The 1960s were a golden era for rock music. From the Beatles to the Rolling Stones, the decade saw the birth of some of the most iconic bands in history. Join us as we take a look back at the best of the 1960s rock music scene.
Of all the bands that emerged during the 1960s, none was more important than the Beatles. Hailing from Liverpool, England, the Beatles – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – took the world by storm with their signature sound, a unique blend of pop, rock and folk. The band’s popularity was unprecedented and their influence on popular music is still felt today. The Beatles are widely regarded as the most important band of the 20th century.
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones were one of the most successful and influential rock bands of the 1960s. Formed in 1962, the group originally consisted of lead singer Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards, bassist Bill Wyman, drummer Charlie Watts, and keyboardist Ian Stewart. The Stones’ early repertoire was heavily influenced by R&B and blues, and they soon developed a signature sound that blended these genres with a rough-edged rock sensibility. The band’s live performances were also characterized by on-stage antics and audience interaction, which further contributed to their bad-boy image.
During their lengthy career, the Rolling Stones have released dozens of albums and singles, many of which have become classics in the rock canon. Some of their most well-known songs include “Satisfaction,” “Paint It Black,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Brown Sugar,” and “Start Me Up.” The Stones are also widely acclaimed for their influential contributions to the development of rock & roll. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and received a lifetime achievement Grammy Award in 2006.
The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys are an American rock band formed in Hawthorne, California, in 1961. The group’s original lineup consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine. The Beach Boys began as a garage band led by Brian Wilson, who co-wrote, produced, and arranged many of their early hits. The early material was heavily influenced by R&B and doo-wop groups such as the Four Seasons and Chuck Berry.
The Beach Boys achieved mainstream success with their debut album Surfin’ Safari in 1962. The album peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 chart in the US and included three US top 40 singles: “Surfin’ Safari”, ” 409″, and “Surfin’ USA”. Their 1963 album Surfer Girl reached number seven in the US, becoming their first top 10 album in the country; it was also their first LP to be released in stereo. 1964’s All Summer Long peaked at number five on Billboard 200 and included the hits “I Get Around” and “Fun, Fun, Fun”. 1965’s The Beach Boys Today! marked a change in musical direction for the group, with a more mature sound that drew influence from pop artists such as Bob Dylan and The Beatles. In 1966 they released Pet Sounds to critical acclaim; many consider it one of rock music’s greatest albums. Following its release, founding member Dennis Wilson left the group to pursue a solo career; he was soon replaced by Blondie Chaplin (formerly of Chicago) and Ricky Fataar (later of Stealers Wheel).
Bob Dylan is one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. His career started in the early 1960s, and he quickly became one of the leading voices of his generation. Dylan’s work deals with social and political issues, and he is known for his inventive use of lyrics. His music has been a major influence on both rock and folk music.
The Doors were an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1965, with vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore. They were one of the most controversial and influential rock groups of the 1960s, mostly because of Morrison’s lyrics and charismatic but unpredictable stage presence. After signing with Elektra Records in 1967, the band released eight albums in five years—including their self-titled debut album which is considered one of the greatest debuts in rock music history—before Morrison’s death at the age of 27 in 1971.
Although they were commonly grouped with the other “San Francisco Sound” bands of the time—such as Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, and Big Brother and the Holding Company—The Doors’ music was much more cerebral and experimental than that of their contemporaries. Their sound was also unique for its combination of Manzarek’s keyboards with Krieger’s bluesy, jazz-influenced guitar playing; Densmore’s Latin-influenced polyrhythmic drumming; and Morrison’s deep, droning voice which was sometimes compared to that of a shaman.
As the lead guitarist of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jimi Hendrix was unmatched in his ability to fuse blues, psychedelia, and hard rock into a cohesive and innovative whole. His virtuosic technique, combined with his unconventional use of feedback and distortion, made him one of the most influential guitarists of the 20th century. Hendrix’s innovative style was steeped in the traditions of American blues and R&B; his playing incorporated elements of both genres, as well as those of rock and jazz. He was also a prolific songwriter; many of his songs, such as “Purple Haze” and “Fire,” have become enduring classics.
Though Led Zeppelin did not release their self-titled debut album until early 1969, the band members – Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones – had already been making music together for several years. Plant and Page first played together in the band The Yardbirds, and when that group disbanded in 1968, they decided to form Led Zeppelin. With Bonham on drums and Jones on bass guitar, the band quickly rose to prominence. They were known for their innovative and blues-influenced style of rock music, as well as their live performances, which were often characterized by lengthy improvisational sections. Led Zeppelin is one of the most influential rock bands of all time, and they are widely considered to be one of the greatest rock bands of the 1960s.
Janis Joplin is often considered one of the most powerful and influential vocalists of her generation. She achieved critical and commercial success with her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and later as a solo artist with her own backing groups, The Kozmic Blues Band and Full Tilt Boogie Band.
Joplin was known for her electric stage presence and often outrageous behavior, as well as her powerful, soulful voice. Her unique style blended blues, rock, folk, country and jazz influences. Her songs dealt with topics such as social injustice, lost love, drug addiction and betrayal.
janis-joplin1Throughout her career, Joplin fought against sexism and racism in the music industry. She was one of the first women to achieve mainstream success in rock music. Despite her success, she struggled with self-doubt and demons throughout her life.
Joplin died of a drug overdose at the age of 27, just months after releasing her final album, Pearl. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
The Who is an English rock band formed in London in 1964. Their classic line-up consisted of lead singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist and singer Pete Townshend, bass guitarist John Entwistle, and drummer Keith Moon. They are considered one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century, selling over 100 million records worldwide.
The Who rose to prominence in the UK with their high-energy live performances and signature sound, a blend of Townshend’s powerful windmill strumming and Rickenbacker guitar antics, Entwistle’s dark, melodic bass lines, Moon’s explosive drumming style, and Daltrey’s powerful vocals.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Formed in the late 1960s, Creedence Clearwater Revival was one of the most successful rock bands of the decade. The group mixed elements of country, folk, and blues to create a unique sound that appealed to a wide audience. Hits like “Fortunate Son” and “Bad Moon Rising” helped the band sell over 30 million records in the United States alone.