These were the songs of summer every year in the 1960s
It seems impossible to put together any kind of list with the biggest acts of the 1960s and not include the Beatles, but here we are. Turns out, the Fab Four were more of a fall, winter, spring phenomenon on the American charts.
Looking back at Billboard's top songs from each summer of the Sixties, you can trace the evolution of rock across the revolutionary decade. The tunes evolve from love songs by '50s rock & rollers to surf to British Invasion to sunshine psychedelia to protest pop. There's even a song in Japanese.
Here are ten songs that spent the most weeks at the top of the charts in their respective summers. Some remain classics. Others might surprise you. Which one sounds like summer to you?
1960: The Everly Brothers - "Cathy's Clown"
The harmonic duo carried over the sounds from the previous decade. Nobody did it better at the time. You might think that Percy Faith's "The Theme from A Summer Place" — the biggest song of the year overall — would be the hit of summer. But it topped the charts from February to April. The Everly's heartbreak shuffle took the No. 1 spot for five weeks, starting around Memorial Day.
1961: Bobby Lewis - "Tossin' and Turnin'"
This bluesy Detroit rocker moved more than a million units of this dance number, which went on to become Billboard's No. 1 song of 1961. It topped the charts for seven weeks. Two decades later, it was put to great use in Animal House.
1962: Ray Charles - "I Can't Stop Loving You"
With its swooning strings and distant choirs echoing in the background, Charles' piano ballad is the most old-fashioned thing on this list, a song that might have topped the charts at any point between WWII and 1962. Things were about to change radically, but not before Charles spent five weeks at No. 1.
1963: Kyu Sakamoto - "Sukiyaki"
The silly title "Sukiyaki" had nothing to do with the song. Sukiyaki is a dish made of thinly sliced beef in a hot pot. Kyu Sakamoto's song was actually called "Ue o Muite Arukō," which means something like "Look up and walk" or "Let's walk and look upward." It's a sad but hopeful song, written by another musician who felt inspired after walking home from a student protest in 1960. The protests were over the United States' role as a military protector of Japan, which might not fly too well with American audiences. The context was lost in translation, especially with a new title about food. It would become the rare song in Japanese to top the Billboard charts, which it did for three weeks that summer. In 1981, disco act A Taste of Honey took the tune to No. 3 with its cover version, too!
1964: The Beach Boys - "I Get Around"
The Beach Boys were indeed the sound of summer, as evidenced by the greatest hits compilation Endless Summer which revived their career in the 1970s. "Surfin' USA" was blasted anywhere there was sand in 1963, but it would not be until the following year that the Wilsons and Co. would hit No. 1 for the first time. Their first chart-topper dominated radio around the 4th of July. How American is that?
1965: The Rolling Stones - "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
We are certain you are familiar with this ditty. That fuzzy riff would give the Stones their first No. 1 in the States. It was actually released here before it hit shops in the U.K., proving how the American market was truly driving the British Invasion.
1966: The Lovin' Spoonful - "Summer in the City"
At last, a summer song with "Summer" in the title! Despite that, this tune is hardly in love with the season. "All around, people looking half dead / Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head," sings John Sebastion, who would later go on to croon the theme to Welcome Back, Kotter. It sat at No. 1 for three weeks that summer.
1967: The Association - "Windy"
In the "Summer of Love," the pop was far more mellow. Breezy, you could say. Pun intended. The Association's "Windy" was perched atop the top of the Billboard Hot 100, for four weeks beginning on July 1.
1968: The Rascals - "People Got to Be Free"
Released between the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and the chaos at the DNC, the protest soul of "People Got to Be Free" was the sound of a tumultuous summer. The tune spent five weeks at No. 1, a long stay than the Rascals had managed with "Groovin'." It was also a crossover hit on the R&B charts.
1969: Zager & Evans - "In the Year 2525"
Another dark song, "In the Year 2525" envisioned a future where robots took over mankind, where humans no longer need teeth, where children are grown in test tubes. Quirky lyrics for a barbecue. But it was optimistic enough to imagine humanity in the year 9595. So there's a silver lining. This one-hit wonder spent a whopping six weeks at No. 1, for most of July and August.
SEE MORE: The biggest songs of the summer each year in the 1970s
Keep on groovin' into the next decade! READ MORE