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The Best Lyrics From 1960s Music

The 1960s were an unforgettable decade for music. That 10-year span brought us the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Rolling Stones — a trifecta of bands that would dominate and define rock music for years to come. It also saw a surge of Black musical talent from Motown and Stax Records, and the launch of brilliant careers for country artists from Johnny Cash to Loretta Lynn. It was the boom era for rock ’n’ roll, the birth of soul music, a blossoming of protest folk music, and the root of what we now consider a golden era of country.

As counterculture took center stage in American popular culture, Bob Dylan told us which way the wind blew and Aretha Franklin made us stop and think. Music was driven by youth culture, and the massive baby boomer generation provided plenty of young people to absorb it. The sounds of protest during the civil rights movement and women’s  liberation were filtered through music in the ’60s. This dramatic, tumultuous decade lent itself to a fertile time for art, and music was no exception.

Much of how we remember the ’60s today — “the time of the season for loving,” as the Zombies sang in 1968 — is through song. Here are some of the lyrics that came to define this singular decade.

If you should ever leave me / Though life would still go on, believe me / The world could show nothing to me / So what good would living do me
— “God Only Knows,” the Beach Boys

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows
— “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” Bob Dylan

Why don't you all f-fade away / And don't try to dig what we all s-s-say / I'm not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation / I'm just talkin' 'bout my g-g-g-generation
— ”My Generation,” The Who

All the lonely people / Where do they all come from? / All the lonely people / Where do they all belong?
— “Eleanor Rigby,” the Beatles

What's your name? / Who's your daddy? / Is he rich like me? / Has he taken / Any time / To show you what you need to live?
— “Time of the Season,” the Zombies

Please allow me to introduce myself / I'm a man of wealth and taste / I've been around for a long, long year / Stole many a man's soul and faith
— “Sympathy for the Devil,” the Rolling Stones

You say you're gonna take him, oh but I don't think you can / 'Cause you ain't woman enough to take my man
— “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man),” Loretta Lynn

I fell into a burning ring of fire / I went down, down, down / And the flames went higher / And it burns, burns, burns / The ring of fire
— “Ring of Fire,” Johnny Cash

I ain't no psychiatrist, I ain't no doctor with degrees / But it don't take too much high IQ to see what you're doing to me
— “Think,” Aretha Franklin

I've known of your, your secluded nights / I've even seen her, maybe once or twice / But is her sweet expression / Worth more than my love and affection?
— “Stop! In the Name of Love,” the Supremes

I found a dream that I could speak to / A dream that I can call my own / I found a thrill to press my cheek to / A thrill that I've never known
— “At Last,” Etta James

Different strokes for different folks / And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo-bee / Ooh, sha sha / We got to live together
— “Everyday People,” Sly and the Family Stone

Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together / I've got some real estate here in my bag / So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies / And walked off to look for America
— “America,” Simon & Garfunkel

How well I remember the look that was in his eyes / Stealin' kisses from me on the sly / Takin' time to make time / Tellin' me that he's all mine
— “Son of a Preacher Man,” Dusty Springfield

Here am I floating 'round my tin can / Far above the moon / Planet Earth is blue / And there's nothing I can do
— “Space Oddity,” David Bowie

All the leaves are brown / And the sky is gray / I've been for a walk  / On a winter's day
— “California Dreamin’,” the Mamas and the Papas

Photo credit: Mirrorpix via Getty Images

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About the Author
Courtney E. Smith
Courtney E. Smith is an author, podcaster, and editor based in Dallas, Texas.
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