The 20 Best Songs to Come out of 1968

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Momentous things happen every year. For instance, 1968 saw the Tet Offensive, a military defeat but political victory for North Vietnam that proved pivotal in the Vietnam War. Other notable events included but weren’t limited to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, and the formation of the Khmer Rouge from the Vietnamese People’s Army. Music-wise, 1968 was a good year for rock and roll, as shown by the formation of Black Sabbath, King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, and Rush. However, the Beatles remained the banner-bearer for the genre by dominating the U.S. music charts with “Hey Jude. Of course, other genres also had their fair share of representation.

Here are Billboard’s Top Hot 100 songs of 1968:

20. “Dance to the Music” – Sly and the Family Stone

Sly and the Family Stone were active from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s. They were influential for funk, soul, and other genres. “Dance to the Music” played an enormous part in this because it catapulted them into the popular consciousness. Funny enough, Sly and the Family Stone thought the song was uncool because it had been toned down too much for increased mainstream appeal. Still, it did what it was supposed to do.

19. “Midnight Confessions” – The Grass Roots

The name “Midnight Confessions” conjures a secretive and shameful impression. That makes sense when one realizes that the singer loves a married woman so much that he says this out loud while alone. Reportedly, the Grass Roots weren’t the first to perform “Midnight Confessions.” Still, the two have a powerful relationship because the song was the band’s highest-charting single ever released.

18. “Grazing in the Grass” – Hugh Masekela

Hugh Masekela was a South African musician who left his homeland after the Apartheid state carried out the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. Subsequently, he made an enviable reputation for himself as a jazz musician in the United States. For proof, look no further than “Grazing in the Grass,” which sold more than four million copies. Masekela’s musical success enabled him to play a notable role in the anti-apartheid movement.

17. “Stoned Soul Picnic” – The 5th Dimension

Laura Nyro’s Eli and the Thirteenth Confession was a hit by any reasonable standard. Despite this, The 5th Dimension’s version of “Stoned Soul Picnic” is better known than hers. As the story goes, the producer Bones Howe suggested the vocal group do a cover of the just-released song. The result reached the number three position on the Billboard Hot 100. Thanks to this, “Stoned Soul Picnic” started a trend of The 5th Dimension covering Nyro’s songs, which yielded several more hits.

16. “Cry Like a Baby” – The Box Tops

The Box Tops performed a mix of pop, rock, and soul music. They had a Top 10 hit with “Cry Like a Baby,” which came within a single spot of the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100. Further evidence of the song’s success can be seen in how it sold more than a million copies.

15. “Young Girl” – Gary Puckett & The Union Gap

Gary Puckett & The Union Gap started as Gary Puckett & The Remarkables. In early 1967, they took a new name, which reflected their new gimmick of wearing Union uniforms. “Young Girl” is one of the group’s most successful singles. However, it’s one of those songs that have become very awkward, to say the least, in modern times.

14. “Hello, I Love You” – The Doors

The Doors are one of the greatest rock bands ever. “Hello, I Love You” is one of the band’s most successful songs, as shown by how it went number one in the United States and Canada. Amusingly, some Doors fans have rejected it for being too commercial, meaning they consider it too different from the band’s distinctive sound.

13. “Mony Mony” – Tommy James and the Shondells

“Mony Mony” is one of Tommy James and the Shondells’ numerous hits. After all, the band had fourteen Top 40 hits in the United States, which included two number-one singles. As a result, the number three finish of “Mony Mony” doesn’t stand out too much in that context. Reportedly, the songwriters were looking for a suitable word to complete the lyrics when one of them caught sight of the “MONY” sign on what was once the Mutual of New York Building. That feature wasn’t replaced with a “1740” sign until December 2007.

12. “Little Green Apples” – O.C. Smith

Bobby Russell wrote two of the singles on this list. He intended them as experiments to test his belief that there was a market for more substantial songs than standard in those days. As it turned out, Russell was correct in his expectations. “Little Green Apples” wasn’t just a number-twelve single for O.C. Smith. The song also became a Top 40 hit when recorded and released by Roger Miller in the same year.

11. “Harper Valley PTA” – Jeannie C. Riley

Jeannie C. Riley’s country songs continued to place on the music charts from the late 1960s to the early 1970s. However, none of them even came close to matching the success of her debut single, “Harper Valley PTA.” It was so popular that it hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot Country Singles. Sadly, the song didn’t do so at the same time. Still, Riley set a record this way, which wouldn’t be repeated until Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” in 1981. As such, it’s no exaggeration to say that this song was enough to cement her place in music history.

