With significant cultural changes and countercultural movements, radical technological changes, and a growing market for mass entertainment media, the 1960s saw an explosion of new musical genres and impressive male vocalists.
From soulful crooners to rock and roll rebels, these guys ruled the charts and left an indelible mark on music history.
And in this post, we’re going to take a look at 15 of the greatest and most famous male singers of the 1960s. Let’s get started.
1. Elvis Presley
It is impossible not to know of Elvis Presley. This singer revolutionized what it meant to be a celebrity, not to mention his allure as a teen heartthrob.
Presley is known for his early additions to the genre of rock and roll, and helped bring it to the masses in a unique way. Moreover, at such a pivotal time for the civil rights movement, he deliberately included many features more particular to black musicians of the time.
Some of his most famous songs include “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Love Me Tender,” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” His 1969 single, “If I Can Dream,” was one of the more popular of the 1960s.
Despite a short career, Presley earned a place in several halls of fame and won too many awards and accolades to list here. In short, this music artist literally rocked the music world and changed it for the better.
2. Frank Sinatra
Though Ol’ Blue Eyes’s work may straddle multiple decades, it took him many years to get off the ground. He became iconic in the 1940s and ’50s, and even more so in the 1960s.
Now a household name, Frank Sinatra is known for his easy-listening vocals, making a name for himself as a soloist while also being a founding member of the Rat Pack.
Some of his biggest hits of the ’60s include “Strangers in the Night,” “That’s Life,” and “Somethin’ Stupid.” The latter he recorded with his daughter Nancy and was revived in 2001 by Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman.
3. Bob Dylan
Robert Allen Zimmerman, known best as Bob Dylan, has been producing music for over six decades, but he rose to fame with his most enduring hits in the 1960s like “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
With his most popular folk tunes, he became an icon in the civil rights movement. After producing many traditional folk songs and releasing his music, he kept up the folk genre and included many complex lyrics that attracted his fans.
His early music tends to be simpler, but he is also known for ‘going electric’ in the mid-60s. Before this point, everything he did was acoustic. This move, which ended up being popular and pushing many musical boundaries, wasn’t universally adored by all his fans at first.
4. Jimi Hendrix
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and electric guitar legend Jimi Hendrix has remained popular today for many of the same reasons he had a place in the public eye during the 1960s.
His contributions to the electric guitar were hard to understate at that crucial moment in music history. Truly a rock icon, especially with his band the Jimi Hendrix Experience, he made his name blending influences like southern blues, soul, and earlier rock.
Moreover, with the advancements in electric guitars, Hendrix became known for modifying his sounds with overdriven amps to create a hazier sound. Perhaps one of the most enduring performances, he is still remembered for headlining the Woodstock Festival of 1969.
Hendrix’s career only lasted a few years, but he was so successful that he built a lasting legacy and became one of the highest-paid performers of his time.
5. Sam Cooke
King of Soul Sam Cooke has not built up the same unbreakable memory in the public’s eyes as these others, but he still had a strong presence. In the 1960s, he was a strong soloist at a time when bands were starting to become more popular.
Moreover, his pop style was innovative, taking a lot of influence from soul and gospel, which were not yet as mainstream as they would become in the next decade.
And during the ’60s, he was able send this wonderful blend of sound to the world through hit songs like “You Send Me,” “Chain Gang,” and “Good Times,” among many others.
6. Mick Jagger
One of the most well-known and iconic singers of all time is Mick Jagger. As the frontman of the rock band the Rolling Stones, he has helped to define rock and roll music.
Jagger’s powerful vocals and knack for writing catchy hooks have led to some of the biggest 1960s hits in rock history, including “Satisfaction,” “Paint It Black” and “Honky Tonk Women.”
His unique style and stage presence are unmatched, and he has inspired generations of musicians. Even now, Jagger is still going strong, touring the world with the Rolling Stones and showing no signs of slowing down.
7. Nat King Cole
Everyone knows the 1965 song “L-O-V-E,” which topped the charts in 1965. What people don’t always know is that the whole album was recorded mere days before Nat King Cole went to the hospital for cancer treatment. The album was eventually released to the public a few weeks before he passed away.
Cole’s smooth, soft voice was perfect for his many songs about love and heartbreak. Over a hundred of his songs were listed on the top charts at the time, and they remain popular today due to his ability to sing about eternal topics with gentle melodies and a velvety voice.
While he put out several big band tracks or ones with several backup singers, Cole tends to be remembered for his more simplistic approach than some of his contemporaries.
8. Dean Martin
Actor, comedian, and singer Dean Martin didn’t come by his nickname King of Cool for nothing. The artist is renowned for his deep, baritone voice. As a crooner and part of the Rat Pack, his music spanned several genres.
