1960s in music  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
1960s, 1960s subcultures, Music of North American counterculture, Cultural appropriation in western music of the 1960s

The music of the 1960s was recorded on magnetic tape and distributed via vinyl, radio and music television. The main paradigm of popular music had become rock music, newly risen genres from the African diaspora include reggae, soul music, funk; within the Western tradition, there was the rise of psychedelic rock, folk rock and garage rock. The 1960s witnessed the height of the garage rock esthetic and the first appearance of the concept album which gave rock its credibility in the art music world. Working within the classical music tradtion, work by Stockhausen such as Kontakte, Gesang der Jünglinge and Mikrophonie I and II dominated the decade. Newly popularized instruments include the electric guitar and a variety of electronic instruments.


Popular music

popular music

Popular music in the 1960s entered an era of "all hits", as numerous artists released recordings, beginning in the 1950s, as 45-rpm "singles" (with another on the flip side), and radio stations tended to play only the most popular of the wide variety of records being made. Also, bands tended to record only the best of their songs as a chance to become a hit record. The developments of the Motown Sound, "folk rock" and the British Invasion of bands from the U.K. (The Beatles and The Rolling Stones) and so on), are major examples of American listeners expanding from the folksinger, doo-wop and saxophone sounds of the 1950s and evolving to include psychedelic music.

The rise of counterculture

music of the counterculture, summer of love

The rise of the counterculture, particularly among the youth, created a huge market for rock, soul, pop and blues music produced by drug-culture, influenced bands such as The Beatles, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cream, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, The Who, Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix Experience, and The Incredible String Band, also for radical music in the folk tradition pioneered by Bob Dylan, The Mamas and the Papas, and Joan Baez in the United States, and in England, Donovan was helping to create folk rock.

Folk rock

folk rock

The folk scene was made up of folk music lovers who liked acoustic instruments, traditional songs, and blues music with a socially progressive message. The folk genre was pioneered by Woody Guthrie. Bob Dylan came to the fore in this movement, and his hits with Blowin' in the Wind and Masters of War brought "protest songs" to a wider public.

Psychedelic rock

Psychedelic rock

Psychedelic music's LSD-inspired vibe began in the folk scene, with the Holy Modal Rounders popularizing the term in 1964. With a background including folk and jug band music, bands like the Grateful Dead and Big Brother & the Holding Company became two famous bands of the genre. The Fillmore was a regular venue for groups like another former jug band, Country Joe and the Fish, and Jefferson Airplane. Elsewhere, The Byrds had a hit with Eight Miles High. The 13th Floor Elevators titled their album The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. The music increasingly became associated with opposition to the Vietnam War.

Psychedelic music sprang up in numerous centers - New York, London, Los Angeles, and elsewhere - but early on, and strongly, in San Francisco. For some years, the so-called San Francisco Sound shared equal esteem (and nearly equal popularity) with British super-star acts like the Rolling Stones, the Who, Cream. Performers and bands like Jimi Hendrix, an American who got his big career break in England and Europe, the Grateful Dead, the Doors, and Pink Floyd all made considerable use of live improvisation.

Concept albums in rock music

concept album

In 1966, several rock music releases were arguably concept albums in the sense that they presented a set of thematically-linked songs - and they also instigated other rock artists to consider using the album format in a similar fashion: The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds was a masterful musical portrayal of Brian Wilson's state of mind at the time (and a major inspiration to Paul McCartney). Although it has a unified theme in its emotional content, the writers (Brian Wilson and Tony Asher) have said continuously that it was not necessarily intended to be a narrative. However, later in 1966, Brian Wilson had begun work on the Smile album, which was intended as a narrative. The album was scrapped before completion, only to be revived in the 2000s. The Mothers of Invention's sardonic farce about rock music and America as a whole, Freak Out! by Frank Zappa and Face to Face by The Kinks, the first collection of Ray Davies's idiosyncratic character studies of ordinary people are conceptually oriented albums. However, out of the albums above, only Pet Sounds attracted a huge commercial audience.

This all changed with the Beatles' celebrated album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in June 1967. With the release of Sgt. Pepper, the notion of the concept album came to the forefront of the popular and critical mind, with the earlier prototypes and examples from classic pop and other genres sometimes forgotten. The phrase entered the popular lexicon, and a "concept album" - the term became imbued with the notion of artistic purpose - was inherently considered to be more creative or worthy of attention than a mere collection of new songs. This perception of course related to the intent of the artist rather than the specific content.

Musical subcultures

Rude boys in Jamaica

reggae, Jamaican music

The rude boy culture originated in the ghettos of Jamaica, coinciding with the popular rise of rocksteady music, dancehall celebrations and sound system dances. The music soon crossed over to the West with songs such as Little Millie Small "My Boy Lollipop" in 1964, and these styles gained a considerable following in the United Kingdom. Especially in the mod and skinhead subcultures which was inspired by artists such as Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker and Laurel Aitken. In 1968, The Beatles enjoyed a major crossover success with Paul McCartney's ska-influenced "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da", while Desmond Dekker became the first Jamaican musician to score a #1 hit in the UK with the 1968 reggae song "The Israelites".



