Very Best of John Lennon. This song sums up John's philosophy. Just imagine if John's dreams came true...
Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin (1971) Led Zeppelin IV One of the biggest hits ever! This song by the heavy metal band took everyone by surprise by being so mellow, then building to one of the great climaxes in music. Plant and Page at their best!
Ohio - Crosby, Stills, & Nash (1971) 4 Way Street "They're cutting us down!" refers to the 1970 Kent State Massacre, wherein four students were murdered by the National Guard.
Chicago - Crosby, Stills & Nash (1971) 4 Way Street A call to protest at the 1968 Democratic Convention would've had a different tone after the event, more like Ohio!
American Pie - Don McLean (1971) Don McLean's Greatest Hits The story of Rock 'n Roll as told by Don McLean was somewhat biased but well told. Everyone had fun figuring out who the characters were in this song.
Aqualung - Jethro Tull (1971) Aqualung Jethro Tull's powerful portrait of a social reject hit you in the gut! It was an early cross of heavy metal and grunge. The whole record was a great social statement and Ian Anderson's intense flute gave the album an unusual sound for rock.
Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who (1971) Who's Next A great synth riff, Keith Moon's driving beat, Pete Townsend's politically inspired lyrics, and a thunderous finale make this a true rock anthem.
Time - Pink Floyd (1973) Dark Side of the Moon Alan Parsons helped produce this album with all it's sound effects. This record stayed on the charts for an amazing 14 years! Time is one of the more compelling pieces, lamenting it's passage and aging. The opening sequence of clocks chiming is classic.
I Shot the Sheriff - Bob Marley and the Wailers (1973) Burnin' or Legend This hit song opened up the world for Reggae music, and Bob Marley. Typically, the subject is injustice.