He is probably best known for his jazz, big band, and easy listening songs like “Everybody Loves Somebody” and “I Will.” As he progressed in his career, Martin also produced music that would be considered pop and even country.
Music aside, Martin was also successful as a comedian and actor. He had acts with Jerry Lewis as well as his own TV program called The Dean Martin Show during the ’60s.
9. The Beatles
English rock band the Beatles doesn’t have just one singer but four, known as the Fab Four—John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison. Each of these men became legendary for inventive music writing and a unique vocal arrangement deserving of this list.
Their works during the 1960s led to Beatlemania, as each time they performed, frenzied fans would follow. Songs like “Twist and Shout,” “Hey Jude,” and “Yellow Submarine” helped them further along the popularity road.
They pushed the pop genre forward with a strong foundation in rock and roll while incorporating ballads, psychedelic music, and more classical pop sounds.
Later on, the Beatles members continued to make music separately, with John Lennon and Paul McCartney becoming famous for solo work in their own right.
10. Tom Jones
Another baritone on this list, Tom Jones, was a top-charter in the 1960s like “It’s Not Unusual,” “Green, Green Grass of Home,” and “Delilah.” Since then, he has continued his career for some 60 more years.
While many would broadly consider him a pop singer, he has many songs that take from show tunes and R&B, and sometimes blues. Jones remains a tried and true musician, capable of evolving his style to blend with trends.
Jones’s works has earned him a Grammy Award, two Brit Awards, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, among many others.
11. Marvin Gaye
The musical style of the Prince of Soul Marvin Gaye spanned many genres, including jazz ballads, soul, and R&B, usually with an emphasis on simplicity.
Perhaps more than any of that, he is remembered as a pioneer of Motown—hence, his second nickname, Prince of Motown—a style famed for its R&B sound with heavy influence from jazz.
Though he had many popular and innovative songs towards the end of his life, he made a name for himself starting in the early 1960s. Songs like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” pushed his popularity past the ’70s and into the ’80s.
12. Ray Charles
Known as the Genius, Ray Charles has had an enduring legacy as a leader in the early days of soul music. He was able to use influences from different music styles, including jazz, R&B, and to a lesser extent pop, to establish a unique sound of his own.
With a career that started in 1945, Charles was a household name by the time the 1960s rolled in, especially with the release of “Georgia on My Mind.” This single alone earned him four Grammys.
This decade was part of the singer’s crossover success, with plenty of hit songs to show for it, like “Hit the Road Jack” and “Come Rain or Come Shine.”
Charles was inducted into three halls of fame: the Rock and Roll and Rhythm and Blues. He was also the third African American singer to be added to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
13. Chuck Berry
Though named Father of Rock and Roll, Chuck Berry might not be as much of a household name as others on this list; however, as the nickname implies, he did lay foundations that helped advance the genre.
A pioneer of rock music, he started working with many different groups in the ’50s and became very successful from the 1960s and through the ’70s.
Berry was known for his outstanding stage presence during live performances and was able to attract a mainstream audience—no small feat as a person of color at the time.
He uniquely blended many styles, incorporating country, blues, and R&B into his music. Some of his charting songs during the 1960s are “You Never Can Tell” and “Promised Land.”
14. The Beach Boys
Similar to the Beatles on this list, we’ve included the Beach Boys for the five members of the group who were known for their harmonies. Each one—Brian Wilson, David Marks, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, and Al Jardine—helped to the create the California sound the boys were known for.
1960s hits like “I Get Around,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” and “Good Vibrations” helped keep the band’s music fresh during a time when other groups struggled against more popular English rock musicians.
Their name aside, the Beach Boys have come to encapsulate the California beach feeling with their music over the decades. For this, in 1988, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
15. James Brown
Our final singer is funk music icon James Brown. Since the start of his career in the mid-1950s, each decade that passed would add another honorific to this artist’s collection—Mr. Dynamite, Godfather of Soul, Soul Brother No. 1, and the Hardest Working Man in Show Business.
For his gospel-based bluesy funk sound, Brown was Mr. Dynamite in 1960s. Throughout the decade, he constantly released charting songs, like “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” and “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”
Brown’s popularity would continue for several more decades and inductions into five halls of fame. During the 34th Grammy Awards, he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for his extraordinary contribution to music.
Summing Up Our List Of Famous 1960s Male Singers
The 1960s was a turning point in many ways. Culturally, geopolitically, and of course, musically, everything was in flux; and this certainly comes through with the sheer level of innovation and lasting legacies built in this period.
However, this list of male vocalists barely scratches the surface of talent from the decade. Who did we miss off the list? Let us know, and we’ll add them in!