Music of the Fifties and Sixties
The ‘50s and ‘60s were good to music fans. Those two decades are widely considered the prime of rock’n’roll, due to the explosion of new sounds and artists that emerged. With so much unforgettable music released during those two decades, it can be difficult to narrow it down — we mean, how do you choose between songs like “Stand By Me,” “Heat Wave” or “Respect”? That being said, with so many great songs from that era still resonating today, we wanted to take a look back at some of the greatest hits from that time period.
Let’s start off with a blast of the past with a few classic ‘50s hits. These are some of the songs that paved the way for what was to come in the ‘60s. Vocals and guitar is how many people remember the ‘50s. Songs like “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” by Jerry Lee Lewis and “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley were the epitome of rock’n’roll, but with a softer, sweeter tone that was not yet heard in music. “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis is just as raucous as it was in ‘58, with its gritty, dangerous sound. “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets is another example of the simpler, less-complicated music of the ‘50s.
As we move on to the ‘60s, the music became more complex and experimental. New artists were beginning to blend many musical styles; the result was a new sound, commonly referred to as “Sixties Rock.” The Beatles, a band that most recognize when thinking about the ‘60s, were at the forefront of this new sound, making music that was accessible to a wide audience. “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” which was released in 1963, is an example of the simpler, poppier sound of the ‘60s. With its accessible sound and an approachable message, it was one of the first “Beatles hits that made girls scream. “Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas is a good example of Motown-style music, which was popular among black audiences, especially with its “dance the blues” message. “Respect” by Aretha Franklin is more of a classic ‘60s rhythm and blues song, a style of music that focused on a more complex sound.
Finally, we’ll go out with a bang with some of the most notable hits from the Motown-era. This Detroit-based music industry was responsible for creating and producing so many classics that we can still hear today, and artists like Michael Jackson, The Supremes, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and more were part of this phenomenon. Many of the most popular songs from this time are still played regularly on radio stations and in nightclubs. The Motown sound was characterized by upbeat rhythms, soulful vocals, and catchy melodies. Songs like “Bad,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “My Girl,” “Stop in the Name of Love,” and “You Can’t Hurry Love” are timeless. They’re instantly recognizable, and many people will instantly be able to recall memories associated with those songs.
Notable Bands from the '50s and '60s
- The Beatles - The Beatles were a British rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. With members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, the band is universally regarded as the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed band in history.
- The Beach Boys - The Beach Boys were an American rock band formed in 1961 in California. They were responsible for re-popularizing surfing music, and most of their songs were about cars, surfing, or girls.
- The Supremes - The Supremes were an American girl group formed in 1958. They are one of the most successful groups in music history and were also one of the most influential girl groups of all time.
- The Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones were an English rock band formed in London in 1962. They are known for their hybrid blues-rock and psychedelic rock music.
- The Doors - The Doors were an American rock band formed in 1965 in Los Angeles, California. They are widely regarded as one of the most influential rock bands of all time - despite their drug problems.
All in all, there’s no denying that the ‘50s and ‘60s were great decades for music. From rock to rhythm and blues, to rock, pop, and everything in between, they were the decades that cemented rock as the most dominant genre. There was something for everyone, and those decades have inspired artists and musicians that have followed. The ‘50s and ‘60s will always be remembered as the Golden Age of music.