The 25 best songs of 1967

3 October 2023, 16:14 | Updated: 18 January 2024, 10:43

The best songs of 1967
The best songs of 1967. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

The year 1967 was a remarkable one for music, as it witnessed the emergence of new genres, styles, and movements that would shape the sound of the decades to come.

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From the psychedelic rock of The Doors and Jimi Hendrix, to the soulful vocals of Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye, to the pop melodies of The Beatles and The Monkees, 1967 offered a diverse and rich musical landscape for listeners of all tastes.

Whether you are a fan of rock, soul, pop, or something else, you will surely find something to enjoy in this list of the best songs of 1967.

  1. Lulu - 'To Sir With Love'

    Lulu - To Sir With Love (Official Lyric Video)

    'To Sir With Love' by Lulu is a pop song that was released in 1967 as the theme song for the film of the same name starring Sidney Poitier, with Lulu in a supporting role. The song was written by Don Black and Mark London, and produced by Mickie Most.

    The song expresses the gratitude and admiration of a student for her teacher, who has helped her grow from a rebellious teenager to a mature young woman.

    The song was a huge hit in the United States, where it topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for five weeks and became the best-selling single of the year.

  2. The Beatles - 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds'

    Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Remastered 2009)

    This track from the Beatles was from their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was written mainly by John Lennon, with some help from Paul McCartney.

    The song was inspired by a drawing that Lennon's son Julian made of his classmate Lucy O'Donnell, whom he called "Lucy – in the sky with diamonds". Lennon said that he also drew on the imagery of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland books, which he had read and admired.

    The song's title was widely interpreted as a reference to LSD, a psychedelic drug that was popular in the 1960s, but Lennon denied this and said that it was a coincidence.

    It is is considered one of the Beatles' most innovative and influential songs, and a key example of the psychedelic genre. It has been covered by many artists, including Elton John, who recorded a version that reached number one in the US and Canada.

  3. Glen Campbell - 'By the Time I Get to Phoenix'

    Glen Campbell - By The Time I Get To Phoenix

    ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ was written by Jimmy Webb and popularized by Glen Campbell in 1967. The song tells the story of a man who leaves his lover in Los Angeles and drives across the country, imagining her reactions as he reaches different cities.

    The song has a melancholic tone and a simple structure, with only three verses and no chorus. The title refers to the first city he reaches, Phoenix, Arizona, where he assumes she will just be waking up and realizing he is gone.

    The song was inspired by Webb’s own breakup with his girlfriend, Susan Horton, who later married Bobby Ronstadt, a cousin of singer Linda Ronstadt. Webb did not actually leave Horton, but he fantasized about doing so in a song.

    He said that the song was not meant to be geographically literal, but rather a fantasy that takes place in a twilight zone of reality. The song has been praised by many critics and artists, including Frank Sinatra, who called it “the greatest torch song ever written”.

  4. The Beatles - 'Hello, Goodbye'

    The Beatles - Hello, Goodbye

    'Hello Goodbye' is a pop song with psychedelic elements that was released as a non-album single in November 1967, and was that year's Christmas number one in the UK.

    The song was written by Paul McCartney, who said that it was inspired by a word association game he played with Alistair Taylor, an assistant of the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein.

    It was the Beatles' first release after Epstein's death, and it topped the charts in several countries, including the US, the UK, France and Norway. The song also featured John Lennon's 'I Am the Walrus' as the B-side, which Lennon preferred as the A-side.

  5. Jimi Hendrix - 'Purple Haze'

    The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Purple Haze (Live at the Atlanta Pop Festival)

    'Purple Haze' is a classic rock song that showcases Jimi Hendrix's innovative guitar playing and sound effects. The song was released as the second single by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1967 and became one of his most popular and influential songs.

    The lyrics of the song are ambiguous and have been interpreted in different ways by listeners. Some people think the song is about a psychedelic experience, while others think it is a love song.

    Hendrix himself said that the song was inspired by a dream he had where he could walk underwater. He also said that the phrase 'purple haze' was not a reference to any drug, but to a purple aura that surrounded everything in his dream.

    It is also ranked as one of the greatest guitar songs of all time by Rolling Stone and Q magazines.

  6. The Turtles - 'Happy Together'

    The Turtles - Happy Together [HD]

    This pop anthem was written by Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon, who were members of the band The Magicians. They offered the song to several artists, but none of them accepted it until The Turtles heard it and decided to record it.

    The song became The Turtles' first and only number one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, replacing The Beatles' 'Penny Lane'. The song features a catchy chorus, a horn section, and a vocal harmony by Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, the singers of The Turtles.

    The song is considered one of the most-performed songs of the 20th century by BMI and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007.

  7. The Doors - 'Light My Fire'

    The Doors - Light My Fire - Ed Sullivan Show 1967 (HD Remastered)

    'Light My Fire' is a classic psychedelic rock song that was released in 1967 as the second single from the Doors' debut album.

    The song was written by the band's guitarist, Robby Krieger, who was inspired by the melody of 'Hey Joe' and the lyrics of the Rolling Stones' 'Play with Fire'. The song features a distinctive organ intro by Ray Manzarek, a jazzy guitar solo by Krieger, and a poetic vocal delivery by Jim Morrison.

    The song expresses the desire to ignite a passionate romance and to transcend the mundane reality. The song was a huge hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and becoming one of the most iconic songs of the 1960s.

  8. The Box Tops - 'The Letter'

    The Box Tops - The Letter (Upbeat 1967)

    'The Letter' is a classic rock song that was written by Wayne Carson and recorded by the American band The Box Tops in 1967. It was the band's debut single and their biggest hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

    The song is about a man who receives a letter from his lover, who wants him to come back home. He does not care about the cost or the distance, he just wants to see her again. The song is notable for its short duration (only 1:58).

    The lead singer was Alex Chilton, who was only 16 years old at the time. He later became a cult figure in the alternative rock scene as the frontman of Big Star and as a solo artist.

  9. Sam & Dave - 'Soul Man'

    Sam & Dave - Soul Man (1967)

    'Soul Man' is a classic soul song that was written and composed by Isaac Hayes and David Porter in 1967. The song was inspired by the civil rights movement and the riots that occurred in Detroit that year. The songwriters wanted to create a story of resilience and pride, using the term 'soul' as a symbol of black identity and culture.

    The song was recorded by Sam & Dave, a duo consisting of Samuel Moore and David Prater, who were known for their energetic and dynamic performances. The song features the backing of Booker T & the MG's, the house band of Stax Records, where the song was produced. The song showcases the vocal interplay between Sam and Dave, as well as the catchy guitar riff by Steve Cropper.

    'Soul Man' was a huge hit for Sam & Dave, reaching number one on the R&B chart and number two on the pop chart.The song is considered one of the greatest soul songs of all time, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

  10. The Beatles - 'Strawberry Fields Forever'

    The Beatles - Strawberry Fields Forever

    'Strawberry Fields Forever' was written by John Lennon and released in 1967 as a double A-side single with 'Penny Lane'.

    The song was inspired by Lennon's childhood memories of playing in the garden of a Salvation Army house named 'Strawberry Field' near his home in Liverpool. The song is considered one of the Beatles' most innovative and influential works, as it experimented with psychedelic sounds, tape loops, reverse effects, and a complex musical structure.

    It also has a distinctive promotional film that is regarded as a pioneering work in the medium of music video. The song is also the name of a memorial for Lennon in New York's Central Park, near the site of his assassination in 1980.

  11. Scott McKenzie - 'San Francisco'

    San Francisco - Scott McKenzie (1967) 4K

    'San Francisco' by Scott McKenzie is a pop song that was released in May 1967 as a promotion for the Monterey International Pop Music Festival. The song was written by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, who also played guitar on the recording.

    The song became a hit in the US and the UK, reaching number four and number one on the charts respectively. It also topped the charts in several other countries, such as Ireland, New Zealand, and Germany.

    The song is considered a cultural icon of the 1960s, especially the hippie, anti-war, and flower power movements. It is also regarded as one of the defining songs of the Summer of Love.

    The song is famous for its chorus, which advises listeners to wear some flowers in their hair if they are going to San Francisco, where they will meet some gentle people. It is credited with attracting thousands of young people to San Francisco during that period, seeking a new way of life.

  12. Buffalo Springfield - 'For What It's Worth'

    Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth 1967

    'For What It's Worth' was written by Stephen Stills and released as a single in December 1966. The song is often considered a protest anthem, but it was actually inspired by the Sunset Strip curfew riots in Los Angeles, where young people clashed with the police over the closure of a popular nightclub called Pandora's Box.

    The song captures the tension and confusion of the 1960s, with lyrics like "There's something happening here / What it is ain't exactly clear" and "Paranoia strikes deep / Into your life it will creep". The song also urges people to pay attention to what is going on around them, with the repeated refrain "Stop, hey, what's that sound / Everybody look what's going down".

  13. The Small Faces - 'Itchycoo Park'

    The Small Faces - Itchykoo Park (1967)

    This song was written by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, and it was one of the first songs to use flanging, an audio effect that creates a swirling sound.

    The song reached number three in the UK Singles Chart, and number 16 in the US Billboard Hot 100. The song was not included on any of their UK albums, but it was featured on the North American release There Are But Four Small Faces.

