Best Songs From 1960

Music was about to change. While many bands from the 1950s returned to the charts in the 60s, rock and roll music was starting to top the charts. R&B and country songs also found their way onto the charts.

This all led to a lot of top songs from 1960, much of which we showcase below.

“It’s Now or Never” by Elvis Presley

Song Year: 1960

“It’s Now or Never” was Presley’s biggest hit of 1960. Recorded at RCA Studio B in Nashville, the song went straight to the top of the charts upon release. “It’s Now or Never” spent five weeks at number one and sold over twenty million copies.

Based on the Italian song “O Sole Mio,” Presley took inspiration from the song while with the U.S. Army in Germany. The ballad is one of Presley’s biggest songs and inspired countless musicians, including Barry White and The Beatles.

“The Twist” by Chubby Checker

Song Year: 1960

“The Twist” took America by storm in 1960. The song inspired a dance craze based on its lyrics. Originally recorded by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, the song was a modest hit.

It wasn’t until Chubby Checker covered the song in 1960 that “The Twist” found mainstream success. Checker’s version peaked at number one in September of 1960.

The song received countless accolades over the years, including awards from Rolling Stone Magazine and the National Recording Registry.

“Wild One” by Bobby Rydell

Song Year: 1960

While “Wild One” never hit number one on the charts, it’s still one of the best songs from 1960. Written by Dave Appell, Kal Mann, and Bernie Lowe, “Wild One” is a story of a man wanting to tame an outgoing and wild woman that he’s in love with.

The song peaked at number two on the charts and spent sixteen weeks in that position. “Wild One” also had success in Australia and the UK, reaching seven on the UK charts and eleven on the Australian chart,

“Theme From A Summer Place” by Percy Faith

Song Year: 1960

Recorded for the feature film, “A Summer Place,” Percy Faith delivered a memorable instrumental tune that stands the test of time.

During a time when rock and roll started to dominate the charts, “Theme From A Summer Place” showed orchestral tunes were just as popular as ever in 1960.

“He’ll Have to Go” by Jim Reeves

Song Year: 1960

Country music was popular in 1960 as well. Jim Reeves topped the pop and country charts with his rendition of “He’ll Have to Go” in 1960. “Reeves peaked at number two on the Hot 100 while reaching the top of the country charts.

The song is about a woman’s infidelity. The singer realizes his girlfriend is with another man while talking to her on the phone.

“Cathy’s Clown” by The Everly Brothers

Song Year: 1960

The Everly Brothers wrote and recorded “Cathy’s Clown” in 1960. It was a worldwide smash hit and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot R&B single chart, and the UK singles chart.

The song has an odd structure, begins with a chorus, and has no verses. Even with this structure, the song was the Everly Brothers’ biggest hit.

“Teen Angel” by Mark Dinning

Song Year: 1960

Released in late 1959, “Teen Angel” hit the charts in 1960. Peaking at number one on the Hot 100, “Teen Angel” was Mark Dinning’s biggest hit.

The song follows the tragedy of two teens dating. During the song, the girl dies in a collision. The controversial content of the song caused several radio stations to ban “Teen Angel.”

“Handy Man” by Jimmy Jones

Song Year: 1960

While several musicians recorded “Handy Man” the version by Jimmy Jones was the most popular in 1960. The R&B single was a big hit and crossed over onto the pop charts. The song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song reemerged on the pop charts when James Taylor recorded a version in 1977. Taylor’s version broke through and peaked at number one.

“El Paso” by Marty Robbins

Song Year: 1960

Another big country music track, “El Paso” found success on the country and pop charts in 1960. It reached number one on both charts and won the Grammy Award for best country and western recording.

The song follows a cowboy who falls in love with a Mexican dancer. Unfortunately, he has a rival for her love and challenges them to a gunfight. While he wins the fight, the law is now hunting for him and he’ll never see his love again.

“Alley Oop” by The Hollywood Argyles

Song Year: 1960

Based on the “Alley Oop” caveman comic strip, “Alley Oop” is a fun, comedic tune with a groovy vibe. The song was a big hit and reached number on the Hot 100 and number three on the R&B charts.

