17 Greatest Hippie Songs of the 1960s and 1970s

Updated on June 5, 2018
Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Music touches my soul, when I am not singing, dancing or playing an instrument, I am writing articles about the songs that I hold dear.

Opening ceremony at Woodstock, 14 August 1969
Opening ceremony at Woodstock, 14 August 1969 | Source

It seems that music has always been a basic part of human life. It is amazing to think that archaeologists have discovered instruments made of bone dating back to between 35,000 to 40,000 B.C.E. Music is not only a part of humanity's ancient history, but can remind us of our own past experiences. Looking back at the music of any period in history offers us a sense of life as it was, and a peek into that slice of time. The music of the 1960s and 1970s offers a unique political outlook that was punctuated by the issues of the time.

Greatest Hippie Songs of the 1960s and 1970s

  1. "Blowin in the Wind" — Bob Dylan
  2. "Blowin in the Wind" — Stevie Wonder
  3. "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything there is a Season)" - The Byrds
  4. "Imagine" – John Lennon
  5. "Love the One You're With" — Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
  6. "The Sounds of Silence" — Simon and Garfunkel
  7. "For What It's Worth 1967" — Buffalo Springfield
  8. "Let It Be" – The Beatles
  9. "California Dreamin" — The Mamas and the Papas
  10. "Peace Train" — Cat Stevens
  11. "Teach Your Children" — Crobsy, Stills, Nash and Young
  12. "If I Had a Hammer" — Peter, Paul and Mary
  13. "This Land is Your Land" — Woody Guthrie
  14. "Both Sides Now" — Both Sides Now
  15. "Here Comes the Sun" — The Beatles
  16. "Time Of the Season" — The Zombies
  17. "Break on Through" — The Doors

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez during Civil Rights March on Washington D.C., 1963
Bob Dylan and Joan Baez during Civil Rights March on Washington D.C., 1963 | Source

1. "Blowin in the Wind" — Bob Dylan

Album: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

Genre: Folk

Release Date: 1963

Label: Columbia

“Blowin in the Wind” is considered one of the greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine. This song, written and sung by the poetic Bob Dylan, gained popularity through a cover version by Peter, Paul and Mary in 1963 and has been covered by many other artists, including Stevie Wonder. Many consider this song the quintessential protest song of the time, but Bob Dylan stated, "This here ain't no protest song or anything like that, 'cause I don't write no protest songs." The ambiguous answer within the lyrics of this song reveals that “the answers are blowin' in the wind.”

Essential Lyrics From "Blowing in the Wind"

How many years must a mountain exist

Before it is washed to the sea?

How many years can some people exist

Before they're allowed to be free?

There is nothing so stable as change.

— Bob Dylan

2. "Blowin in the Wind" — Stevie Wonder

Album: Up-Tight

Genre: Funk/Soul

Release Date: 1966

Label: Tamla Motown

Essential Lyrics From "Blowing in the Wind"

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?

Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand.

— Stevie Wonder

3. "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything there is a Season)" — The Byrds

Album: Turn! Turn! Turn!

Genre: Folk Rock, Pop

Release Date: 1965

Label: Columbia

Written by folk singer and activist Pete Seeger, the lyrics are a nearly exact adaption from the Book of Ecclesiastes. In a moment of exasperation over his inability to write a song, he turned to the bible, in jest and penned down this widely recognizable favorite. This 1965 international hit has been covered many times by artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Dolly Parton and Tori Amos, to name a few.

Essential Lyrics From "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything there is a Season)"

A time of love, a time of hate

A time of war, a time of peace

A time you may embrace

A time to refrain from embracing

'It can't happen here' is number one on the list of famous last words.

— David Crosby

4. "Imagine" — John Lennon

Album: Imagine

Genre: Soft Rock, Pop

Release Date: 1971

Label: Apple

A soft gentle sounding song with a strong revolutionary intent, this was a favorite hippie anthem during the '60s and '70s and both the original version and its endless number of covers are still very popular today. John Lennon wrote the profound and evocative lyrics accompanied by one of those rare tunes that seem to stay with us forever. The song was written in 1971. Yoko Ono, when interviewed about it, said she watched John compose the entire song, lyrics and all, while seated at a grand piano. He did it all in one session! Music has the power to facilitate change, and this song’s continued popularity is a testament to its enduring beauty. It is a call for us to "imagine" a better world.

Rolling Stone magazine praised “Imagine” as John Lennon’s “greatest musical gift to the world.”

Essential Lyrics From "Imagine"

Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people

Sharing all the world...

There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.

— John Lenon

How '60s and '70s Music Took on War

Music is inextricably woven into the spirit of human nature. Often, we can identify a song with only a few notes, and with those notes, find ourselves taken back in time, swept away by a memory and feelings. Music has the power to take us places through our senses. The music of the 60s and 70s offers an excellent example of this kind of experience.

