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25 Feel-Good Songs of the 1960s

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.

The happiest and most upbeat songs of the 1960s

The happiest and most upbeat songs of the 1960s

Happy, Upbeat Songs That Will Make You Smile

Doo wop 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.

25 Happy Feel-Good Songs of the 1960s

1. "California Dreamin'" – Mamas and the Papas
2. "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" – 5th Dimension
3. "Here Comes the Sun" – Beatles
4. "What a Wonderful World" – Louis Armstrong
5. "Good Vibrations" – Beach Boys
6. "Oh Happy Day" – Edwin Hawkins Singers
7. "Sugar, Sugar" – Archies
8. "Do You Believe in Magic" – Lovin' Spoonful
9. "Daydream" – Lovin' Spoonful
10. "Indian Lake" – Cowsills
11. "The Rain, The Park, & Other Things" – Cowsills
12. "Oh, Pretty Woman" – Roy Orbison
13. "I'm Into Something Good" – Herman's Hermits
14. "Dancing in the Streets" – Martha and the Vandellas
15. "Glad All Over" – Dave Clark Five
16. "Get Together" – Youngbloods
17. "I Get Around" – Beach Boys
18. "Fun, Fun, Fun" – Beach Boys
19. "I'm a Believer" – Monkees
20. "Land of a Thousand Dances" – Wilson Pickett
21. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" – Tokens
22. "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" – Manfred Mann
23. "All You Need Is Love" – Beatles
24. "Good Day Sunshine" – Beatles
25. "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" – Beatles

1. "California Dreamin'" – Mamas and the Papas

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.

2. "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" – 5th Dimension

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.

3. "Here Comes the Sun" – Beatles

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 to a solo career after the break up of the Beatles in 1970. In 1988, he and Jeff Lynne started the Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty. He passed away from lung cancer in 2001 at the age of 58.

4. "What a Wonderful World" – Louis Armstrong

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.

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The song was written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

5. "Good Vibrations" – Beach Boys

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. This recording features brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, friend Al Jardine, and Bruce Johnston, who joined the band in 1965 to fill in for Brian at live shows.

6. "Oh Happy Day" – Edwin Hawkins Singers

"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 the recording done by the Edwin Hawkins Singers was a chart-topper in 1969.

7. "Sugar, Sugar" – Archies

In 1969, a different kind of band had success with a single called "Sugar Sugar." The Archies were 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. "Sugar Sugar" was written by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim.

8. "Do You Believe in Magic" – Lovin' Spoonful

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.

9. "Daydream" – Lovin' Spoonful

The Lovin' Spoonful had other hits such as "Summer in the City" and another upbeat tune called "Daydream" (1966) during the decade.

10. "Indian Lake" – Cowsills

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.

11. "The Rain, The Park, & Other Things" – Cowsills

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.

12. "Oh, Pretty Woman" – Roy Orbison

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 "Oh, 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.

13. "I'm Into Something Good" – Herman's Hermits

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.

14. "Dancing in the Streets" – Martha and the Vandellas

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.

15. "Glad All Over" – Dave Clark Five

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.

16. "Get Together" – Youngbloods

The Youngbloods were an American group consisting of members Jesse Colin Young, Jerry Corbitt, Lowell Levinger, and Joe Bauer. "Get Together" was written by Chet Powers and subsequently recorded by a variety of artists. It's a feel-good song best known for its singalong chorus:

"Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now"

17. "I Get Around" – Beach Boys

The second Beach Boys song on my list of feel-good music of the 1960s. "I Get Around" was written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, then recorded and released in 1964.

18. "Fun, Fun, Fun" – Beach Boys

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" are just some of the possibilities.

19. "I'm a Believer" – Monkees

"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 became highly popular in the U.S.

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," "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

Wilson Pickett was best known for his success in the soul and R&B genres. 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 1965 cover.

21. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" – Tokens

If you want to get people singing, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is a good song to play. It 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.

22. "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" – Manfred Mann

Like "Land of a Thousand Dances," this song is best known for a nonsensical refrain. Rather than "Na Na Na Na Na," it's "Do-Wah-Diddy." In this case, the refrain also happens to be the name of the tune, with an extra "Diddy" thrown in for good measure.

"Do-Wah-Diddy" was written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich in 1963. The Exciters, an American girl group, recorded the first version, but it enjoyed greater popularity in 1964 when released by Manfred Mann as "Do .Wah Diddy Diddy."

23. "All You Need Is Love" – Beatles

The Beatles were responsible for many of the feel-good songs of the 1960s. Earlier songs like "All My Loving," "Please, Please Me," and "I Saw Her Standing There" have a fast tempo and an upbeat message.

"All You Need Is Love" is probably their most recognizable happy tune, but The Beatles have plenty of others.

24. "Good Day Sunshine" – Beatles

"Good Day Sunshine" is a simple Beatles song that can certainly create a smile.

25. "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" – Beatles

The Beatles also had a lot of sillier creations like "Yellow Submarine," "Lovely Rita," and 1968's "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da."

© 2018 Christine Mulberry

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