50 Songs Turning 50 This Year
Welcome to 1969: The year of revolutionary tunes.
Welcome back to 1969: The year of the moon landing, Woodstock, the Vietnam War, and, as it turns out, tons of revolutionary tunes that ultimately defined an entire generation. For the quintessential 1969 playlist, take a trip down memory lane with these 50 songs turning 50 years old in 2019.
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones
This track from the Rolling Stones’ critically acclaimed album Let It Bleed was actually not a hit right out of the gate in 1969. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was originally a B-side to “Honky Tonk Women,” slipping under the radar.
However, when it was re-released by the band’s label, London Records, in 1973, it went on to reach number 42 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
This song, along with the rest of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1969 album Bayou Country, was instantly a hit, topping the Billboard charts in the United States, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy.
“I’ll Never Love Again” by Dionne Warwick
First written for the 1968 musical Promises, Promises, “I’ll Never Love Again” was released again in 1969—but this time, it was performed by now-legendary singer Dionne Warwick. The song peaked at number six on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
“Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond
Fun fact: Neil Diamond’s inspiration behind this classic was Caroline Kennedy, John F. Kennedy’s daughter. In 1969, “Sweet Caroline” reached the impressive number four spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“It’s Your Thing” by The Isley Brothers
This funk single by The Isley Brothers peaked at number two on the R&B Singles chart and has continued to be heralded as a dynamic example of the power of funk music.
“Someday We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross and The Supremes
“Someday We’ll Be Together” was first released in 1961 and performed by Johnny Bristol and Jackey Beavers. But it reached new heights when it was re-released in 1969—this time, sung by Diana Ross & the Supremes as their last single together. The song was an instant success, rocketing to the number one spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 and R&B charts.
“Get Back” by The Beatles with Billy Preston
Written by Paul McCartney and performed with Billy Preston, an iconic keyboardist in the ’60s, The Beatles’ “Get Back” is the probably the most popular song of 1969, peaking at number one on Billboard charts throughout the world.
“My Way” by Frank Sinatra
First popularized by Frank Sinatra in 1969, “My Way” also became a hit for other musicians, like Elvis Presley and Sid Vicious. Sinatra’s version still holds the record for spending the most amount of time on the U.K. Top 40 chart—75 weeks, to be exact.
“Put a Little Love in Your Heart” by Jackie DeShannon
When Jackie DeShannon released “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” in 1969, it proved to be an instant success, rising to the number four spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“My Cherie Amour” by Stevie Wonder
Originally entitled “Oh, My Marsha,” this song was written for Stevie Wonder’s former girlfriend. It peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and remained a powerful presence on Billboard’s Easy Listening and Hot R&B Singles charts, too.
“In the Ghetto” by Elvis Presley
“Is That All There Is?” by Peggy Lee
“Is That All There Is?” proved to be Peggy Lee’s biggest hit, eventually earning her a spot on the Hot 100 chart and a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Later, the song even granted Lee a spot in the prestigious Grammy Hall of Fame.
“A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash
Though it was written by poet and humorist Shel Silverstein, rock icon Johnny Cash popularized this song with his 1969 cover, recorded at California’s San Quentin State Prison for his At San Quentin album.
“Come Together” by The Beatles
Serving as the opening track for their historic 1969 album Abbey Road, “Come Together” has been covered numerous times by fellow music legends like Aerosmith and Michael Jackson. The song remained on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 16 weeks, spending a good chunk of that time at the number one spot.
“Kozmic Blues” by Janis Joplin
This song served as an instrumental part of Janis Joplin’s set at Woodstock in 1969. Although it wasn’t considered the late legend’s best performance, the song gained new fans when it was included in the compilation album The Essential Janis Joplin in 2003.
“Pinball Wizard” by The Who
Reaching number four on the U.S. Hot 100 chart, “Pinball Wizard” maintained a steady presence during 1969 after being featured on The Who’s legendary rock opera album, Tommy.
“Space Oddity” by David Bowie
“Space Oddity” is the opening track of David Bowie’s second studio album, David Bowie—and the 1969 song eventually became one of his signature songs. It’s one of four Bowie hits that made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll.”
“It’s Getting Better” by Mama Cass
Though the song was first performed by The Vogues in 1968, it was Mama Cass from The Mamas and Papas that ultimately gave this pop hit new life in 1969. Cass’s version of “It’s Getting Better” peaked at number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“I Can’t Get Next to You” by The Temptations
When it was released in 1969, “I Can’t Get Next To You” by The Temptations peaked at number one on Billboard’s Top Pop Singles and Top R&B Singles charts.
“Down by the River” by Neil Young
“Chelsea Morning” by Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell was the one who wrote “Chelsea Morning,” but it was performed by three other artists before she released the most popular version from her second album, Clouds, in 1969. Fun fact: The song proved to be so popular during that time that Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, was named after it, according to the New York Times.
“Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver and Peter, Paul and Mary
John Denver first released this song, which he wrote, under a different name (“Babe, I Hate To Go”) in 1966.
But when folk-rock trio Peter, Paul and Mary did their own version of it in 1969, “Leaving on a Jet Plane” became a hit. Not to be outdone, Denver re-released his own version of the song later that same year. Both iterations maintained a steady presence on the Billboard charts throughout 1969 and 1970.
