During the 1960s pop music expanded to include a range of genres. During this period a number of famous artists established themselves. Many of them had successful careers that lasted several decades.

In the 1950’s rock and roll dominated pop. However, throughout the ’60s this genre merged with other genres such as folk and blues. The British Invasion of this period also influenced the sound of music for American pop bands. The biggest songs of this decade were an eclectic mix of traditional and experimental.


Motown Records was the name of a record label that released a large number of pop hits during the ’60s. The headquarters was located in Detroit, and many of the city’s most prominent music artists signed with Motown. Its popularity played a crucial role in integrating African Americans into mainstream music. Today the phrase “Motown Sound” refers to any song that has a distinctive soul style and pop influence.

The label had a huge level of success during the ’60s. From 1961 to 1971 it released over 100 tracks that reached the top 10. Motown controlled several other labels such as Tamla, Soul and Gordy. These smaller labels signed up even more big acts including the Jackson 5 and The Velvelettes.

Motown Artists

  • Four Tops
  • Marvin Gaye
  • Gladys Knight & the Pips
  • The Supremes
  • The Temptations
  • Stevie Wonder


Network television helped country artists gain exposure to the general public. This decade saw the rise of the “Nashville Sound”, which included string sections, crooning leads, background vocals and high production values. The style started in the ’50s as a response to rock and roll but gained much more prominence in the ’60s.

One of the biggest country stars of the period was Johnny Cash, AKA “The Man In Black”. Cash merged country with blues and gospel. His lyrics would often discuss social issues and deal with dark subjects. The live albums he recorded at Folsom Prison and San Quentin became major hits. Cash is now considered by several music historians to be the greatest country singer of all time.

Country Artists

  • Jim Reeves
  • Eddy Arnold
  • Ray Price
  • Patsy Cline
  • Floyd Cramer
  • Roger Miller

The Hippy Movement

The ’60s was a time of social turmoil for the United States of America. The civil rights movement and its success led to an increase in political protests. The general public mostly resented the Vietnam War. Because of this, a widespread peace movement began to grow.

People belonging to this movement were colloquially called “hippies”. Bands started to create music that would appeal to members of this subculture. Psychedelic music was developed as a result. Songs of this type were often influenced by the taking of illicit drugs such as LSD. Their lyrics tended to be either political or surreal. In 1969, Woodstock, the most significant hippy music festival of all time took place. It featured some of the biggest acts of the decade.

Hippy Bands

  • Scott Mckenzie
  • Bob Dylan
  • The Byrds
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
  • Simon and Garfunkel
  • Peter, Paul and Mary