The 200 best songs of the 1960s

Why do the songs of the 1960s still have such a dominant hold on our collective aural memories, even for those of us too young to have heard them when they were new? There are a few clues in Pitchfork’s newly completed list of the 200 best songs of the ’60s. Which, by the way, is a pretty well-thought out compilation, so far as these massive, arbitrary lists go.

It’s not all peace, love, flowers, and Motown chirpiness, though there are plenty of those elements on the list. It’s also about dread, horror, regret, and loss of innocence. (Look at the top 20, which includes such anthems of paranoia, frustration, and unresolved longings as ”God Only Knows,” ”A Day in the Life,” ”Like a Rolling Stone, ” I Can’t Explain,” and ”Gimme Shelter.” Even the Jackson 5’s exuberant ”I Want You Back,” featuring a weirdly mature and rueful 11-year-old lead singer, is a desperate plea for ”one more chance.”)

I can’t wait to see a similar Pitchfork take on the maligned songwriting eras known as the 1970s and ’80s. Meanwhile, you can find MP3s of all 200 songs on this list here.

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  • Ed

    Has anybody else asked or is it just me…Where is Slezak?!

  • Chuck_A

    I never thought I’d enjoy reading one of these lists, but this one is as good as I’ve seen. It is as all inclusive as it could be (with the limit of 200, of course) with its representation of Cash to Hendrix.
    Is it perfect? What could be under such constrictions of numbers and subjectivity, but it certainly succeeds (IMHO) where so many others have failed.

  • Juju

    This is fantastic! The list is great. These are true memories for so many of us. Jackson Five, CCR, I love John Fogerty! Aretha Franklin’s “Think” is still a great song. The Beach Boys were without question prolific musicians. The Shangrila’s “Long live our love” is my favorite song. The Beatles have had so many great hits, I own a huge collection of their music. Thanks for the list.

  • Big Momma

    I am a child of the sixties, there will never be music like that again.

  • Big Momma

    Can anyone ever forget “DARLIN” by the Beach Boys?

    • piggy

      i know iam glad that them songs r gone

  • Where y’at, Dawlin”!

    John Fogerty and CCR defined the 60’s in my opinion. “Heard it Thru the Grapevine” is a great song done by any artist but CCR”S version and, of course, the one by the late,great Marvin Gaye were at the top of my hot 100 list.

  • mark in nyc

    That’s cause there is no “real” music today. Most entertainers today can’t actually write music, just sample better music that came before them.
    Look at the hip hop scene (I have nothing against Hip hop at a club) but the Hip hop revolution is about dancing, drinking and screwing. Whereas songs of the 60’s revolution were about being an individual, not trusting the machine, and speaking out against percieved evils.
    Today the biggest evil in music is if they get Dom instead of Crystal.

  • Paulie Walnuts

    Pitchfork has already done their lists for the 70s and 80s. These two lists were equally great or better if possible. There is also a greatest records of the 90s as well.

  • Big Momma

    I was very much into Motown back in the day.
    Loved the Temps, Four Tops, Smokey and the GIRLS as well. Always loved MARTHA and the VANDELLAS.

  • Nancy Walker

    Mark:
    You don’t have to apologize for not liking hip hop. It was fun and playful when it first came on the scene, but now it is about everything you said. I personally hate it. The sixties music was about beauty, love, and important issues to society at large. I will always prefer the old music, because it was the best ever.

  • Big Momma

    I agree with Nancy and Mark re Hip Hop. Also want to add that the LOVE SONGS from that era will never be equaled.

  • FL

    I would like to know where Selazk is?

  • Where y’at, Dawlin”!

    Slezak must be on extended leave……..haven’t seen any articles by him in quite some time.
    Back to the 60’s…….Etta James’ “At Last” is a powerful song………Celine even does a credible job with it.

  • Where y’at, Dawlin”!

    Pardon my ignorance, but is HipHop the same as Rap? I cannot abide Rap in any fashion, but the kids I work with ALL love it!

  • Big Momma

    My son and daughter-in-laws wedding song!! See even some of the young people have good taste.

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