As a Baby Boomer, I grew up in the '60s and '70s, finishing up college in the '80s. Occasionally, I like to share some nostalgia.
Happy, Upbeat Songs That Will Make You Smile
Doo Wap was still around, rock n' roll was in full swing, R&B was hot selling, and psychedelic rock emerged in the 1960s. But through it all, music that made people feel good was still prevalent.
For some bands, it was their brand. The Beach Boys, for instance, were associated with fun in the sun and often delivered exactly what audiences wanted. For others, it was the road less traveled.
Below are 25 of some of the most popular feel-good songs of the 1960s.
25 Happy Feel-Good Songs of the 1960s
- California Dreamin'
- Age of Aquarius
- Here Comes the Sun
- What a Wonderful World
- Good Vibrations
- Oh Happy Day
- Sugar, Sugar
- Do You Believe in Magic
- Indian Lake
- The Rain, The Park, & Other Things
- Pretty Woman
- I'm Into Something Good
- Dancing in the Streets
- Glad All Over
- Get Together
- I Get Around
- Fun, Fun, Fun
- I'm a Believer
- Land of a Thousand Dances
- The Lion Sleeps Tonight
- All You Need Is Love
- Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
- Good Day Sunshine
1. California Dreamin'
Written by John and Michelle Phillips in 1963, "California Dreamin'" has been performed by a number of artists. In 1965, folk-rock group The Mamas and The Papas released their version. The group consisted of the writers John and Michelle Phillips, as well as Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot.
It's a song that certainly paints a picture of California as the place to be with the singers vocalizing their yearning for the warmth and sunshine there in contrast to the cold and gray of NYC.
You can hear the song below.
2. Age of Aquarius
The 1967 play Hair was a hit with audiences and produced some well-known songs. It was written by Gerome Ragni, James Rado, and Galt MacDermot. It was recorded and released by the 5th Dimension in 1969.
The song is basically about an astrological age known as the Age of Aquarius. When that age begins and ends, what it means, and so forth is apparently up for debate as it varies based upon which astrologist is speaking on the topic. In general, however, it appears that it is associated with non-conformity, rebellion, idealism, humanitarianism, enlightenment, and so forth.
The 5th Dimension enjoyed popularity through the latter part of the '60s, '70s, and onward although there have been a number of personnel changes. The original group consisted of Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis, Jr, Florence LaRue, LaMonte McLemore, and Ronald L. Townson.
You can listen to the song below.
3. Here Comes the Sun
George Harrison, lead guitarist of the Beatles wrote "Here Comes the Sun." It was recorded in 1969 and included on the Abbey Road album. Harrison went on after the break up of the Beatles in 1970 with a solo career and later formed the group the Traveling Wilburys with Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. He died in 2001.
You can hear "Here Comes the Sun" below, it's not the final version on their album, but it is the original artists.
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4. What a Wonderful World
Jazz musician Louis Armstrong had been in the music business since the 1920s, but he recorded "What a Wonderful World" in 1967. It was released and enjoyed some success, but it was actually quite some time before it received the level of popularity it deserved in the US.
The song was written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of fame in 1999. The video below will allow you to listen to it.
5. Good Vibrations
The Beach Boys had a string of hits in the 1960s. One of the most acclaimed songs from them was "Good Vibrations." The song was written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love in 1966.
In these early days, the Beach Boys consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love and a friend Al Jardine. You can listen to "Good Vibrations" in the video posted below.
6. Oh Happy Day
"Oh Happy Day" is another of the feel-good songs of the 1960s. The song actually is much older than that as it originates from an 18th-century hymn, but it's the 1960s gospel version of it that became widely popular.
The recording done by the Edwin Hawkins Singers was chart-topping in 1969. You can hear their version of it in the video below.
7. Sugar Sugar
In 1969, a different kind of band had success with a single called "Sugar Sugar." The Archies was a fictional band based in a popular cartoon of the time featuring animated teenagers Archie, his friends Reggie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica. In reality, their music was actually performed by a variety of singers and session musicians.
Their biggest success, "Sugar Sugar," was written by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim. It's posted below for you to enjoy.
8. Do You Believe in Magic
Singing the praises of the uplifting power of music in our lives, "Do You Believe in Magic" became popular in 1965. It was written by John Sebastian and subsequently performed with his band The Lovin' Spoonful. The group also consisted of Zal Yanovsky, Jan Carl, and Steve Boone.
You can listen to "Do You Believe in Magic" below.
The Lovin' Spoonful had other hits such as "Summer in the City" and another upbeat tune called "Daydream" (1966) during the decade. You can listen to "Daydream" below.
10. Indian Lake
The Cowsills were a musical family with 6 siblings and their mother. They were very popular in the mid to late '60s and had a number of hits. One of their feel-good tunes included Indian Lake which is light and fluffy, a perfect summer anthem. It was written by Tony Romeo and was recorded and released by the Cowsills in 1968.
You can hear "Indian Lake" below.
11. The Rain, The Park, And Other Things
An earlier song, by The Cowsills, The Rain, The Park, & Other Things was also well received. It was written by Artie Kornfeld and Steve Duboff and released in 1967.
