Music Styles of the 60s

Updated April 17, 2017

The social and political climate of the 1960s influenced music styles and counter-culture. According to "The People History," "younger people were questioning everything, including authority, corporations, the government, and other aspects of everyday life." Chubby Checker made it to the top of the Billboard Top 40 with "The Twist." Berry Gordy began Motown Records and musicians such as the blues legend Muddy Waters came into the spotlight. The turbulent '60s generated a new wave of music styles that revolutionised the manner in which the world regarded song.

Soul Music

The fusion of rhythm and blues and gospel led to soul music. With regional distinctiveness, soul from the South resulted in a "raw, gritty and powerful" sound whereas Chicago and Philadelphia had a "pop-oriented" quality. The essence of soul was an emotional portrayal of the black experience. Lyrics touched on love and sorrow, aspiration, struggle and dignity. This music style followed the unpredictability of the civil rights movement and growing African-American pride. Soul helped bridge the integration of African-American culture with the rest of the population. Soul hit the charts with artists like Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, James Brown, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin.

The British Invasion

The British Invasion transported British rock 'n' roll to the United States, Australia and Canada, with the Beatles at the forefront. The first influx of British rock was coined the "Merseybeat" or beat bands from Liverpool near the Mersey River. It integrated rock 'n' roll, R&B and soul, establishing bands such as the Yardbirds, the Hollies and the Searchers. Following in their footsteps, a second group of British bands emerged. The Rolling Stones, the Who and the Kinks gave beat music an additional hard bluesy and R&B attitude.

Folk Revival Music

Within the midst of the civil rights movement, the growing unrest of the Vietnam War and the surge of feminism, the folk revival style surfaced. According to Balladtree, "... a new generation of songwriters used folk elements to create a music that was both contemporary and deeply rooted in the American spirit and landscape ..." Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was one of the influential folk revival artists; his and other folk revival songs encouraged solidarity. Set to familiar melodies, songs addressed social issues and offered political commentary. Other folk revival artists included Peter, Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and the Kingston Trio.

Psychedelic Rock

Together with Timothy Leary and the psychedelic scene, psychedelic rock music transpired with rock 'n' roll but was inspired by and related to the use of psychedelic drugs like LSD. Lyrics were esoterically and fantastically-inspired with the intention of enhancing the mind-altering experiences of psychotropic drugs. According to Intuitive Music, "Music was influenced by the 60s folk rock, blues, and Western cultures with the use of instruments such as sitars and percussions, and having an inspiration in Indu mantras." From San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury came the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and the Byrds. Concerts featured visual shows of psychedelic projections as a backdrop. This music style extended to bands like Cream, Pink Floyd and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Its arcane sound influenced the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

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About the Author

Dawn Renée Levesque has been a writer for over 30 years. Her travel and fashion photographs have been exhibited in Europe and the United States. As a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Levesque is the author of "Women Who Walk With the Sky" and co-author of "Wisdom of Bear." She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography.