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What Is '60s Music?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 23, 2024
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'60s music refers to popular music recorded and released throughout the 1960s, especially music made popular in the US and UK. This includes music that is often referred to as part of the British Invasion, from groups like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and The Who. Much of the music of this decade has become referred to as classic rock and includes American artists such as The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. '60s music also includes other genres, including folk music, from artists like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, and soul and rhythm and blues (R&B) from artists like Aretha Franklin.

A great deal of '60s music is typically seen as heavily influential on the musicians that followed that decade, though the '70s did present some tremendous changes in music. The British Invasion of the early '60s had one of the greatest impacts on the music that would follow in that decade. Rock & roll groups in the UK were influenced by American musicians such as Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly and began writing and performing rock music. Many of these groups became quite popular in the UK, and this led to numerous British creators of '60s music traveling to America and having a tremendous impact on American rock music.

This influx of new '60s music reduced the popularity of some established American musical movements, such as surf music and teenage pop stars. New US groups rose to prominence, however, such as The Beach Boys who combined the sounds and themes of surf rock with the musical sensibility of popular rock music. Many of these groups began to experiment with psychedelic music and themes as well, often using music and lyrics to create a dream-like expression of abstract ideas and concepts. This aspect of '60s music can be seen strongly in some of the later works of The Beatles, as well as numerous albums by Pink Floyd and the work of artists like Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart.

There were other creators of '60s music, however, who did not create rock music. Folk music found a tremendous rise in popularity in this time, as musicians and lyricists used simple music to back up poetic and often profound lyrics. Artists such as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Joan Baez created music that told stories about the modern world. Many artists also created songs influenced by social changes at the time, such as the Civil Rights Movement in the US and the Vietnam War. '60s music also includes a great deal of popular recordings in soul and R&B by artists such as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Marvin Gaye.

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Discussion Comments
By anon308403 — On Dec 10, 2012

The Beach Boys killed the reverb sound created by Dick Dale, and killed surf music per se with their 'sweet' sound and pathetic lyrics.

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