    The title of the song refers to a nickname for Little Ilford Park in London, where the band members used to hang out as teenagers. An 'Itchycoo' is slang for a stinging nettle, a plant that can cause a burning sensation if touched.

    The song is about escaping from the troubles of life and having fun in the park. The lyrics include the question "What did you do there?", which is answered by "I got high". This caused some controversy at the time, as some radio stations banned the song for its drug reference. However, the band denied that the song was about drugs, and said that "getting high" meant getting happy.

  14. Bee Gees - 'Massachusetts'

    Bee Gees Massachusetts 1967

    'Massachusetts' was released in 1967 as a single and later included in the Bee Gees' 1968 album Horizontal. The song was written by the three brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb.

    The song features Robin Gibb's clear vibrato lead vocals, which became one of the trademarks of the Bee Gees' sound.

    The song is about a man who feels homesick for Massachusetts, a state in the northeastern United States, after travelling to San Francisco to join the hippie movement. The song expresses the disillusionment and nostalgia of the singer, who realizes that he does not belong in the new environment and longs for his old life. The song also reflects the cultural and social changes that were happening in the late 1960s, when many young people were drawn to the counterculture and anti-war protests.

    The song was a huge success for the Bee Gees, reaching number one in 13 countries, including the UK, where it became their first chart-topper. The song was originally intended for another popular group, The Seekers, but they never recorded it.

    The Bee Gees later said that they had never been to Massachusetts when they wrote the song, but they liked the sound of the name.

  15. Bobbie Gentry - 'Ode to Billie Joe'

    Bobbie Gentry - Ode to Billie Joe (1967)

    'Ode to Billie Joe' was written by American singer-songwriter Bobbie Gentry, released in July 1967 as the title track of her debut album. The song tells the story of a rural Mississippi family's reaction to the news of the death of Billie Joe McAllister, a local boy who had a relationship with the narrator, the daughter of the family.

    The song was a huge hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and staying there for four weeks. It also won three Grammy Awards for Gentry and her arranger Jimmie Haskell.

    The song sparked widespread curiosity and speculation about what the narrator and Billie Joe threw off the bridge before his death, a detail that Gentry deliberately left ambiguous. She later explained that the song was not about the object, but about the family's lack of empathy and awareness of the narrator's feelings.

    The song also inspired a 1976 film of the same name, starring Robby Benson and Glynnis O'Connor, which expanded on the backstory of the characters and revealed the object as a rag doll.

  16. The Beatles - 'Penny Lane'

    The Beatles - Penny Lane

    'Penny Lane' is a psychedelic pop song that was released in 1967 as a double A-side single with 'Strawberry Fields Forever'. The song was written mainly by Paul McCartney, with some input from John Lennon, and it describes the sights and characters of Penny Lane, a street in Liverpool where the Beatles grew up.

    The song features a piccolo trumpet solo by session musician David Mason, which was inspired by a performance of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 that McCartney had heard on TV.

    It was accompanied by a promotional film, directed by Peter Goldmann, that showed the Beatles and various scenes from Penny Lane. The film was one of the first examples of a music video.

  17. Van Morrison - 'Brown Eyed Girl'

    Van Morrison - Brown Eyed Girl (Official Audio)

    'Brown Eyed Girl' is a classic song by the Northern Irish singer and songwriter Van Morrison. It was released as a single in June 1967 and became his first hit as a solo artist, reaching No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, it was never released as a single in the UK.

    The song is a nostalgic reminiscence of a former love, with catchy lyrics and a cheerful melody.

    It was originally titled 'Brown Skinned Girl' and was about an interracial relationship. However, Morrison changed it to 'Brown Eyed Girl' to avoid controversy and make it more acceptable for radio stations.

    It has become one of Morrison's signature songs and one of the most popular songs of the 1960s.

  18. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell - 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough'

    Ain't No Mountain High Enough (extra HQ) - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

    'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' is a classic soul song that expresses the power of love and the determination to overcome any obstacle. The song was written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson in 1966 for the Tamla label, a division of Motown.

    The songwriters hoped that the song would give them access to the Detroit-based label, as they had previously worked with other artists such as Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin.

    The song was first recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 1967, and became a hit single that reached number 19 on the Billboard pop charts and number three on the R&B charts.

    The song was later covered by Diana Ross in 1970, who made it her first solo number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

  19. The Kinks - 'Waterloo Sunset'

    The Kinks - Waterloo Sunset (Official Audio)

    'Waterloo Sunset' is one of the Kinks' most famous and acclaimed songs, and has been covered by many artists over the years. It is a song that captures the essence of London in the 1960s, a time of social and cultural change, optimism and nostalgia.

    The song reflects the personal experiences of the songwriter, Ray Davies, who grew up near Waterloo station and was hospitalized there as a child. He later said that the song was a fantasy about his sister who emigrated to Australia.