Mods were obsessed with music styles such as modern jazz, rhythm and blues, soul, ska, and some beat music. Mods generally favoured 1960s rhythm and blues, soul and ska by black American and Jamaican musicians, although many of them also liked British R&B/beat groups such as The Who, The Small Faces and The Yardbirds.

Proto disco

proto disco

By the end of the 1960s, the disco scene originated in nightclubs such as the Whiskey A Go Go and The Sanctuary.

Before the term disco was coined in around 1973, the phrase "discotheque records" was used to denote music (45s and album tracks) played in New York private rent or after hours parties like the Loft and Better Days. The records played there was a mixture of funk, soul and European imports. These proto-disco records are basically the same records that Kool Herc played in the early hip hop scene.

African-American music

African-American music

The late 1950s also saw vastly increased popularity of hard blues from the earliest part of the century, both in the United States and United Kingdom. In the early 1960s, a secularized form of American gospel music called soul also developed, with pioneers like Ben E. King and Sam Cooke leading the wave. Soul and R&B became a major influence on surf, as well as the chart-topping girl groups like The Angels and The Shangri-Las, only some of whom were white. Black divas like Diana Ross & the Supremes and Aretha Franklin became 60s crossover stars. In the UK, British blues became a gradually mainstream phenomenon, returning to the United States in the form of the British Invasion, a group of bands led by The Beatles who performed classic-style R&B, blues and pop with both traditional and modernized aspects.

The British Invasion knocked most other bands off the charts, with only a handful of groups, like The Mamas & the Papas, maintaining a pop career. Soul music, in two major highly-evolved forms, remained popular among blacks. Funk, usually said to have been invented by James Brown, incorporated influences from psychedelia and early heavy metal, particularly Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix was himself innovative in electric guitar, being one of the first guitarists to use effects pedals such as the wah wah pedal. Just as popular among blacks and with more crossover appeal, album-oriented soul revolutionized African American music with intelligent and philosophical lyrics, often with a socially aware tone. Marvin Gaye's What's Going On is perhaps the best-remembered of this field.

Garage rock

garage rock

Garage rock is a raw form of rock and roll that was first popular in the United States and Canada from about 1963 to 1967. During the 1960s, it was not recognized as a separate music genre and had no specific name. In the early 1970s, rock critics such as Lenny Kaye retroactively labelled it as punk rock. However, the music style was later referred to as garage rock or '60s Punk to avoid confusion with the music of late-1970s punk rock bands such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash. The garage rock revival can be traced to the early 1970s, following the release of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968 in 1972.



Afrobeat originated from the southern part of Nigeria in the 1960s where Fela Kuti experimented with many different forms of contemporary music of the time. Prevalent in his music are native African harmonies and rhythms, taking different elements and combining, modernizing and improvising upon them. Politics are essential to afrobeat, since founder Kuti used social criticism to pave the way for social change. His message can be described as confrontational and controversial, which can be related to the political climate of most of the African countries in the 1960s, many of which were dealing with political injustice and military corruption while recovering from the transition from colonial governments to self-determination. As the genre spread throughout the African continent many bands took up the style. The recordings of these bands and their songs were rarely heard or exported outside the originating countries but many can now be found on compilation albums and CDs from specialist record shops.

Northern Soul

Northern Soul

Northern Soul is a type of mid-tempo and uptempo heavy-beat soul music (of mainly African American origin) that was popularized in northern England in the mid 1960s but not coined until 1971.

Northern soul music originally consisted of obscure American soul recordings, including songs from Motown Records, Stax Records and more obscure record labels such as Okeh Records. The phrase northern soul was coined by journalist Dave Godin and popularised in 1970 through his column in Blues and Soul magazine. In a 2002 interview with Chris Hunt of Mojo, he explained that he had first come up with the term in 1968 as a sales reference for use in his record shop in Covent Garden, to help staff differentiate the more modern funkier sounds from the smoother, Motown-influenced soul of a few years earlier.

Art music

art music

Electronic art music

electronic art music, electroacoustic music, Electronic art music in the 1960s

By the 1960s, a strong community of composers and musicians working with new sounds and instruments was well established, and growing. 1960 witnessed the composition of Otto Luening's Gargoyles for violin and tape as well as the premiere of Stockhausen's Kontakte for electronic sounds, piano, and percussion.

Electroacoustic music includes several different sonic and musical genres or musical techniques. The genre is dated to the 1940s and early 1950s, and in particular to the work of two groups of composers whose aesthetic orientations were radically opposed, Musique concrète group was centered in Paris and the Studio für elektronische Musik located in Cologne.


Gesang der Jünglinge, Kontakte'

Kontakte ("Contacts") is a celebrated work of electronic music by Karlheinz Stockhausen, composed and recorded in 1958-60 at the Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) electronic music studio in Cologne, and first released in 1960 on WERGO Records.

Art rock

art rock

Music critic George Graham argues that "... the so-called Art Rock scene arose" in the 1960s, "when many artists were attempting to broaden the boundaries of rock." He claims that art rock "was inspired by the classically-influenced arrangements and the elaborate production of the Beatles Sgt. Peppers period" and states that the "style had its heyday in the 1970s with huge commercial success by Yes, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and later Genesis."

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "1960s in music" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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