Today, I look at the decade of the '60's, and, particularly, what happened to those who performed the #1 hit of the year. This was a huge transition period for me, as I graduated from Stanford, got married, spent some time in the U.S. Army, and went on to live in Baton Rouge. I used Billboard and almost can't believe that some of these songs were deemed the best:
- 1960: Percy Faith, Theme from A Summer Place: Percy Faith died forty years ago. He had other popular recordings, including Delicado (1952) and The Song from Moulin Rouge (1952, vocal by Felicia Saunders). Summer Place won Record of the Year in the 1961 Grammy awards, and the movie with Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee got decent scores from Rotten Tomatoes (83/71).
- 1961: Bobby Lewis, Tossin' and Turnin'. Lewis is now 91. He was raised in an orphanage and ran away from his foster home at 14. Lightning struck in 1961 with his only real hit. It's on the soundtrack of Animal House. This is one of those...what, this was the best song of the year? Far back were Ben E. King at #63 with Stand By Me, Dion with Runaround Sue at #46, and The Shirelles' Will You Love Me Tomorrow at #16.
- 1962: Mr. Acker Bilk, Stranger on the Shore, where he plays the clarinet. He passed away two years ago at the age of 85. Was the second British #1 on Billboard. First was Vera Lynn with Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart in 1952. '62 was a big year for me, and I find it incredible that Peter, Paul and Mary's If I Had a Hammer was #98, Kingston Trio's Where Have All the Flowers Gone at #95, Jimmy Clanton's Venus in Blue Jeans at #75, Henry Mancini's Moon River at #60, Chubby Checkers' Twist at #9. Acker Bilk from the UK??? Maybe this was a kind of premonition that the British would take over Rock and Roll for the rest of the '60s.
- 1963: Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, Sugar Shack. Out of New Mexico, they took their name from Jerry Lewis' Great Balls of Fire. Their only other hit was Bottle of Wine in 1967. Apparently, absent their drummer, who passed away, the group still performs. Gilmer was born nine days after me, which makes him 76. Again, some others that year: One Fine Day by the Chiffons at #98, Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash at #80, Surf City by Jan & Dean at #28 and Surfin' USA by the Beach Boys at #2.
- 1965: Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Wooly Bully (the long Vietnam version). Never reached #1 in any week, but was #1 for the year. WB was here and there banned because the presentation was hard to understand. If you listen closely, the song is about his cat. A whole host of films has used this song. Their Lil' Red Riding Hood did well the following year. Frontman Sam is Mexican-American, and he still makes concert appearances.
- 1966: S/Sgt Barry Sadler, Ballad of the Green Berets. Sadler was born three months after me, but passed away 27 years ago. He was a Green Beret serving in Vietnam when he was seriously injured. While recuperating, he co-wrote the song with Robin Moore, who published the book, The Green Berets. The movie with John Wayne featured this song. The lyrics were written in honor of Green Beret James Gabriel, Jr., the first native Hawaiian to die in Vietnam. The tune itself is borrowed from an Irish folk song, The Butcher Boy. Sadler went on to live a troublesome life, for he shot and killed a songwriter named Lee Emerson Bellamy, for which he spent only 30 days in a county workhouse. He moved to Guatemala City in the mi-80's, and the details are mixed, but in 1988 he either shot himself or was assassinated.
- 1967: Lulu, To Sir with Love. Lulu Kennedy-Cairns is a Scottish singer and actress who was in the film of the same name with Sidney Poitier. They say the ending with Lulu singing was rather mawkish, but it'll bring tears to your eyes. Go ahead...click on that song. Two years later she won the Eurovision Song Contest, performing Boom Bang-a-Bang. Lulu appeared this year in the film Absolutely Fabulous.
- 1968: The Beatles, Hey Jude. The song is Billboard's 10th biggest of all time, with Rolling Stone ranking it #8 on the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Appropriately enough, #1 was Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone, even though it never made it to #1 at any time the year Wooly Bully was at the top. Dylan won a Nobel Prize this year, too. Hey Jude was originally written by Paul McCartney as Hey Jules to comfort John Lennon's son Julian (right), for his parent's were divorcing because of Yoko Ono. The song was the Beatles' longest-playing single (just over 6 minutes) as #1 and also spent the longest time at the top of any of their singles. If you listen really closely at the 2:58 mark, the phrase "-ucking hell" is uttered, and to this day it is debatable if this came from Lennon or McCartney. Here is the 45 version lasting 6 minutes 27 seconds. The backing was provided by a 36-piece orchestra.
- 1969: The Archies, Sugar, Sugar. The Archies is a fictional garage band of the Archie universe, and is the first animated group to claim #1 on Billboard for the year. The song is the essence of bublegum pop. Nilsson's Everybody's Talking was #73, the Ventures' Hawaii 5-0 at #58, Jackie DeShannon's Put a Little Love in Your Heart at #46, Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline at #22 and Honky Tonk Woman by the Rolling Stones at #4. Archies??