Over the years, several other musicians recorded versions, including Dante & the Evergreens and Sha Na Na.

“Sixteen Reasons” by Connie Stevens

Song Year: 1960

Connie Stevens hit the charts in 1960 with “Sixteen Reasons. While the song was the B-side of a single, it gained popularity and reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 pop charts.

The song lists sixteen reasons why the narrator loves her boyfriend. Some of the reasons include his crazy clothes, how he combed his hair, and how he kissed her.

“My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own” by Connie Francis

Song Year: 1960

Written by Howard Greenfield and Jack Keller, “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own” was a chart-topper in 1960. Connie Francis recorded her version at “Radio Recorders in Hollywood, CA.

The song was an instant hit and reached number one on the Hot 100 and R&B charts in the United States. “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own” also peaked at number three in the UK.

“Puppy Love” by Paul Anka

Song Year: 1960

“Puppy Love” is a love letter to one of the most famous Mouseketeers, Annette Funicello. Paul  Anka wrote and recorded the song in 1960.

While close to a chart-topper, “Puppy Love” was denied the top spot on the charts and spent several weeks at number two. It also had success in Canada, Ireland, the UK, and South Africa.

“Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” by Brian Hyland

Song Year: 1960

This fun novelty song was played on every radio station in 1960. “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. It was so successful, German and French versions were recorded as well.

The song tells the story of a shy girl. She has a new bikini and is embarrassed about how small it is. First, she’s afraid to leave the locker room. Next, she’s embarrassed sitting on the beach. Finally, she gains enough courage to go in the water but is now afraid to come out of the water.

“Where or When” by Dion and the Belmonts

“Where or When” by Dion and the Belmonts

Song Year: 1960

Originally recorded in 1937 by Hal Kemp and his Orchestra, the song found pop success after Dion and the Belmonts covered the tune in 1960. The song was the biggest hit for the group and reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The song discusses deja vu and whether or not the narrator met the other person in the song. Unfortunately, you never get an answer as the song ends before the resolution.

“Save the Last Dance for Me” by The Drifters

Song Year: 1960

Originally planned as a B-side, Dick Clark convinced The Drifters to give “Save the Last Dance for Me” a dedicated release. It was a big hit for the Drifters and hit number one on the pop charts in the United States, New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada.

The narrator of a song is at a party with his significant other. He doesn’t mind if she goes to socialize and mingle with everyone at the party. While free to mingle, she has to remember to stay and go with the narrator.

“Chain Gang” by Sam Cooke

Song Year: 1960

“Chain Gang” was Sam Cooke’s biggest hit of 1960. Originally dissatisfied with the first recording, Cooke decided to record the song. The second version features new vocal effects to improve the quality of the recording.

The song reached number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 and Hot R&B single charts. “Chain Gang” made it back onto the charts in 1976 after Jim Croce released a medley of the song with “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You) and “Searchin’.”

“Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin

Song Year: 1960

“Beyond The Sea” is an English translation of the French song, “La Mer.” Originally the song is about a man’s love of the sea. The English translation turns the song into a love song instead.

Bobby Darrin’s version of “Beyond the Sea” was a smash hit for the singer. “Beyond the Sea” reached number six on the Hot 100 and number fifteen on the US R&B charts in 1960.

The song is an everlasting memory of the time and is featured in films like “Goodfellas” and “Finding Nemo.”

“The Big Hurt” by Toni Fisher

Song Year: 1960

“The Big Hurt” is a pop hit for Toni Fisher and written by Wayne Shanklin. The song reached number three on the Hot 100 in 1960.

The song was unique and pioneered new reverb and phasing effects on several of the tracks and vocal parts of the song. It may be the first recording to use flanging effects. This gives the song the whooshing sounds you hear while listening to “The Big Hurt.”

“Pretty Blue Eyes” by Steve Lawrence

Song Year: 1960

Written by Teddy Randazzo and Bobby Weinstein, “Pretty Blue Eyes” tells the story of a man infatuated with a girl with pretty blue eyes.