10. “Tighten Up” – Archie Bell & The Drells

Archie Bells recorded this song just before he was drafted to serve in Vietnam. Subsequently, his band rushed out their debut album even though he wasn’t available. That was because of this song’s popularity, meaning they had to strike while the iron was still hot. “Tighten Up” was one of the first funk singles to soar high on the music charts. In other words, it’s something of a pioneer.

9. “Mrs. Robinson” – Simon & Garfunkel

As strange as it sounds, “Mrs. Robinson” was recorded for a movie. Specifically, the director Mike Nichols became obsessed with Simon & Garfunkel while filming The Graduate. Eventually, he reached out to see if he could use their music. Simon was reluctant. Still, Nichols managed to talk him into it. “Mrs. Robinson” became Simon & Garfunkel’s second chart-topper. Moreover, it remains one of the duo’s most iconic releases, as shown by the sheer number of famous artists who have covered it for one reason or another.

8. “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” – Hugo Montenegro

Chances are good interested individuals can guess that “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” comes from the movie of the same name. However, they should know this isn’t the original version. Instead, the orchestra leader Hugo Montenegro did a cover that became popular in the United States and the United Kingdom.

7. “This Guy’s in Love with You” – Herb Alpert

Herb Alpert tends to be known for his trumpet playing. Still, he has more than one musical talent, as shown by his vocal performance in this song. Alpert has said that he used to ask songwriters if they had any old songs that had never been recorded. It was his way of uncovering songs with potential. Something that worked out when he asked Burt Bacharach, who had penned “This Guy’s in Love with You” with Hal David. Alpert’s version topped the charts, thus making it the most recognized.

6. “Sunshine of Your Love” – Cream

“Sunshine of Your Love” is one of Cream’s numerous hits in the United Kingdom. It isn’t too remarkable in this regard. The song peaked at the number 25 position, far from the band’s height in that country. The curious thing is that “Sunshine of Your Love” had a much more positive reception in the United States. There, it rose to the number five position, meaning it’s Cream’s most successful song in that country. The only single to come close was “White Room” at the number six position. Otherwise, Cream’s singles didn’t even come close to those two in the United States.

5. “People Got to Be Free” – The Rascals

The late 1960s were a tumultuous time. As a result, it makes sense that contemporary artists would sing about the events of their day. “People Got to Be Free” is an excellent example. People often assume that the song was written about the assassination of either Martin Luther King, Jr. or Robert F. Kennedy. In truth, the timing wasn’t right for that. Instead, “People Got to Be Free” was inspired by the Rascals’ encounter with a group of Fort Pierce residents who threatened them for having beards and long hair. Still, the Rascals did stand by the values of the song, as shown by their refusal to play segregated bills.

4. “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” – Otis Redding

Otis Redding is a legend of soul and R&B music. Sadly, this song was the first time a posthumous single topped the charts in the United States. That happened because Redding died in a plane crash just days after he recorded this song for the second time. As such, (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” was seen in a special light. Even so, it couldn’t have become as influential as it is without its inherent excellence.

3. “Honey” – Bobby Goldsboro

As mentioned, Bobby Russell penned two experimental songs on this list. The first was “Little Green Apples,” while the second was “Honey.” This is a song of remembrance. After all, it opens with the narrator thinking about everyday moments with his significant other. The song doesn’t make it clear right away what happened. However, the growth of the twig to a tree reveals that much time has passed, thus foreshadowing the death of his significant other. “Honey” is the kind of song one would expect from Russell’s stated intentions.

2. “Love Is Blue” – Paul Mauriat

“Love Is Blue” is one of those songs with more than one well-known version. The original was a French song that a Greek singer performed for Luxembourg on Eurovision. However, the song proved popular enough for it to receive numerous covers by numerous artists. The one on this list is an instrumental version done by the French orchestra leader Paul Mauriat. He didn’t like it, but his record label decided to record it. Thanks to that, “Love Is Blue” spent five weeks on top of the charts in the United States. That was notable because that was the first time a French artist had managed the feat.

1. “Hey Jude” – The Beatles

“Hey Jude” proves that the Beatles remained creative legends despite their internal issues by the late 1960s. Generally, it’s thought that Paul McCartney got his initial inspiration while comforting John Lennon’s son Julian after John Lennon’s separation from his wife, Cynthia Lillian Lennon. From that, “Hey Jude” grew into one of the most iconic songs ever released. It has sold around eight million copies. Furthermore, it often shows up when people list the best songs ever. That is as true in the present as in the past.

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