Some years stand out more in music than others. For instance, 1969 was the year in which Woodstock happened. It’s one of the most iconic events of a generation. Furthermore, it has cast a long shadow over pop music ever since. With that said, 1969 also saw the Altamont Free Concert. The death of Meredith Hunter came as a terrible shock, so much so it’s sometimes described as the moment the hippie movement started to wane. As such, 1969 was a time of transition, as shown by the songs that stood out then.
According to Billboard magazine, here are the top 20 songs of 1969:
20. “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” – Jr. Walker & The All Stars
Jr. Walker had several hits from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. He is often mentioned because of “Shotgun,” which was the single that served as his breakthrough. However, it would be a mistake to say that “Shotgun” was unequaled by the rest of his work. After all, “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” hit the same spots on the U.S. music charts. It was number four on the Billboard Hot 100. Similarly, it was number one on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
19. “Proud Mary” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Proud Mary” is one of those songs that have become a massive success more than once. As a result, some people might recognize it because of Ike and Tina Turner’s Grammy-winning cover. Still, Creedence Clearwater Revival was the first to record and release “Proud Mary.” Their version reached the second position on the Billboard Hot 100. Amusingly, it was the first of their five singles to come tantalizingly close to the top of the chart. Something Creedence Clearwater Revival never managed to claim.
18. “Suspicious Minds” – Elvis Presley
It’s well-known that Elvis didn’t do much songwriting. Instead, songwriters would offer him part of the rights to get him to record their songs. After all, partial ownership of a hit was still much better than full ownership of a flop. “Suspicious Minds” is an excellent example. The initial version by the songwriter Mark James went nowhere, whereas Elvis took it to the top of the charts. It’s interesting to note that “Suspicious Mind” was a comeback for the King. Furthermore, it became the last of Elvis’s number-one singles.
17. “Grazing in the Grass” – The Friends of Distinction
“Grazing in the Grass” started as an instrumental. It did well upon being released by Hugh Masekela in 1968. Subsequently, Friends of Distinction did a voiced version, which became a Top 10 hit for both the pop and the R&B markets. Unsurprisingly, that is the one people tend to remember.
16. “Get Together” – The Youngbloods
The Youngbloods had a single Top 40 hit in the United States. That would be “Get Together,” which boasts some of the best-known lines in rock and roll. Chances are good that interested individuals have heard its plea for love and peace at some point because of its incredible popularity.
15. “Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet” – Henry Mancini
Romeo and Juliet has been adapted for the movie screen more than once. However, the 1968 version remains one of the most successful. The instrumental “Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet” held the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in 1969, thus earning it a place on this list. This song is so recognizable that interested individuals might not even realize its connection to Romeo and Juliet.
14. “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby” – Marvin Gaye
It seems safe to say that the late 1960s were a good time for Marvin Gaye. After all, he had a massive hit with “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” in 1968. Then, he released a cover of “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby” to capitalize on that success, thus resulting in a number-four single. The song sold close to two million copies. Thanks to that, it became the best-selling R&B single of 1969.
13. “Hair” – The Cowsills
Unsurprisingly, “Hair” comes from Hair. The latter is notable for being the first rock musical, thus establishing such works as a separate subgenre. This version of the song proved the Cowsills’ most successful single ever released. Sadly, it never reached the top of the charts because it was blocked by another song – “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” – from the same musical.
12. “Crystal Blue Persuasion” – Tommy James and the Shondells
“Crystal Blue Persuasion” is one of two songs from Crimson and Clover on this list. At the time, people believed that Tommy James was singing about drugs. However, he claimed that he took inspiration from the Bible. Specifically, James mentioned the Book of Revelation, which has earned a reputation for its extravagant, highly-interpretable imagery.
11. “One” – Three Dog Night
“One” was recorded not once, not twice, but three times in the late 1960s. This is the one by Three Dog Night, which tends to be the best-known version because it was a number-five hit in the United States and a number-four hit in Canada.
10. “Crimson and Clover” – Tommy James and the Shondells
Of course, “Crimson and Clover” would be the second single from the album of the same name on this list. There is no great mystery about where Tommy James got the name for the song. Crimson is his favorite color. Similarly, the clover is his favorite flower. There is a clover called the crimson clover or the Italian clover, but that wasn’t what either James or his songwriting partner had in mind. In any case, “Crimson and Clover” was a number-one hit in the United States and six other countries.
