The 1960s was an incredible decade for music of all types, including love songs. There were love songs of desiring, having, keeping, and losing; songs of unrequited love and outright lust; songs with the slower tempo of a loving embrace, while others got your heart racing.
Since we’ve found ourselves in mid-February, a stone’s throw from Valentine’s Day, here are just a few of the top love songs of the decade. In honor of said holiday, there are no songs of regret, loss and unrequited suffering here. Rather, they represent love songs of the euphoria of discovery and the embracing of chemistry.
Can’t Help Falling in Love With You
Could a survey of love songs of the 1960s be complete without at least one from Elvis Presley? Elvis made female fans swoon from coast to coast, but when he released this song in 1961, boomer girls planted their heads on their dates’ shoulders as he softly crooned, “Take my hand, take my whole life too…” Now there’s a love song for the ages.
The song was a hit for Sam Cooke in 1961. It speaks directly to boomers’ desire for romance. Sam sings his plea to Cupid, the god of desire, to shoot his arrow “straight through my lover’s heart for me.” Maybe a little messy, but effective.
When Etta James sang, “At last my love has come along/My lonely days are over,” in 1961, there wasn’t a boomer alive who didn’t want to relate. The song was a perfect blend of sultry instrumental strings and sophisticated vocal styling that made it an instant classic.
I’m Into Something Good
Another song that had been recorded many times, it was the version by Herman’s Hermits in 1964 that climbed to number 13 on the U.S. charts. A great pop beat that is still being heard in movies and commercials today, the song itself was euphoric: like being in love and dancing on air.
As soon as the very first chord is heard, who doesn’t want to sing along with this Temptations hit from 1964? In the pantheon of famous descriptions of true love, “I got sunshine on a cloudy day,” has to be near the top.
Chapel of Love
As early boomers began to marry – or at least think about getting married — The Dixie Cups released this song in 1964. In effect this love song speaks to the progression of “first comes love, then comes marriage.” While it made young girls long for the romantic image of their wedding day, it provided an opportunity for young boys to get close.
You Really Got Me
The Kinks unleashed this uptempo love song hit in 1964. “You got me so I don’t know what I’m doing” expresses the kind of love that is overtaken by chemistry. The repetition of the title and the staccato guitar riff creates a breathless encounter that keeps the blood pumping and the heart racing.
Baby I’m Yours
Expressing exactly what a young man felt in his heart, Peter & Gordon sang this one in 1965. The song is filled with emotions of how long this young man will be in love: “And I’ll be yours until the stars fall from the sky/Yours until the rivers all run dry/In other words, until I die.” Can you say “romantic?”
For Your Love
This song was a hit for The Yardbirds in 1965. “I’d bring you diamond rings and things right to your door” was just the beginning. This lovestruck-boy would give the moon, stars, sun and “everything and more.” Drop those lyrics on an unforgettable organ and bongo beat and how could you possibly lose?
I Got You Babe
“They say we’re young and we don’t know,” is how Sonny & Cher began this love song duet in 1965. It was as if they were reciting the lyrics in place of the boomers who were listening to it. Boomers were reaching their late teens, and and felt that they were old enough to know that they were “sure of all the things we got.”
I Can’t Help Myself
How many boomers can say they have called their spouse “sugar pie honeybunch” because of this song by The Four Tops, released in 1965? “… You know that I love you/I can’t help myself/I love you and nobody else.” That about wraps it up. What more needs to be said?
The Righteous Brothers had an instant hit with this one in 1965. Bobby Hatfield’s undeniably definitive vocals ebbed and peaked like an evening of passion itself. Mister Boomer recalls sneaking a peak from the basement stairs where his brother was having a party, only to hear this song on the record player. Everyone was coupled, arms entwined and heads on shoulders, swaying to the melody, unchained by space and time. Being a pre-teen himself, it all seemed a little icky at the time.
