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 60s. Let’s get started.
1. Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley revolutionized what it meant to be a celebrity, not to mention his allure as a teen heartthrob.
He is known for his deep voice and his early additions to the genre of rock and roll and helped to bring it to the masses in a unique way for the era.
Moreover, at such a pivotal time for the civil rights movement, he deliberately included many features more particular to black musicians of the era.
Some of his most famous songs include “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Love Me Tender,” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” His single in 1969, “If I Can Dream,” was one of the more popular of the 60s.
Even at the time, he ruffled plenty of feathers with his stage presence, earning him the nickname ‘Elvis Pelvis.’
2. Frank Sinatra
Though Sinatra’s work may straddle multiple decades, it took him many years to get off the ground. He has become iconic and started flourishing in the 1960s.
Now a household name, 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,” which he recorded with his daughter Nancy.
3. Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan has been producing music for over six decades, but he rose to fame with his most enduring hits in the 1960s. 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.
Dylan has inspired many other musicians, including Jimi Hendrix, who we’ll look at next.
4. Jimi Hendrix
James ‘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 are hard to understate at that crucial moment in music history.
Truly a rock icon, he made his name blending influences like southern blues, soul, and earlier rock. Moreover, with the advancements in electric guitars, he 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.
His 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
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.
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.
He was a strong soloist at a time when bands were starting to become more popular.
6. Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger is one of the most well-known and iconic singers of all time. As the frontman of the Rolling Stones, he has helped to define rock and roll music.
His unique style and stage presence are unmatched, and he has inspired generations of musicians.
Jagger’s powerful vocals and knack for writing catchy hooks have led to some of the biggest hits in rock history, including “Satisfaction,” “Start Me Up,” and “Brown Sugar.”
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 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.
His 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 Cole’s 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, he tends to be remembered for his more simplistic approach than some of his contemporaries. He’s also remembered for his sweet and poignant lyrics.
8. Dean Martin
Dean Martin 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. He also produced music that would be considered pop and even country.
Always though, he was able to have consistency around his distinctive vocals.
9. The Beatles
The Beatles don’t have just one singer, but each of the men in the group became legendary for inventive music writing and a unique vocal arrangement deserving of this list.
Later on, they continued to make music separately, with John Lennon and Paul McCartney becoming famous for solo work in their own right.
They pushed the pop genre forward with a strong foundation in Rock n Roll while incorporating ballads, psychedelic music, and more classical pop sounds.
10. Tom Jones
Another baritone on this list, Tom Jones, was a top-charter in the 1960s. He has continued his career for some 60 years since.
While many would broadly consider him a pop singer, he has many songs which take from show tunes and R&B, and sometimes blues.
Though not in the 60s, some of his more recent work includes gospel music. Jones remains a tried and true musician, capable of evolving his style to blend with trends.
11. Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye’s musical style 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, a style famed for its R&B style 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 and was already a sensation by the early 1960s.
12. Ray Charles
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 styles, including jazz, R&B, and to a lesser extent pop to establish something that was of his creation.
He also pushed the genre of country forward in many ways. His inspirations remain characteristic of his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.
13. Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry might not be as much of a household name as others on this list, but he did lay foundations that helped advance many genres.
A pioneer of rock music, he started working with many different groups in the 50s and became very successful with a solo career.
He is known for his outstanding stage presence. He was able to attract a mainstream audience- no small feat as a person of color.
He uniquely blended many styles, incorporating country, blues, and R&B into his Rock n Roll.
He inspired Hendrix and Dylan, and The Beatles covered his music.
14. The Beach Boys
Again, not strictly a singer, but this group is known for their harmonies. More than that, they are iconic for their surf sound.
This helped keep them fresh during a time when other bands struggled against more popular English rock musicians.
They have come to encapsulate the California beach feeling for many listeners over the decades.
15. Tim Buckley
Though not exclusively a folk singer, that certainly is how Tim Buckely got his start. A spirit of the time, he later ventured into some more classic tastes like jazz and soul while venturing into funk and psychedelic sounds.
While he was an impressive singer in his own right, he also became very experimental, including incorporating his vocals more as part of the instrumentation.
Much of his music could not be played to a wide audience because of his explicit lyrics. As such, Buckley didn’t get as far off the ground as other musicians. He did attract a following, but his shifting styles could not always retain the same crowds.
Ultimately, he made a lasting mark on music history.
Summing Up Our List Of Male 1960s Singers
The 1960s was a turning point in many ways. Culturally, geopolitically, and of course, musically, everything was in flux, and that certainly comes through with the sheer level of innovation and lasting legacies built in this period.
But, 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!