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Top Music Artists From The 60s, Ranked

The sixties were a defining decade for the United Kingdom, bringing some much-needed feelings of hope and freedom to a country left bleak from World War II. It was in this decade that many music legends came to life, expressing themselves in a way that had never been done before.

To celebrate the sixties and all that they were, we’re here to take you through some of the top artists that came from the decade. With the 70s and 80s known for their great musicians, the ’60s may sometimes go under the radar. So let’s jump right in!

#20 The Jackson Five

The Jackson 5 is an American pop band consisting of members from the famous Jackson family. They started to release singles towards the end of the sixties before getting signed to Motown Records in 1968. From here, they amounted to stacks of chart success. The Jackson 5’s success stemmed from their infectious blend of pop and soul, charismatic stage presence, and exceptional vocal harmonies, led by the young Michael Jackson’s standout voice.

Popular songs include:

  • “I Want You Back”
  • “ABC”
  • “The Love You Save”
  • “I’ll Be There”
  • “Never Can Say Goodbye”

#19 The Monkees

The Monkees is an American rock and pop band that was most active from 1966 to 1971. They made a name for themselves in every corner of the world, leading to television contracts and much more. The Monkees were a phenomenon of the ’60s, initially formed for a TV show. Their catchy pop-rock songs, coupled with their comedic and charming television presence, made them immensely popular, particularly among teenagers. Their ability to blend television and music innovatively created a new entertainment format, making them one of the era’s most recognizable groups.

Popular songs include:

  • “I’m a Believer”
  • “Last Train to Clarksville”
  • “Daydream Believer”
  • “Pleasant Valley Sunday”
  • “Valleri”

#18 Jackie Wilson

Jackie Wilson was an American soul singer and performer. During his active years, he became responsible for the transition of rhythm and blues into soul. He knew exactly how to entice an audience, resulting in the fitting nickname of “Mr. Excitement”. Jackie Wilson, known for his extraordinary vocal talent and dynamic performances, was a powerhouse in the crossover between R&B and rock ‘n’ roll. His energetic stage presence and ability to infuse his performances with emotion and flair made him a standout artist. His hits, which showcased his impressive vocal range, have had a lasting impact on the soul and R&B genres.

Popular songs include:

  • “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”
  • “Lonely Teardrops”
  • “Reet Petite”
  • “Baby Workout”
  • “To Be Loved”

#17 Dion

Dion DiMucci is an American singer and songwriter who rose to massive amounts of popularity in the sixties. He brought something different to the music scene, incorporating elements of doo-wop, blues, R&B and rock into his tunes. Dion’s popularity stemmed from his unique blend of doo-wop, pop, and blues, resonating with the youth of his time. His smooth voice and cool demeanor, reflected in hits like “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer,” made him an icon of early rock ‘n’ roll. Dion’s music captured the spirit of the streets of New York, and he remained relevant by adapting his style throughout his career.

Popular songs include:

  • “Runaround Sue”
  • “The Wanderer”
  • “A Teenager in Love”
  • “Lovers Who Wander”
  • “Abraham, Martin and John”

#16 Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin was an English rock band that formed at the tail end of the sixties (in 1968). They soon shook the hard rock industry, proving their innovatively by incorporating hints of blues and folk. Led Zeppelin redefined rock music with their innovative sound that blended hard rock, blues, and folk. Their powerful, intricate music and mythic aura, along with Robert Plant’s vocal prowess and Jimmy Page’s guitar skills, captivated audiences. Known for their epic live performances, Led Zeppelin’s influence on rock music and culture is immeasurable.

Popular songs include:

  • “Stairway to Heaven”
  • “Whole Lotta Love”
  • “Immigrant Song”
  • “Black Dog”
  • “Kashmir”

#15 Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder is one of the most successful songwriters and musicians of all time. He’s spent most of his musical career as a one-man band, highlighting his talents through electrical instruments and synthesizers. Stevie Wonder was a musical prodigy whose talents transcended genres, from soul and R&B to pop and funk. His ability to craft catchy yet socially conscious songs, combined with his innovative use of electronic instruments, made him a critical and commercial success. Wonder’s music often conveyed love, peace, and unity, resonating with a broad audience.

Popular songs include:

  • “Superstition”
  • “Sir Duke”
  • “I Just Called to Say I Love You”
  • “Isn’t She Lovely”
  • “Living for the City”

#14 Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin lived a life full of music; even as a child, her passions involved singing gospel at church. Once she signed with Atlantic Records in 1966, her career truly flourished, awarding her the title of the “Queen of Soul”. Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” was celebrated for her powerful, soulful voice and her ability to convey deep emotion in her music. Her songs often reflected her personal experiences and the broader social and political issues of her time, making her an important figure in both music and the civil rights movement.

Popular songs include:

  • “Respect”
  • “I Say a Little Prayer”
  • “Chain of Fools”
  • “Think”
  • “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”

#13 The Supremes

The Supremes were a favored act of Motown Records during the sixties. They achieved 12 number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 and continue to rack up listens to this day. During the 1960s, The Supremes rivalled The Beatles. The Supremes were trailblazers in the music world, becoming Motown’s most successful act in the 1960s. Their sophisticated style, combined with the catchy, soulful pop sounds of their music, made them immensely popular. Diana Ross’s distinctive voice, along with the group’s glamorous image, helped them break barriers and achieve mainstream success.

Popular songs include:

  • “Where Did Our Love Go”
  • “Baby Love”
  • “Stop! In the Name of Love”
  • “You Can’t Hurry Love”
  • “Come See About Me”

#12 James Brown

James Brown was (and still is) a huge name in the world of funk. His music career lasted over 50 years; during this time, he influenced many music genres. His ability to develop any type of genre is what made him so successful. Known as the “Godfather of Soul,” James Brown was famous for his intense, energetic performances and his unique style of funk music. His raw, passionate singing and dynamic stage presence, characterized by his famous dance moves, had a significant impact on the development of funk and soul music.

Popular songs include:

  • “I Got You (I Feel Good)”
  • “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”
  • “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”
  • “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine”
  • “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud”

#11 Simon & Garfunkel

Simon & Garfunkel also made a name for themselves in the folk industry during the sixties. This American duo reached number one on many charts worldwide. Not too shabby for two friends who met in elementary school! Simon & Garfunkel’s blend of poetic lyrics, smooth harmonies, and folk-rock sound resonated deeply with the counterculture of the 1960s. Their music, often reflective and introspective, provided a soundtrack for a generation grappling with social and political change.

Popular songs include:

  • “The Sound of Silence”
  • “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
  • “Mrs. Robinson”
  • “Scarborough Fair/Canticle”
  • “Cecilia”

#10 The Mamas & The Papas

The Mamas & The Papas were an American folk group that was active from 1965 to 1968. They had something different to deliver during this time, focusing on harmonized vocals and funky folk beats. Although only active for four years, the band amounted to 17 singles and five studio albums. The Mamas & The Papas brought a unique blend of folk, pop, and psychedelic sounds to the music scene. Their harmonies, catchy melodies, and lyrics that captured the essence of the ’60s California lifestyle made them a symbol of the era’s counterculture.

Popular songs include:

  • “California Dreamin'”
  • “Monday, Monday”
  • “Creeque Alley”
  • “Dedicated to the One I Love”
  • “Dream a Little Dream of Me”

#9 Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye single-handedly shaped the sound of Motown in the 1960s. He produced hit after hit, breaking into contemporary R&B subgenres that many people hadn’t even heard of before. Marvin Gaye’s soulful voice and his ability to infuse his music with social and political themes set him apart. His groundbreaking album “What’s Going On” addressed issues like war, poverty, and environmental destruction, making him not just a musical icon but a voice for social change.

Popular songs include:

  • “What’s Going On”
  • “Let’s Get It On”
  • “Sexual Healing”
  • “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
  • “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”

#8 The Who

The Who is a well-respected English rock band that formed in 1964. They have sold over 100 million records worldwide (and counting!). The Who are responsible for many contributions to the world of rock, including the use of the synthesizer. The Who were known for their energetic live performances and for pushing the boundaries of rock with their concept albums and rock operas. Their rebellious image and innovative sound, which included the use of synthesizers and a more theatrical style, made them one of rock’s most influential bands.

Popular songs include:

  • “My Generation”
  • “Baba O’Riley”
  • “Pinball Wizard”
  • “Who Are You”
  • “Behind Blue Eyes”

#7 The Doors

The Doors were an American rock band that formed in 1965. While they caused a lot of controversy in the years they were active, the band played an important part in the decades counterculture. They were erratic and oh-so-talented! The Doors’ unique sound, which blended rock, blues, and psychedelic music, along with Jim Morrison’s poetic lyrics and charismatic yet enigmatic stage presence, captured the spirit of the late ’60s. Their music, often dark and introspective, explored themes of existentialism and rebellion.

Popular songs include:

  • “Light My Fire”
  • “Riders on the Storm”
  • “Break On Through (To the Other Side)”
  • “The End”
  • “People Are Strange”

#6 Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix’s musical career only spanned for four years, but in this time, he became one of the most celebrated musicians of the century. He was the man who had never-ending talents, strumming on an electric guitar while delivering funky lyrics. Jimi Hendrix revolutionized electric guitar playing with his innovative techniques and explosive performance style. His fusion of rock, blues, and psychedelic music, along with his charismatic stage presence, made him an icon of rock music and a symbol of the 1960s counterculture.

Popular songs include:

  • “Purple Haze”
  • “All Along the Watchtower”
  • “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”
  • “The Wind Cries Mary”
  • “Hey Joe”

#5 The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys are an American rock band that formed in 1961. It didn’t take long for them to get to work in the sixties, making a name for themselves through vocalized harmonies and music that appealed to the younger generations. The Beach Boys, led by Brian Wilson, were celebrated for their complex harmonies and innovative studio techniques. Their songs, often about California youth culture and surfing, captured the optimistic spirit of the early ’60s, while later albums like “Pet Sounds” showcased a deeper, more introspective side.

