While the 1960s possessed flowery, feel-good moments of peace and flamboyance, there were also gritty moments of protest, riot and rage. Abroad, the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War became a catalyst for the counterculture movement. On the other hand, at home in the United States, the civil rights movement was in all the headlines. Emotions were running high and the artists of this decade tried to capture them.
So, in honor of all the spoilers and disruptions that happened in the ’60s, read six of the best rock anthems of the era below.
1. “Fortunate Son” from Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)
Written by Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty, “Fortunate Son” is a beautiful sonic specimen of rock ‘n’ roll. It was an anthem for the American counterculture’s opposition to US involvement in the Vietnam War and remains a song of protest against privilege and elitism. I’m not a millionaire’s son, no, no / It’s not me, it’s not me / I’m not lucky, nogroaned Fogerty.
2. The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” (1969)
Just before the turn of the decade came the Rolling Stones song “Gimme Shelter.” This Stones classic is another rock anthem inspired by the Vietnam War. “It’s kind of a doomsday song, really. It’s the apocalypse; the whole record is like that,” frontman Mick Jagger said of the song.
3. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” from Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)
No rock tour is complete without guitar wizard Jimi Hendrix. One of Hendrix’s finest moments as a guitarist comes in the form of his 1968 song “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”, with the extended version titled “Voodoo Chile”.
4. “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks (1964)
Supposedly, Kinks frontman Ray Davies wrote “You Really Got Me” about a woman he saw in the crowd at one of the band’s concerts. He never met her, but she inspired the hit song nonetheless. Girl, you really got me going / You got me so I don’t know what I’m doingDavis sings.
5. Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” (1969)
Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant has embraced the rambling lifestyle of the traveling troubadour that can be heard in no uncertain terms on “Ramble On.” Interestingly, “Ramble On” also includes references to JRR Tolkien’s famous novel, The Lord of the Ringsas the song’s narrator seeks to find the queen of all my dreams.
6. “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf (1968)
Rev your engine, because this is the last rock song on this list. Written by Mars Bonfire for the band Steppenwolf, “Born to Be Wild” was notably featured in the 1969 film Easy Rider and remains a staple of the rock ballad.
Rolling Stones Photo credit: Helmut Newton