'60s music represents a unique connection between music and history. We are, again and again, drawn to this unique music for both its quality and for its reflections on one of the most profound social changes in our history. Other than the Civil War and the Great Depression, it is difficult to recall any other period when such great forces were at work. Spanning just over a decade, the United States was confronted with two history altering changes: The Vietnam War and the rise of the civil rights movement. It was a time in which young people began to examine, and in many cases, reject the lifestyles that their parents and grandparents had known. From hairstyles to free love, to the music itself, the signs of social change were everywhere.

The music was the voice of anti-war protests and the civil rights movement, inviting people to come together through song. Bob Dylan wrote many of the greatest songs of the '60s and '70s and, later, denied that his intention was to write protest songs. Hippies of the time paid little heed to Dylan’s remarks and deemed some of these songs not only protest songs, but anthems to the "movement."

The truth is that music, even music which appears to be a protest written in order to give voice to some cause, in the end, is interpreted by the individual based on how it affects them personally. What may be a protest song to one person is a haunting and beautiful ballad to another. No matter how a song was interpreted, there is no denying that the music of the 60's provided an unstoppable momentum, a kind of Pied Piper of Hamelin effect, calling on the people to follow.

Today, these songs continue to work magic in the hearts of listeners looking for music with grit, honesty, and soul. Music that lacked the auto-tune sound that has regrettably and destructively become so prevalent in current popular music.

Thanks to radio, television shows, soundtracks, an endless number of movies, and, of course, being readily available for download, these songs continue to recreate the mood of the '60s and '70s. Simply put, these songs and their messages carry on as they were meant to, reminding us of the times in which they were born and the changes we have undergone. They have a connection to a time and truth that should not be forgotten.

5. "Love the One You're With" — Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Album: 4 Way Street

Genre: Classic rock

Release Date: 1971

Label: Atlantic

Stephen Stills wrote this song while missing his girlfriend, who was far away at the time. However, the broader underlying message within the lyrics touches on finding peace in your life and accepting those things that you cannot change.

Essential Lyrics From "Love the One You're With"

Well there's a rose in a fisted glove

And the eagle flies with the dove

And if you can't be with the one you love, honey

Love the one you're with

As I get older, I get smaller. I see other parts of the world I didn't see before. Other points of view. I see outside myself more.

— Neil Young

6. "The Sounds of Silence" — Simon and Garfunkel

Album: Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. and Sounds of Silence

Genre: Folk rock

Release Date: 1964

Label: Columbia

Songwriter Paul Simon stated “Really the key to 'The Sounds of Silence' is the simplicity of the melody and the words, which are [about] youthful alienation.” Unlike some other 1960’s hits on this list, this song has not been successfully covered by other artists. Although written in 1964, it's obvious that the meaning of “The Sound of Silence” remains as relevant today as it was in the 1960s.

Essential Lyrics From "The Sounds of Silence"

Hear my words that I might teach you.

Take my arms that I might reach you.

But my words like silent raindrops fell

And echoed in the wells of silence

All lies and jests, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

— Paul Simon

7. "For What It's Worth 1967" — Buffalo Springfield

Album: Buffalo Springfield

Genre: Folk Rock

Release Date: 1967

Label: Atco

In 1966, Stephen Stills wrote this song in response to a law that was being introduced in Los Angeles, which would set a curfew for clubs like The Whiskey A-Go-Go, where Stills and Buffalo Springfield were performing (featuring David Crosby and Neil Young, Buffalo Springfield were an early incarnation of Crosby, Still, Nash, and Young). Riots broke out between protesters and the police outside the club, which is what Stills wrote about. However, most people believed that this song was a response to the National Guard shooting students at Kent State, who were protesting the Vietnam War (that event didn't happen until 1970, more than 3 years later).

Essential Lyrics From "For What It's Worth 1967"

There's battle lines being drawn

Nobody's right if everybody's wrong

Young people speaking' their minds

Getting so much resistance from behind

There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear.

— Buffalo Springfield

8. "Let It Be" — The Beatles

Album: Let It Be

Genre: Rock

Release Date: 1970

Label: Apple

“Let it Be” is a ballad that directs the listener to find inner peace by accepting things "as they are." Paul McCartney wrote this song based on a dream he had in which his mother shared this wisdom with him. His mother, whose name was Mary, passed away when he was 14. Many people believe that the "mother Mary" in the song has a biblical connotation. “Let It Be" is widely considered to be one of the greatest popular ballads of all time.