“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” by Crosby, Stills & Nash
Written by Stephen Stills and performed by iconic rock group Crosby, Stills & Nash, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is perhaps one of the most famous love songs of all time, written for Stills’ then-girlfriend, singer-songwriter Judy Collins.
The 1969 hit ultimately earned spots on Rolling Stone‘s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” and was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll.”
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack
First recorded in 1969 and then re-released in 1972, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack, who was covering Peggy Seeger’s folk original, was a monumental hit. It eventually reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for six weeks in 1972.
“I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5
“I Want You Back” was the first single put out by pop group The Jackson 5—and it was a bonafide hit, peaking at number one on the U.S. Billboard’s Hot 100 and R&B charts in 1969.
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” by B.J. Thomas
“To Be Young, Gifted and Black” by Nina Simone
First released in 1969, Nina Simone’s song about her late friend, Lorraine Hansberry, author of the play A Raisin in the Sun, became a civil rights anthem and peaked at number eight on Billboard’s R&B chart.
“Girl from the North Country” by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash
While Bob Dylan was in Nashville recording his ninth studio album, Nashville Skyline, he re-recorded this 1969 version of his 1963 hit “Girl from North Country”—but this time, he teamed up with Johnny Cash, making it truly legendary.
“Too Busy Thinking About My Baby” by Marvin Gaye
Though the song was first recorded by The Temptations, it was Marvin Gaye’s version that topped the charts, peaking at number four on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in 1969.
“Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam
Written and recorded by Paul Leka, Gary DeCarlo, and Dale Frashuer under the band name Steam, “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)” became a bonafide hit. The track maintained a steady presence on the Billboard Hot 100 charts through the ’70s and is still played at most major sporting events.
“Venus” by Shocking Blue
“Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies
One of the most popular songs from 1969 was the product of a fictional band, The Archies. The comics characters’ song peaked at number one on music charts around the world—and continued to stay there for months after its release.
“Hot Fun in the Summertime” by Sly and the Family Stone
Released in the wake of Sly and the Family Stone’s high-profile performance at Woodstock, “Hot Fun in the Summertime” only expanded the band’s fanbase, peaking at number two on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
“Honky Tonk Women” by The Rolling Stones
This 1969 single by the Rolling Stones proved to be one of the band’s most popular hits. It peaked at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and sat comfortably amid the top five around the world.
“Feelin’ Alright” by Joe Cocker
Serving as the opening track on Joe Cocker’s debut album, With a Little Help from My Friends, the singer amended the original version by rock band Traffic, which originally included a question mark at the end of the title.
“Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Written by John Fogerty and performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Bad Moon Rising” peaked in the top five on music charts around the world—including at number two on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
“We’re Not Gonna Take It” by The Who
“Candy Says” by The Velvet Underground
This song, from The Velvet Underground’s 1969 eponymous album, is one of four that Lou Reed wrote in the voice of a female character. In “Candy Says,” he is recalling the experiences of famous transgender actress and Andy Warhol muse Candy Darling.
“1969” by The Stooges
The self-titled debut studio album by The Stooges is proto-punk legend—and one of its two singles, “1969,” went on to make its mark in music history, too. It’s featured on Rolling Stone‘s list of the “100 Greatest Guitar Songs.”
“Whipping Post” by The Allman Brothers Band
Released in 1969, The Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post” is considered one of the most prolific rock n’ roll songs of all time, appearing on both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll,” and Rolling Stone‘s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
“Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose” by James Brown
“What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” by Jr. Walker & The All Stars
“What Does It Take (To Win Your Love),” released in 1969, ultimately proved to be the most successful single for Jr. Walker & The All Stars, topping the Billboard charts for months.
“Good Morning Starshine” by Oliver
Though it first appeared in the musical Hair, when “Good Morning Starshine” was released again in 1969 by Oliver, it peaked at number three on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
“Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” by The 5th Dimension
“Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin
Serving as the opening track on Led Zeppelin’s second studio album, “Whole Lotta Love” is still considered one of the best rock n’ roll songs of all time, making Rolling Stone‘s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
“Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Yet again, Creedence Clearwater Revival proves just how influential they were during the latter portion of the ’60s with this groovy protest tune. “Fortunate Son” was even eventually added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
“Evil Ways” by Santana
This song by Mexican-American rock group Santana was released in 1969 and peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 chart the following year.
“Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum
After Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” was released in 1969, it became a certified gold single, selling two million copies by 1970.
“Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat & Tears
Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Spinning Wheel” became associated with all things psychedelic in 1969, with lead vocalist David Clayton-Thomas warning: “Don’t get too caught up, because everything comes full circle.” The song went on to be nominated for three Grammy awards.
“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by The Hollies
Inspired by Ralph Waldo Trine’s The Higher Powers of Mind and Spirit, this legendary ballad by The Hollies addresses the weight we all must carry in our lives—and how it never seems to bother us when it concerns the ones we love. The song topped the charts in countries around the world, including South Africa, Austria, and New Zealand, and of course, the United States. And for more facts about your favorite music, check out the 30 Funniest Jokes in Popular Songs.
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