The 50 Best Songs of 1967
by Stephanie Benson | April 3, 2013
Welcome to The 50, a Rhapsody scheme in which we attempt to compile the biggest, best, most historically remarkable songs of every year. Our list of 50 tracks -- presented here in no particular order, ideally flowing like a time-traveling DJ set -- has been argued over and (grudgingly) agreed upon by our full editorial staff. Please enjoy.
This was the year for groovin', for lovin', for believin', for acid-dropping, for lighting fires, for incense and peppermints, for San Francisco, for a lil' respect. This was the height of the hippie movement, and the year of the Summer of Love. In 1967, peace was attempting to trump war via sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. And while many of the year's best songs had love and happiness on the brain, hints of dissatisfaction and disillusionment over the Vietnam War and Civil Rights were starting to infiltrate the pop groove.
So while a lot of bubblegum pop still added a sugary coating to life at the time -- from The Turtles' "Happy Together" to The Monkees' "I'm a Believer" to Tommy James & The Shondells' "I Think We're Alone Now" -- many of 1967's greatest tracks were underlined with shades of melancholia, like Procol Harum's haunting "A Whiter Shade of Pale," The Moody Blues' Mellotron-rich "Nights in White Satin" (which hit an even bigger high in the States when it was re-released in 1972), and The Rolling Stones' wistful "Ruby Tuesday." And as sociopolitical tensions rose, so did musicians' roles as cultural influencers. It was a year of pushing envelopes, with the infamous Doors performance of "Light My Fire" on The Ed Sullivan Show, in which Jim Morrison sang, "Girl, we couldn't get much higher," and the mind-bending, acid-sizzling virtuosity of Jimi Hendrix and "Purple Haze."
It was a year for women, too: those who spearheaded feminist anthems (Aretha Franklin's "Respect"), those who introduced the sexual revolution to conservative listeners (Tammy Wynette's "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad"), and those who helped put the spotlight on San Francisco and made a drug anthem a radio hit (Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick and their "White Rabbit").
But the year may be most notable for its eclectic spirit, not just sparked by the counterculture movement, but by the music dominating the airwaves, where the classic Motown grooves of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles and The Supremes brushed shoulders with acid rock, garage rock, folk rock, vocal pop, Bakersfield country, boogaloo, psychedelia (this year marked the debut of Pink Floyd, not to mention Cream's Disraeli Gears), and the rich, mellow sounds of new singer-songwriters like Van Morrison and Leonard Cohen.
With that, we urge you to jump in our time machine (or hop down the rabbit hole) and experience the love, the hope and the magic of 1967 with 50 of its best songs.