Essential Lyrics From "Let It Be"

And when all the brokenhearted people

Living in the world agree

There will be an answer, let it be

In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

— Paul McCartney

9. "California Dreamin" — The Mamas and the Papas

Album: If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears

Genre: Sunshine Pop

Release Date: 1965

Label: Dunhill Records

This song was written as a kind of ode to the hippie, and alternative lifestyle, movement springing up in Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, this song, written by John Phillips, can also be interpreted as a longing to be somewhere else, somewhere warmer or, metaphorically speaking, about seeking something better in terms of a new moral and cultural paradigm.

Essential Lyrics From "California Dreamin'"

All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray.

I've been for a walk on a winter's day.

I'd be safe and warm if I was in L.A.;

California dreamin' on such a winter's day.

If you truly dig what you are doing, if you lay it out that way, nobody can not respond. That's what rock and roll is; it's relentless.

— Cass Elliot

10. "Peace Train" — Cat Stevens

Album: Teaser and the Firecat

Genre: Soft Rock

Release Date: 1971

Label: Island (UK/Europe), A&M (US/Canada)

"Peace Train" was considered an anthem for the hippie movement. Referring to the song years later, Cat Stevens stated, “There is a powerful need for people to feel that gust of hope rise up again.”

Essential Lyrics From "Peace Train"

Oh, I've been smilin' lately,

Dreamin' about the world as one

And I believe it could be;

Someday it's going to come

Communal well-being is central to human life.

— Cat Stevens

Some of the Best Protest/Hippie Albums

Artists
Albums
Bob Dylan
"The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan"
George Harrison
"All Things Must Pass"
Sly and Family Stone
"There's a Riot Goin' On"
The Beatles
"Let It Be"
Bob Dylan
"Highway 61 Revisited"
Neil Young
"Living With War"
The Byrds
"Turn! Turn! Turn!"

11. "Teach Your Children" — Crobsy, Stills, Nash and Young

Album: Déjà Vu

Genre: Classic rock

Release Date: 1970

Label: Atlantic

Children are the future and, as parents, educators, and role models, it is our duty to teach them about the possibility of peace. This song was inspired by an image of a child holding a toy weapon. Graham Nash wrote the song to highlight the negative messages that can be given to children about war, either through images or unconscious behavior.

Essential Lyrics From "Teach Your Children"

And you, of the tender years can't know the fears that your elders grew by,

And so please help them with your youth, they seek the truth before they can die.

Once you decide that it is the art that is important and not how popular and well received you are, you no longer have an albatross.

— Steven Stills

12. "If I Had a Hammer" — Peter, Paul and Mary

Album: Peter, Paul and Mary

Genre: Soft Rock

Release Date: 1962

Label: Warner Brothers

The first big hit by Peter, Paul and Mary, this song was recorded in 1962. It is about the power each individual has to promote change in the area of justice. It is considered a freedom song. The song was written in 1949 by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays and has been covered many times. It's even been translated into other languages such as Italian, Bulgarian, and Arabic.

Essential Lyrics From "If I Had a Hammer"

It's the hammer of justice

It's the bell of freedom

It's a song about love between my brothers and my

sisters

I was raised to believe that everybody has a responsibility to their community.

— Mary Travers

13. "This Land Is Your Land" — Woody Guthrie

Album: N/A

Genre: Folk

Release Date: 1945

Label: N/A

Written as a parody to “God Bless America,” this song became a protest anthem about the need for equal rights. Guthrie used a ‘borrowed’ tune and added his deceptively simple sounding, yet profound lyrics. Along with the clear message of peace, the song works so well because it is catchy and invites listeners to sing along. Although the song was written way back in 1944, the song experienced a rebirth when Bob Dylan and other artists recorded new versions of the song in the 1960s.

Essential Lyrics From "This Land Is Your Land"

As I went walking I saw a sign there

And on the sign it said "No Trespassing"

But on the other side it didn't say nothing

That side was made for you and me

Some men rob you with a six-gun — others rob you with a fountain pen.

— Woody Guthrie

14. "Both Sides Now" — Joni Mitchel

Album: Clouds

Genre: Folk rock

Release Date: 1969

Label: Reprise

Originally written and recorded by Joni Mitchel, with a bluesy sound, Judy Collins reinterpreted the song not long after, giving it a Celtic folk sound, which made it a pop hit and Grammy Award winner. This song, which sits at #171 on the Billboard top 500 songs of all time, has been continuously covered by many artists since it was written in 1967. This song was even published as a book for children in 1992. “Both Sides, Now” is a reflective journey about expectations, dreams and reality, but in a broader sense the song can be interpreted in many ways.

