The 1960’s was a decade that saw huge changes in politics, economics and culture. In fact this era was dominated by counterculture with their being revolutionary changes in what people wore and what music they listened to. The “swinging sixties” were a time when young people had a more relaxed attitude towards social taboos such as sex, racism and drugs. As the music industry entered the decade Rock and Roll declined from its peak of popularity in the 1950s. Elvis Presley was conscripted into the army and it had been revealed that Jerry Lee Lewis had married his 13 year old cousin. There was a huge gap to be filled bur Rock and Roll had laid the foundations for many different musical genres to take advantage of in future years.
At the state of the decade there were a number of soul pop bands that were selling numerous records. In the late 1950s the Motown record label had been created and it as from this company that many of these bands emerged. Dianna Ross and the Supremes, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Smoky Robinson and the Miracles were all groups that went on to achieve extraordinary success. Motown achieved 110 top ten hits between 1961 and 1971, and they were particularly successful with their girl groups and singers. These groups mixed soul and pop, and their songs would often deal with romance and relationship issues.
The success of this genre of music was occurring in the States, and while this was happening on that side of the Atlantic, the start of the 1960s saw the appearance of one band on the other side of the Ocean that was going to influence music for future generations. Emanating from Liverpool in the United Kingdom, the Beatles burst onto the music scene. Formed in 1960 the group took two years of touring and playing in clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg, before they achieved chart success in late 1972. From this point on the band dominated the music charts. The song writing duo of Lennon and McCartney were integral in music’s role in its contribution to the counterculture of the decade. Their mix of rock and roll, skiffle and beat resulted in them selling over 800 million records in their relatively short time together.
The band are the best-selling artists of all time and their popularity was so great that “Beatlemania” spread across many parts of the world. Their arrival at airports and stadiums around the world would attract thousands of excited and frenzied fans. The band split up in 1970 and all of their success had been achieved so quickly.
While the new genres of music were appearing during the decade there were a number of mainstream popular singers who were achieving chart success without creating the major headlines that others were. Regular singers like Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones and Jack Jones were at the peak of their careers during the 1960s and sold enormous amounts of records. The second half of the decade saw the emergence of rock music. The music became louder and the liberation of the younger generation gathered pace. Many of the groups to emerge started to take advantage of the electrification of their instruments. Regular folk artists such as Bob Dylan changed into being a rock performer by simply switching to an electric guitar.
New groups appeared such as the Rolling Stones that took other musical influences mixed them and then added the new instruments that would add the harder faster beat. The festivals that took part in the later period of the decade became the international platform for the genre of “Rock”.
Woodstock as well as being stage for many of the emerging artists to perform on, it also was the showcase for counterculture in this era. Over 3 days 400,000 people attended the festival in New York State and from this point on the music scene would never be the same. The 1960s had produced many top selling musical artists and had created a musical base that many groups in future generations would benefit from.