    'Waterloo Sunset' is a song that showcases the musical talent and innovation of The Kinks, who were one of the leading bands of the British Invasion. The song features a distinctive guitar riff, a catchy melody, and rich harmonies.

  20. The Beatles - 'All You Need is Love'

    All You Need Is Love (Remastered 2009)

    'All You Need is Love' expresses the universal message of love and peace. It was written by John Lennon and was first performed by the Beatles on Our World, the first live global TV link, on June 25, 1967. The programme was watched by over 400 million people in 25 countries.

    The song was composed for the occasion, with simple lyrics and a catchy melody that could be easily understood by everyone. The song begins with a portion of the French national anthem and features an orchestral arrangement by George Martin and a chorus of guests, including members of the Rolling Stones, Small Faces, and Brian Epstein.

    The song was a huge success, reaching number one in many countries. It became an anthem for the Summer of Love, a social movement that embraced love, harmony, and freedom.

    The song also reflected the Beatles' own philosophy and influence, as they were at the peak of their popularity and creativity. The song remains one of the most iconic and influential songs in the history of popular music.

  21. The Monkees - 'I'm a Believer'

    The Monkees - I'm A Beliver (Original Video HD)

    'I'm a Believer' was written by Neil Diamond and recorded by the Monkees in 1966. It was a number-one hit in the US, UK, Australia, and many other countries.

    The song features the lead vocals of Micky Dolenz, and was produced by Jeff Barry, who also worked with Diamond on other songs.

    The song was featured in several episodes of the Monkees' TV show, and has been covered by many artists, including Smash Mouth, who recorded it for the movie Shrek in 2001.

    The song is considered one of the classic songs of the 1960s, and has been ranked among the best songs of all time by various publications and polls.

  22. The Moody Blues - 'Nights in White Satin'

    The Moody Blues - Nights In White Satin (Lyric Video)

    'Nights in White Satin' was written and composed by Justin Hayward, the lead singer and guitarist of the group. The song was first released as a single in 1967, and later as part of the concept album Days of Future Passed, which combined rock music with orchestral arrangements.

    The song is considered one of the first examples of symphonic rock, a genre that blends rock and classical music.

    The song was inspired by a gift of satin sheets that Hayward received from a girlfriend. He wrote the song in his bed-sit in London, expressing his mixed feelings of love and regret.

    The song features a haunting melody and poetic lyrics that describe a night of passion and longing. The song was not very successful when it was first released, but it gained popularity over time and became a hit in 1972, when it reached number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

  23. Aretha Franklin - 'Respect'

    Aretha Franklin - Respect (Official Lyric Video)

    'Respect' by Aretha Franklin is a classic song that became a symbol of the civil rights and feminist movements in the 1960s.

    The song is a cover of an Otis Redding original, but with significant changes in the lyrics and arrangement. Franklin transformed the song from a plea for respect from a man to his woman, to a demand for respect from a woman to her man. She also added the iconic spelling out of R-E-S-P-E-C-T and the background vocals of "sock it to me".

    The song was a huge hit for Franklin, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and winning her two Grammy Awards. The song is widely regarded as one of the greatest songs of all time, and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry.

  24. The Beatles - 'A Day in the Life'

    The Beatles - A Day In The Life

    'A Day in the Life' is the final track of the Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It is a song that combines two different sections written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, with an orchestral climax and a long fade-out.

    The song is widely regarded as one of the Beatles' most innovative and influential works, as well as one of the greatest songs of all time.

    The song was inspired by various newspaper articles that Lennon read, such as the death of Tara Browne, a young heir who crashed his car, and a report on the number of holes in the roads of Blackburn, Lancashire.

    The lyrics also reflect Lennon's experiences in filming How I Won the War, a dark comedy about World War II. McCartney's section, on the other hand, is a nostalgic reminiscence of his school days, with references to smoking and class attendance.

    The song features an innovative arrangement that includes two orchestral crescendos, recorded with 40 musicians who were instructed to improvise from the lowest to the highest note. The final chord of the song was played on several pianos and organs, and sustained for over 40 seconds with the help of overdubbing and compression.

  25. Procol Harum - 'A Whiter Shade of Pale'

    PROCOL HARUM - A Whiter Shade Of Pale - promo film #1 (Official Video)

    'A Whiter Shade of Pale' was Procol Harum's debut single in 1967. It is one of the most successful and influential songs of the 1960s, reaching number one in the UK and number five in the US.

    The song has a distinctive melody that is derived from a Bach organ piece, and lyrics that are mysterious and poetic.

    The song was written by Gary Brooker, Matthew Fisher, and Keith Reid, who got the title from overhearing a conversation at a party. It is widely regarded as a classic of rock music and a symbol of the Summer of Love.