Essential Lyrics From "Both Sides Now"

I've looked at love from both sides now

From give and take and still somehow

It's love's illusions I recall

I really don't know love at all

We are stardust, we are golden, We are billion-year-old carbon, and we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

— Joni Mitchell

15. "Here Comes the Sun" — The Beatles

Album: Abbey Road

Genre: Folk pop, pop rock

Release Date: 1969

Label: Apple

Referring to “Here Comes the Sun”, fellow musician Tom Petty stated that "No piece of music can make you feel better than this. It's such an optimistic song, with that little bit of ache in it that makes the happiness mean even more." The song was written by George Harrison of the Beatles about the joy of spring after a long winter in England.

Essential Lyrics From "Here Comes the Sun"

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter

Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun

And I say it's all right

When you've seen beyond yourself, then you may find, peace of mind is waiting there.

— George Harrison

Most Listened to Protest Songs of the 60s and 70s

Artist
Song
Bob Dylan
"Like a Rolling"
The Beatles
"Let It Be"
Bob Dylan
"Blowin' in the Wind"
Marvin Gaye
"What's Going On?"
Peter Tosh (and the Wailers)
"Go Tell It On The Mountain"
Bob Dylan
"The Times They Are a Changin'"
Nina Simone
"Mississippi Goddam"
Gil Scott-Heron
"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"
Mavis Staples
"We Shall Not Be Moved "

16. "Time of the Season" — The Zombies

Album: Odessey and Oracle

Genre: Psychedelic rock

Release Date: 1968

Label: CBS

Although it failed to gain any commercial success after its release in the U.K. in 1968, this song became a huge hit single in the U.S. in 1969. “Time of the Season,” by the Zombies, has remained relevant because of its use in television and movies to represent the late 1960s. The song was even used by the New York Mets during their 2006 playoff home games.

Essential Lyrics From "Time of the Season"

To take you in the sun to promised lands

To show you every one

It's the time of the season for loving

Who's your daddy?

(He rich) Is he rich like me?

Has he taken, any time (any time)

(To show) to show you what you need to live?

— The Zombies

17. "Break on Through" — The Doors

Album: The Doors

Genre: Psychedelic rock

Release Date: 1967

Label: Elektra

“Break on Through” was the first single released on The Doors debut album. The song was not as popular at the time as some of the band’s other songs, but in later years it has become one of the band’s most popular and recognized songs. Similar to many other songs on this list, this song is used in movies and even video games. The song's implied references to the use of drugs has been an issue of contention.

Essential Lyrics From "Break on Through"

You know the day destroys the night

Night divides the day

Tried to run

Tried to hide

Break on through to the other side

Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.

— Jim Morrison

Even More Great Hippie Songs

Song
Artist
Year Released
"San Franciscan Nights"
Eric Burdon and the Animals
1965
"Good Vibrations"
Beach Boys
1966
"Groovin’"
Young Rascals
1967
"Mellow Yellow"
Donovan
1967
"White Rabbit"
Jefferson Airplane
1967
"Somebody to Love"
Jefferson Airplane
1967
"Woodstock"
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
1970
"If 6 was 9"
Jimi Hendrix
1969
"All Along the Watchtower"
Bob Dylan
1967

Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Tracy Lynn Conway

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Mary J. 

        12 days ago

        Great ist. However Janis Joplin should be on the top of it.

      • profile image

        Irene R 

        10 months ago

        The metal group Disturbed wonderfully covered the Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel. I have a hard time deciding which is my favorite though Disturbed usually just barely edges out.

      • Boomer Music Man profile image

        Boomer Music Man 

        2 years ago

        Love your songs . It's just a great list of songs.

      • Boomer Music Man profile image

        Boomer Music Man 

        2 years ago

        I love these songs. I am a boomer and these songs have lots of meaning. Thanks for writing about these songs.

      • Bob Smith 0114 profile image

        Bob Smith 

        2 years ago from Plymouth, MI

        This is an interesting group of songs that I would call Utopian Songs of the 1960s and 1970s. My view of hippies is probably less positive than yours. Your songs might be better associated with flower children, who were more hopeful, less self-indulgent versions of hippies.

      • Danny Cabaniss profile image

        Danny Cabaniss 

        3 years ago from Shawnee, Oklahoma

        Beautiful! That's a great list! Thank you so much for putting this together!

      • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

        Tracy Lynn Conway 

        3 years ago from Virginia, USA

        Hi Flourish,

        Yes, music is universal, glad you enjoyed it!

        Best, Tracy

      • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

        Tracy Lynn Conway 

        3 years ago from Virginia, USA

        Eric,

        I am glad this collection brought back such good memories for you. Your positive comment means a lot to me. Thank you!

        Best, Tracy

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        3 years ago from USA

        Love The one You're With is one good song. I'm no hippie, but I sure can appreciate good songs.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Wonderful. Thank you for putting this together and presenting it in such a beautiful way. All the songs mean something to me and it was a pleasure thinking about them,

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