220px-Crimson_&_Clover_(album)#8 – Tommy James & The Shondells – “Crystal Blue Persuasion” – (1969)

This single came out in 1968 and the album it was released on was released in January of 1969. So there. This is one of those “classic oldies” hits that is definitely 1960s. It has a soulful, psychedelic feel – and it has been stated that the song might be about James’ meth habit in the 60s. This was a #2 hit on the Hot 100 – the second highest-charting single off of this album.

220px-LetitbleedRS#1 – The Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter” – (1969)

Here it is, the best song of 1969 – and one of the greatest rock recordings of all time. The guitar riff is incredible but what really puts this song over the top is Merry Clayton, the female voice you hear belting – and we mean belting out those lyrics. The last part she sings she is practically screaming (you can even hear Mick go “Whoo!” in the background after her voice cracks). It’ll give you chills. Merry was recruited in the middle of the night to come in and record her part. The legend is that it was so strenuous that Merry, pregnant while recording, suffered a miscarriage upon returning home. It’s an amazing piece of work with excellent performances from everyone involved.

220px-Beatles_-_Abbey_Road#2 – The Beatles – “Here Comes The Sun” – (1969)

Abbey Road was the second-to-last Beatles album to be released, but it was the last to be recorded (for the most part). It’s one of the greatest albums ever recorded and we could spend an hour writing about the cover of the album in itself. The greatest tracks on Abbey Road were written by George Harrison, the most likable Beatle. And this is one of those songs. It was written by George at Eric Clapton’s house and is downright beautiful. Ritchie Havens performed it famously at Woodstock. Because Beatles songs aren’t available on YouTube, here’s an awesome performance of George doing it solo.

220px-Crosbystillsandnash#3 – Crosby, Stills & Nash – “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” – (1969)

“I am yours, you are mine… you are what you are.” This song is a lesson in vocal harmony and it is a “Suite” in the classical sense of multiple pieces of music arranged to be played together. The song can be divided into four sections, each a little different. But as one cohesive piece of music, it’s amazing. And quite possibly the best thing Crosby, Stills or Nash ever did.

220px-Willy_and_the_poor_boys#4 – Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Fortunate Son” – (1969)

Don’t forget, 1969 was a turbulent time and songs like this are quick to remind you of it. John Fogerty wasn’t subtle when it came to writing anti-war songs, and this among the best there has ever been. Its use in Forrest Gump certainly cemented that. From the opening chords, you know that you’re about to experience some of the best 60s rock ever recorded.

220px-BS&T_cover#5 – Blood, Sweat & Tears – “And When I Die” – (1968)

Blood, Sweat & Tears’ self-titled second album was released at the tail end of 1968, with this being a single in late 1969. This song was written by Laura Nyro and first recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary. This version though, is amazing. It hit #2 on the Hot 100 and has such a unique style to it – from the Ragtime-style piano breakdown to the horns and that thematic lyric delivery. This is the magic you can create when your entire band comes together perfectly.

Norman_Greenbaum_-_Spirit_in_the_Sky_(album)#6 – Norman Greenbaum – “Spirit In The Sky” – (1969)

This song (which hit #1 in the UK, but only #3 in the U.S.) has to be one of the most famous songs of 1969. It’s one that everyone just knows – maybe because it still receives radio airplay and has been featured in movies and TV many times. Boston-born Greenbaum was a one-hit wonder, but it was a good one.

220px-Mycherieamour#7 – Stevie Wonder – “My Cherie Amour” – (1969)

Here is Stevie Wonder’s most beautiful song. Oh, and no big deal, but he recorded it in 1967/68 when he was 17  years old! If you ever wonder why Stevie Wonder was a big deal, just remember he’s been insanely talented since he was a kid. No one can sing like this anymore. 

Led_Zeppelin_-_Led_Zeppelin_II#8 – Led Zeppelin – “What Is And What Should Never Be” – (1969)

“What Is and What Should Never Be” is from Led Zeppelin’s second album – and second album of 1969 (yes, they put out their first two albums in the same year). This was the first song Led Zeppelin recorded that gave Robert Plant writing credit, as it was written by Plant and Jimmy Page. It’s one of the best songs the band ever made. 

220px-The_5th_Dimension_-_The_Age_of_Aquarius#9– The 5th Dimension – “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In” – (1969)

This is one of those songs that just screams “1969.” It’s actually a medley of two songs written for the Broadway musical Hair and it was a #1 hit in 1969. It’s pretty fantastic all around, from the vocal harmonies to the musicianship. 

220px-Joe_Cocker-With_a_Little_Help_from_My_Friends_(album_cover)#10– Joe Cocker – “With A Little Help From My Friends” – (1969)

It takes some serious balls to cover The Beatles (Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles at that) and think you can better one of their tracks. But that’s just what Joe Cocker did. It’s one of the best covers of all time and that’s partly because he dissected the song, and rebuilt it to suit his style, bringing in other musicians to help re-arrange it. It’s brilliant – and so was his performance of it at Woodstock which became quite famous on its own.

220px-Jefferson_Airplane-Volunteers_(album_cover)#12– Jefferson Airplane – “Volunteers” – (1969)

Now we start getting into it. Vietnam. Turbulence in American culture. 1969 was the year of Woodstock, after all. The music from this era is so politically charged that you almost don’t notice it (because it is so prevalent). Jefferson Airplane was one of the most popular rock bands in the late 1960s and this is their best song.

tdn1#14– Three Dog Night – “One” – (1968)

This song, off of Three Dog Night’s self-titled debut album released in 1968, was a top five single for the band in 1969. It was originally written and recorded by Harry Nilsson. It’s probably good that this song never made it to #1… because that is the loneliest number.