I’m a Believer
Talk about love at first sight, The Monkees first released this Neil Diamond song in 1966. As soon as the boy in the song sees this girl’s face, he’s in love, with “not a trace of doubt in my mind.” The pop beat was emblematic of a mid-’60s sound, but Mister B thinks it was the lyrics that carried this song to number one for 12 weeks.
Like the Kinks before them, The Troggs knew a great, simple guitar riff was going to go a long way in carrying this love song from 1966. “Wild thing you make my heart sing/You make everything groovy, wild thing.” Sounds like infatuation to Mister B. Maybe true love will blossom, but for the moment, the song suggest that there is no time like the present, “So come on and hold me tight, you move me.”
River Deep, Mountain High
Love songs could really rock by the mid-60’s, and there may be no better example than this Ike and Tina Turner song from 1966. While the lyrics were studded with references to just how much this woman was in love, the song jumps out of the gate like a marriage of honkey-tonk, blues and gospel.
When A Man Loves A Woman
Like Etta James’ At Last, every now and then a song comes around that so describes its genre that it is forever identified with it as a quintessential example. This song, released by Percy Sledge in 1966, fits the bill. A slow dance tune for boomers, it is equally enjoyed across generations for its melodic tone and powerful lyrics.
God Only Knows
In this love song by The Beach Boys from 1966, the singer (Carl Wilson on his brother Brian’s tune) starts out by saying, “I may not always love you.” On the surface, that may not sound like an auspicious beginning to a love song, but he goes on to say, “God only knows what I’d be without you.” The song was not considered to be hit material when it was released, because the prevailing thought was radio wouldn’t play it with a mention of “God.” Up until that point, it was something that wasn’t done. Could it be that because it was a love song the airplay powers that be gave it a pass, or was it the changing times of the 1960s? Or was it the song itself that struck a chord?
The Look of Love
Penned by Burt Bacharach and Hall David, this love song was released by Dusty Springfield in 1967 as part of the movie Casino Royale. Originally intended as a sexy instrumental tune as evidenced by the deep saxophone strains, Dusty’s voice added a seductive tone that hinted at an era of men and women being equals in matters of love.
I Was Made To Love Her
Stevie Wonder had many love song hits, this one being from 1967. Describing himself as “made to love her,” and wanting to “build my world all around her,” made the song another classic of the 1960s. Mister B always did love Little Stevie Wonder’s harmonica playing.
To Love Somebody
The Bee Gees sang “You don’t know what it’s like/To love somebody/The way I love you” in 1967. It is said to have been penned by Barry and Robin Gibb for Otis Redding, but he died in a plane crash before recording it. Otis would’ve skyrocketed that tune, considering it reached number 17 on the U.S. charts.
Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You
It may be another cliché of the romantic genre to sing, “You’re just too good to be true/Can’t take my eyes off of you,” but maybe that’s why this 1967 Frankie Valli hit was so popular in first place. Who wouldn’t want to hear their lover say that?
Bobby Goldsboro sang this song in 1968. It shows up on many worst songs of the decade lists because of its sappy story line: Mister B has included it here because, like other love songs of the decade, it represented a chance to slow dance. Truth be told, Mister B hated this song. His sister liked it a lot, and played it incessantly (along with Smile a Little Smile for Me, Rosemarie and Build Me Up Buttercup. Shudder at the thought.)
There is a certain je nais se quois to this crazy little thing called love. It can all come down to “Something in the way she moves” that “attracts me like no other lover.” A love song with a perfect blend of melody and lyric, of course it was a song by The Beatles from 1969.
Whole Lotta Love
By the end of the decade we had experienced both the Summer of Love and the Vietnam War. Love songs were bolder now, as evidenced by this Led Zeppelin tune from 1969. Dripping with lust, the group powered a different kind of love message that, although it might not have been the first choice of boomer girls to make out to, it was certainly on the list for many boomer boys. Mister B knows more than one boomer who kept the 8-track of the album in his car should such an occasion arise.
Boomers sure loved their love songs, and had plenty to choose from. What love songs from the 1960s transport you to a time of sweaty palms and light-headedness?