You can listen to "The Rain, The Park & Other Things" below.
12. Pretty Woman
Singer-songwriter Roy Orbison first started recording records in the 1950s. He had an impressive vocal range and many of his songs had a plaintive but beautiful quality. Just a few of his most successful tunes were Only the Lonely, Crying, and Running Scared.
In 1964 however, he and Bill Drees wrote Pretty Woman a song that has had a lot of staying power. It captures the longing of a man for a beautiful woman he sees on the street and the excitement of gaining her attention and companionship by the end of the song.
A video featuring Pretty Woman is below for you to listen to.
13. I'm Into Something Good
Written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, I'm Into Something Good was eventually recorded by the English band, Herman's Hermits. It became a popular song in 1964 in both Britain and the U.S.
The band had a handful of other successful songs, most of which were also rather lighthearted.
I'm Into Something Good is posted below.
14. Dancing in the Streets
There's nothing like an endless celebration to feel good. Dancing in the Streets was written by William Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter, and Marvin Gaye and later recorded by Martha (Reeves) and the Vandellas in 1964. Like many of the songs on our list, later versions by different artists have also been popular.
A video of the Martha and the Vandellas performing the song is posted below.
15. Glad All Over
The song Glad All Over was written by Dave Clark and Mike Smith and recorded by their band The Dave Clark Five in 1964. It was their first big hit.
The band had a number of other successful tunes such as Catch Me If You Can. I Like It Like That, Do You Love Me, and Over and Over. all of which were upbeat.
A video of Glad All Over is posted below for you to hear.
16. Get Together
While it has a more subdued tempo, Get Together is a feel-good song thanks to the lyrics telling people the importance of peaceful, loving, and accepting world.
The song was written by Chet Powers and subsequently recorded by a variety of artists. In 1967, a group known as the Youngbloods released it with some success. It had renewed popularity again in 1969.
The Youngbloods were an American group consisting of members Jesse Colin Young, Jerry Corbitt, Lowell Levinger, and Joe Bauer.
You can hear Get Together below.
17. I Get Around
The second Beach Boys song on my list of feel-good music of the 1960s is I Get Around. It was written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, then recorded and released in 1964.
You can hear I Get Around below.
18. Fun, Fun, Fun
Of course, my list could contain a number of Beach Boys tunes. Songs such as Surfin' USA, California Girls, Barbara Ann, and Fun, Fun, Fun (1964) are just some of the possibilities.
You can hear Fun, Fun, Fun below.
19. I'm a Believer
I'm a Believer was written by Neil Diamond and later recorded by The Monkees in 1966. The group came together when they were selected to star in a show titled The Monkees which would become highly popular for a couple of years in the US.
The band consisted of Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith. They continued to perform for a few years after the end of the show and did reunion tours years later. They had a number of tunes that would qualify for my list of feel-good songs from the 1960's such as Daydream Believer, Another Pleasant Valley Sunday (more for the melody and tempo than the lyrics), and I'm a Believer.
The song is about a guy who doesn't believe he will ever experience love or that perhaps it doesn't really exist only to find it when he least expects.
20. Land of a Thousand Dances
Wilson Pickett was best known for his success in the soul and R&B genre. In 1966, his best-known tune was Land of a Thousand Dances. It's likely most people, however, don't recognize the name of this song. Instead, they know the refrain of Na Na Na Na Na.
Written by Chris Kenner in 1962, the song was recorded by its composer as well as others before PIckett picked it up. In fact, the well-known Na Na Na Na Na wasn't even part of the song until Cannibal and the Headhunters added it in their cover of the song.
Yoy can hear it in the video below.
21. The Lion Sleeps Tonight
If you want to get people singing, The Lion Sleeps Tonight is a good song to play. The song was actually written in Zulu in 1939 by Solomon Linda. It has been adapted over the years, sung in several languages, by different artists, and of course, has been identified by different names.
Its first big success in the US came in 1961 when the Tokens recorded and released it.
You can hear their version of the song below.
Just like Land of a Thousand Dances referenced above, this song is most recognized by a nonsensical refrain. In this case, rather than Na Na Na Na Na, it's Do-Wah-Diddy. However, in the case of this song, the popular refrain is the name of the song, Do-Wah-Diddy.
It was written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich in 1963. Although another group recorded it first, it enjoyed greater popularity later in 1964 when released by an English band, Manfred Mann.
You can hear it below.
23. All You Need Is Love
The Beatles were responsible for many of the feel-good songs of the 1960s. Earlier songs like All My Love, Please, Please Me, and I Saw Her Standing There have a fast tempo and an upbeat message.
All You Need Is Love is probably the most recognized happy tune but there were plenty of others.
You can hear All You Need Is Love (1967) below.
24. Good Day Sunshine
Good Day Sunshine is a simple Beatles song that can certainly create a smile.
You can listen to it below.
25. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
The Beatles also had a lot of sillier creations like Yellow Submarine, Lovely Rita, and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.
You can hear Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (1968) below.
© 2018 Christine Mulberry