220px-Elvis_presley_suspiciousminds#15– Elvis Presley – “Suspicious Minds” – (1969)

Here is one of Elvis’ best songs – the song that marked his comeback. While Elvis was huge in the 1950s, the 60s weren’t as kind as music was changing. But that all changed when Mark James wrote this song and recorded it and failed at selling it. So Elvis gave it a shot and took it to #1. It revived Presley’s career and remains one of his best songs.

220px-LittleGreenBag#16– George Baker Selection – “Little Green Bag” – (1970)

This song was written and recorded in 1969 (and may have been released as a single that year?) but the album came out in 1970. The very beginning of this song is absolute gold. It was used in Reservoir Dogs, which really helped its popularity 20+ years after its initial release. But it did hit #21 in 1970.

220px-Santana_-_Santana_(1969)#17– Santana – “Evil Ways” – (1969)

Santana had our #1 song of the 1990s. And it was an even bigger hit in the 2000s. That’s some serious staying power. This was actually a cover, having originally been recorded in 1967 by Willie Bobo. It was the band’s first top 40 hit, reaching #9. With that wailing organ, it’s one of the best examples of jazz-infused latin rock.

More_Today_Than_Yesterday_Spiral_Starecase_Album#18– Spiral Starecase – “More Today Than Yesterday” – (1969)

Here is the biggest hit for Sacramento, California-based Spiral Starecase. It has appeared in movies and TV and isn’t a song you hear much on the radio anymore, other than oldies stations maybe. This is a shame because it’s really good. It reached #12 and I think that if this band would’ve continued doing this sort of thing on this sort of level they would’ve rivaled Chicago their entire careers.

At_Home_Shocking_Blue#19– Shocking Blue – “Venus” – (1969)

The Shocking Blue were a Dutch band that scored their biggest hit with “Venus” – a Hot 100 #1 that would be a #1 again in the 1980s when Banarama covered this song. This has appeared in commercials and movies all over the place and is one of those songs that nearly everyone knows but probably has no idea who sang it.

b.j._thomas-raindrops_keep_fallin_on_my_head(2)#20– B.J. Thomas – “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” – (1969)

This Academy Award-winning song, co-written by Burt Bacharach, was originally from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – one of the greatest westerns ever made. It was a Billboard Hot 100 #1 hit and the biggest hit of B.J. Thomas’ career.

220px-Johnny_Cash_At_San_Quentin#21– Johnny Cash – “A Boy Named Sue” – (1969)

And we’re back. We’ve counted down the 2000s, 1990s, 1980s, and for the 1970s, we did the top 21 songs of each year. Which is what we’re going to do all the way back to 1950 (hopefully). This Shel Silverstein-written song is the first entry on the list for the 1960s. The original version of this, from At San Quentin, featured prisoner cheers in the background, which is pretty weird. Also, Carl Perkins is featured on guitar. This was Johnny Cash’s only top 10 hit on the Hot 100.

Jimmy Durante – “Frosty the Snowman” – (1969)

Frosty the Snowman is everybody’s favorite snowman. The song was first recorded by Gene Autry in 1950 and became a top ten hit that year. In 1969, there was a famous animated TV special with the same title. The song was re-recorded by the narrator of the TV program – comedian Jimmy Durante (it was his last appearance in film). His gravelly voice is very recognizable and the song also has a backing chorus. To me, this is the definitive version of this holiday classic.

#8 – Louis Armstrong – “We Have All the Time in the World” – (1969)

This was the “secondary theme” for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and you can’t really argue that it isn’t good because it’s Louis Armstrong – so of course it’s good. The official theme was another take on the James Bond theme that shared the title of the film. Louis Armstrong was 68 when he recorded this and you can tell that he’s tired (he would die two years later) but he still gave a spirited vocal performance. This was the last song he recorded.

#22 – John Barry – “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” – (1969)

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the most underrated Bond movie of all time. George Lazenby doesn’t get the credit he deserves. This film had some of the most realistic fight scenes I’ve seen in a movie older than, I don’t know, 1995. The theme here was instrumental although there was a song by Louis Armstrong (that didn’t make this list) that was used as an “alternate.” This one is largely forgettable because everyone overlooks this movie and because the song has no words and no catchy hook to get stuck in your head.

The Beach Boys – “Our Prayer” – (1969)

This a cappella tune was written by the Beach Boys – okay, so there is a piano or something in the background being struck, so it isn’t strictly a cappella. It’s a weird a cappella song though, because it has very few lyrics. Most of the song consists of The Boys humming or making sounds but not actually saying something. Then, for like a brief 20 second spell – they sing something and then it’s over. As weird as it sounds, it’s actually very mellow and quite good. Something different and light for the day after Christmas.

The Beatles – “Something” – (1969)

I figured I needed a Beatles song on here and was going to go with one of many, but then realized that the song had to be from Abbey Road. I was on my own when I went to try and find the real Abbey Road crosswalk and studios. I exited St. John’s Wood Tube station and instead of just kind of going straight (the correct way – I didn’t have a map or GPS) I bore to the left and ended up wondering around a very nice part of town. I saw what was probably the automotive highlight of my trip just as I was finding the famous crosswalk (a Ferrari 250GT Lusso). Also, much thanks to the lady in the nearby park who tried to point me in the right direction. The walls outside the studio are covered in handwritten fan messages – a testament to the lasting power of The Beatles. Earlier that day I was sitting in Regent’s Park on a Sunday (which was actually the 4th of July) watching people go about their lives while I listened to The Beatles. It was surreal. “Something” was one of the songs written by George Harrison (it has that distinct George Harrison-feel to it). It’s a beautiful song and one of the best that The Beatles ever did.