9. “Build Me Up Buttercup” – The Foundations
“Build Me Up Buttercup” is about being in love with someone who doesn’t seem to feel the same level of interest. As a result, the narrator feels a torrent of emotions, which makes him sympathetic. This song sees a fair amount of use in media. For example, it was in There’s Something About Mary from 1998. Similarly, it was in the fourth season of Elementary. Given this, it seems safe to say that the song has a degree of enduring popularity.
8. “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” – Tom Jones
This is another song in which the narrator has a very unpleasant romantic experience. Indeed, it’s so bad that he tells himself that he won’t ever put himself out there in the same way, though it’s hard to say whether the statement of the moment will hold for the future. Many people have covered this song. Tom Jones’s version is the best-known because it was the most successful by a considerable margin. The neat thing is that Tom Jones’s version was also the runner-up because it was a re-issue that reached the number six spot in the United States.
7. “Hot Fun in the Summertime” – Sly and the Family Stone
“Hot Fun in the Summertime” is as straightforward as it gets. It benefited from excellent timing. The song was released on July 21, 1969. Less than a month later, Sly and the Family Stone performed at Woodstock, which caused a massive expansion in their fan base. Of course, it helped that “Hot Fun in the Summertime” was as catchy and upbeat as it was.
6. “Dizzy” – Tommy Roe
Tommy Roe was one of the most notable bubblegum musicians of the 1960s. He tends to be remembered because of two hits from that decade. One was “Sheila,” which came out in the early 1960s. The other was “Dizzy,” a number-one single in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada in 1969.
5. “Everyday People” – Sly and the Family Stone
“Everyday People” was the first time Sly and the Family Stone scored a chart-topper. That was far from a fluke, as shown by how the song held its number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks. “Everyday People” is a famous plea for equality between different people. Something Sly and the Family Stone were well-positioned to make. After all, they were one of the first racially-integrated bands with male and female members to make it big in the U.S. market. It helped that “Everyday People” had a more pop sound than much of the band’s work, thus enabling it to make more headway.
4. “Honky Tonk Women” – The Rolling Stones
Honky-tonks were bars that offered country music. Furthermore, the term can refer to the style of country music played in them. Interested individuals should also know that honky-tonks have somewhat disreputable connotations. They were never associated with high entertainment. On top of that, it wasn’t uncommon for them to be associated with gambling and prostitution. The Rolling Stones were well aware of these things when they made the song. It’s an excellent example of their ability to sing suggestively without crossing the line for the BBC. Thanks to that, the Rolling Stones could reach more listeners while still leaning on their bad-boy image.
3. “I Can’t Get Next to You” – The Temptations
The Temptations are one of the most famous acts to emerge from Motown. They had a total of four number-one singles in the United States. The second was “I Can’t Get Next to You,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in 1969. One could say its timing was a bit unfortunate. That is because the song was flanked by the Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar” and Elvis’s “Suspicious Minds.” It isn’t hard to imagine the song managing a longer tenure if it had faced less formidable competition.
2. “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” – The 5th Dimension
Interested individuals might recognize this song because of the oft-repeated phrase “Age of Aquarius.” It refers to a roughly 2,160-year period dominated by the astrological sign of the Water-Bearer, sandwiched between similar periods dominated by Capricorn and Pisces. Some think we’re still moving towards this period, while others believe we’re already in it.
Either way, the Age of Aquarius received interest because it’s supposed to be a time of truth, freedom, and enlightenment, though there are more negative takes on the concept. In other words, it’s another example of people reading what they want in astrology. Regardless, “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” has a strange name because it’s a medley of two songs from Hair. The single resonated with audiences for much the same reasons as the musical. As such, it’s no wonder that “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” spent six times in the number-one position in the United States. Sales-wise, it was certified platinum by the RIAA, meaning it sold more than a million copies.
1. “Sugar, Sugar” – The Archies
Archie Comics has been around since the late 1930s. Despite that, it remains surprisingly relevant, as shown by how Riverdale managed seven seasons and two spinoffs. “Sugar, Sugar” reminds people that Archie Comics wasn’t idle between its founding and the present. For those curious, it’s a song from a fictional band consisting of comic book characters. Furthermore, it’s the most successful bubblegum pop song ever released. “Sugar, Sugar” had so much impact that people have argued that it’s the defining example of the genre from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, which is no small praise considering its competition.
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