6 of the Best Rock Songs from the ’60s

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

While the 1960s possessed flowery, feel-good moments of peace and flamboyance, there were also gritty moments of protest, riot, and rage. Abroad, the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War became a catalyst for the counterculture movement. On the flip side, at home in the States, the Civil Rights Movement was in every headline. Emotions ran high and the artists of this decade attempted to capture them.

So, in honor of all the disruptors and disruptions that occurred in the ’60s, read below for six of the era’s best rock anthems.

1. “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)

Written by Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty, “Fortunate Son” is a fine sonic specimen of rock ‘n’ roll. It was an anthem for the American counterculture’s opposition to the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and remains a protest song against privilege and elitism. I ain’t no millionaire’s son, no, no/ It ain’t me, it ain’t me/ I ain’t no fortunate one, no, Fogerty wails.

2. “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones (1969)

Sliding in right before the turn of the decade is the Rolling Stones’ song “Gimme Shelter.” This Stones classic is another rock anthem inspired by the Vietnam War. “That’s a kind of end-of-the-world song, really. It’s apocalypse; the whole record’s like that,” frontman Mick Jagger said of the song.

3. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)

No rock roundup is complete without the guitar wizard Jimi Hendrix. One of Hendrix’s finest moments as a guitarist comes in the form of his 1968 song “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” with the extended version titled “Voodoo Chile.”

4. “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks (1964)

Supposedly, the Kinks frontman Ray Davies wrote “You Really Got Me” about a woman he saw in the crowd during one of the band’s shows. He never met her, but she inspired the hit song nonetheless. Girl, you really got me goin’/ You got me so I don’t know what I’m doin’, Davies sings.

5. “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin (1969)

Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant embraced the rambling lifestyle of the traveling troubadour which can be heard in no uncertain terms on “Ramble On.” Interestingly, “Ramble On” also includes references to J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous novel, The Lord of The Rings, as the narrator of the song is looking to find the queen of all my dreams.

6. “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf (1968)

Get your motor runnin’, because here comes the rockin’ last song on this list. Written by Mars Bonfire for the band Steppenwolf, “Born to Be Wild” was notably featured in the 1969 film Easy Rider and remains a staple of rock balladry.

Rolling Stones Photo Credit: Helmut Newton

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