Popular songs include:

  • “Good Vibrations”
  • “California Girls”
  • “God Only Knows”
  • “Surfin’ USA”
  • “I Get Around”

#4 Elvis Presley

It’s safe to say that everyone on this planet has heard of Elvis Presley. Credited as the “King Of Rock And Roll”, Presley emphasized his charm and good looks to deliver performances that everyone would swoon over. Elvis Presley, known as the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” was a cultural icon who transformed music with his unique blend of rock, country, rhythm, and blues. His charismatic stage presence, distinctive voice, and pioneering attitude towards music and performance style made him a legend.

Popular songs include:

  • “Jailhouse Rock”
  • “Suspicious Minds”
  • “Hound Dog”
  • “Heartbreak Hotel”
  • “Love Me Tender”

#3 The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones are another rock band that formed at the beginning of the 60s. They defined hard rock as we know it, featuring the world-famous Mick Jagger and instrumentalist Brian Jones. The Rolling Stones, with their raw, blues-influenced sound and rebellious image, epitomized rock and roll. Their longevity, prolific songwriting, and dynamic live performances, led by Mick Jagger’s charismatic stage presence, made them one of the most influential bands in rock history.

Popular songs include:

  • “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
  • “Sympathy for the Devil”
  • “Paint It Black”
  • “Gimme Shelter”
  • “Angie”

#2 Bob Dylan

Often referred to as one of the best songwriters of all time, Bob Dylan has certainly earned his place on this list. However, his music career has spanned the majority of his lifetime, his most iconic work was produced in the 60s. A handful of his songs even became anthems for anti-war movements. Bob Dylan’s profound songwriting, which fused folk with social and political commentary, made him a voice of his generation. His ability to articulate the sentiments and concerns of the youth through his music, along with his constant reinvention, has secured his place as a musical legend.

Popular songs include:

  • “Like a Rolling Stone”
  • “Blowin’ in the Wind”
  • “The Times They Are a-Changin'”
  • “Mr. Tambourine Man”
  • “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”

#1 The Beatles

The impact of the Beatles still shines through to this day. Formed in 1960, this English rock band consisted of a legendary lineup, featuring John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Star. Described as the “most influential band of all time”, The Beatles changed youth culture and the music scene for good. The Beatles albums were groundbreaking, not only for their catchy melodies and harmonic innovation but also for their role in transforming the music industry. Their ability to constantly evolve and experiment with different styles and studio techniques made them one of the most influential and beloved bands in history.

Popular songs include:

  • “Hey Jude”
  • “Let It Be”
  • “Yesterday”
  • “Come Together”
  • “A Hard Day’s Night”

What were the most popular songs from 1960?

In 1960, chart-toppers included Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”, Chubby Checker’s “The Twist”, and Percy Faith’s “Theme from A Summer Place”. These songs defined the musical landscape, blending rock, pop, and instrumental melodies.

How did music artists affect culture in 1960?

Artists in 1960 significantly influenced culture, inspiring fashion, language, and social norms. Figures like Elvis Presley and Chubby Checker not only shaped musical tastes but also impacted youth culture, embodying a new, rebellious spirit.

What music genres were popular in the 1960s?

The 1960s saw a diverse range of popular genres: Rock ‘n’ Roll continued its dominance, while Motown, Psychedelic Rock, Folk, and Soul music gained prominence. This era marked the rise of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix, among others.

Are there any iconic performances or music festivals from the 1960s?

The 1960s hosted iconic events like Woodstock and the Monterey Pop Festival. These festivals showcased legendary performances by artists like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and The Who, symbolizing the era’s spirit of peace, love, and music.

Fans usually bring various support items to music festivals to support their favorite music artists. For music festival support items, you can choose custom lanyards. Custom lanyards are versatile, and people can easily carry credit cards, ID cards, mobile phones, keychains, and other necessities. In addition, fans can customize their lanyards with special graphics or inspirational slogans related to the music artists. 

Custom Lanyards are a great item to use at concerts or music festivals to support music artists and enhance the atmosphere!

What made 1960 so great for music?

1960 was pivotal for music, marking a transition from classic styles to more varied and innovative sounds. It set the stage for the explosive growth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, the emergence of Motown, and the beginnings of Beatlemania, reshaping music forever.

Whether you’re a fan of music from the past or prefer modern-day tunes, stay in the loop with help from our latest music news. You’ll never miss a moment again!

Emily, a writer and retro music enthusiast at Upbeat Geek, delves into the history of music and pop culture, spotlighting legendary artists and trends. A fixture at festivals and concerts, she brings the latest in music lore to the forefront. Emily’s love for music research is matched by her enjoyment of leisurely Sunday walks with her dog, Lee, reflecting her areas of writing: music and pop culture.

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