Steve Lawrence’s version of “Pretty Blue Eyes” was a hit and lasted eighteen weeks on the Hot 100 charts peaking at number nine. Craig Douglas also released a version in 1960 that reached number four on the UK’s new Musical Express Chart.

“I Want to Be Wanted” by Brenda Lee

Song Year: 1960

Originally an Italian song written by Pino Spotti and Alberto Testa, Brenda Lee sang an English version that topped the US charts. “I Want to Be Wanted” spent three weeks on top of the Hot 100 chart.

Lee sings about wanting and missing a boyfriend. She can’t find the perfect man that is meant for her no matter how hard she tries. She wants a man that dedicates themself to her.

“Devil or Angel” by Bobby Vee

Song Year: 1960

“Devil or Angel” was an R&B hit for the Clovers in 1955. Bobby Vee performed his rendition in 1960 and the song reached number six on the US pop charts. “Devil or Angel” was Vee’s first hit.

The song discusses how much the narrator loves his woman no matter what. No matter if she’s good or bad, he’ll still love her.

“The Old Lamp-Lighter” by The Browns

Song Year: 1960

“The Old Lamp-Lighter” was originally written and recorded by Nat Simon and Charles Tobias in 1946. The Browns revitalized the song in 1960. It was a popular country song and reached number five on the Hot Country charts. “The Old Lamp-Lighter” also had crossover appeal and reached the top ten on the Billboard charts.

The song is a story about the men who lit gas lamps along the streets. It’s a memoir of a bygone era that no longer existed by the 1960s.

“Harbor Lights” by The Platters

Song Year: 1960

Over the years, several popular musicians recorded a version of this song from 1937. Some of the most notable versions include covers by Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, and Willie Nelson.

In 1960, The Platters recorded their version of “Harbor Lights” and it’s one of the most memorable and enjoyable versions of the song. Their version reached number eight on the Hot 100 and fifteen on the R&B charts.

“Why” by Frankie Avalon

Song Year: 1960

Frankie Avalon was one of the biggest stars of the 1960s and “Why” was one of his biggest songs. His version of the song was a smash hit and reached number one on the Billboard charts.

Based on an Italian song, the song is a love story between a man and a woman. The song returned to the charts in 1972 after Donny Osmond performed a version.

“Cradle of Love” by Johnny Preston

Song Year: 1960

Johnny Preston recorded “Cradle of Love” in 1960. Writers Jack Fautheree and Wayne Gray use verses from several nursery rhymes to create a new and unique love song. If you remember “Jack Be Nimble” or “Jack & Jill”, you’ll recognize the lyrics to “Cradle of Love.”

“Cradle of Love” lasted fifteen weeks on the Billboard charts and peaked at number seven. It also found popularity and chart success in the UK, Canada, and Norway.

“Georgia on My Mind” by Ray Charles

Song Year: 1960

“Georgia on My Mind” was written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell in 1930. The song wasn’t a hit until Ray Charles recorded his version for the album, “The Genius Hits the Road,” in 1960.

The Ray Charles version is immensely popular and reached number one on the pop charts. The song is iconic and was decreed the State Song of Georgia in 1979.

“Only the Lonely” by Roy Orbison

Song Year: 1960

Struggling musician Roy Orbison wrote “Only The Lonely” while sitting in his car. Recorded for RCA Nashville, “Only the Lonely” went on to revolutionize music and pioneered a new Nashville sound.

The song was a hit and peaked at number two on the pop charts while reaching number fourteen on the R&B charts. It also found success in the UK and peaked at number one in the UK pop charts.

Lonely Blue Boy by Conway Twitty

Song Year: 1960

“Lonely Blue Boy” was originally written for Elvis Presley but never released. Instead, Conway Twitty recorded and released a version in 1960. Twitty’s version was a pop hit and peaked at number six on the Billboard Hot 100.

Twitty sings of a man who is lonely and empty inside. He’s sad and upset that his life is so empty.

Top Songs From 1960, Final Thoughts

There were so many top songs in 1960 it was hard to choose winners for this list. From rock to instrumentals, many different genres hit the charts in 1960. In the coming decade, music changed the world and we have the early years of the 1960s to thank for its influence.

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