The 20 greatest love songs of the 1960s, ranked

5 February 2020, 13:03 | Updated: 17 February 2020, 16:52

1960s love songs, ranked
Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

We all love a romantic tune, and there's nothing quite like love songs from the 1960s.

We've collected the very best love songs from the decade that brought us Motown power ballads, flower power and Breakfast At Tiffany's. Is your favourite in there?

See also:

The 20 greatest love songs of the 1970s

The 20 greatest love songs of the 1980s

The 30 greatest love songs of the 1990s

  1. The Supremes - 'You Can't Hurry Love'

    Written and produced by the brilliant Motown team of Holland–Dozier–Holland, this gospel-tinged song focuses on a memory of a mother's words of encouragement, telling her daughter that patience will help her find a special someone one day.

    Phil Collins recorded a famous cover version in the 1980s, with both versions still being played around the world to this day.

  2. Ike and Tina Turner - 'River Deep, Mountain High'

    The single was among producer Phil Spector’s greatest works of the 1960s, and reached number three in the UK.

    However, amazingly it flopped on its original release in the US - what a travesty! It has since become a signature song for Tina Turner, and was also a hit for Celine Dion.

  3. Nat King Cole - 'L-O-V-E'

    This song was composed by Bert Kaempfert and Milt Gabler for Nat King Cole's album of the same name in 1965.

    It became one of his most popular songs, and has since been recorded by everyone from daughter Natalie Cole and of course, Michael Bublé.

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

    Written by Neil Diamond, 'I’m A Believer' was recorded by The Monkees in 1966 with the lead vocals by Micky Dolenz.

    The single reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and remained there for seven weeks.

  5. Elvis Presley - 'Can't Help Falling in Love'

    Elvis Presley's version of this song topped the UK charts in 1962 and number two In the US.

    Recorded for his Blue Hawaii movie, the melody is based on 'Plaisir d'amour', a popular French love song composed in 1784 by Jean-Paul-Égide Martini. It was later a number one hit for UB40.

  6. Sam Cooke - 'Cupid'

    Released in 1961, this cute ballad was one of Sam Cooke's best and biggest hits.

    Cooke's producers had asked him to write a song for a girl they had seen on a Perry Como TV show, but once they actually heard her sing, they kept the song for Cooke himself. Good decision!

  7. Peter and Gordon - 'A World Without Love'

    Paul McCartney wrote this song when he was just 16, and gave it to Peter Asher, whom he once lodged with when dating his actress sister Jane.

    Peter's group Peter & Gordon scored a UK and US number one with the track, despite being deemed not good enough for The Beatles by John Lennon.

  8. Aretha Franklin - (You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman

    Read more: The Story of... 'Natural Woman' by Aretha Franklin

    Co-written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ was a big hit for Aretha Franklin, becoming one of her most famous hits.

    The song was inspired by Atlantic Records co-owner and producer Jerry Wexler. He was a student of African-American musical culture, and had been thinking about the idea of the so-called 'natural man', when he happened to drive past King on the streets of New York.

    He shouted over to her that he wanted a "natural woman" song for Aretha Franklin's next album.They then went home and wrote the song that night. In thanks, Goffin and King gave Wexler a co-writing credit.

  9. The Temptations - 'My Girl'

    Written by Smokey Robinson and recorded for the Motown label (then named Gordy after label founder Berry Gordy), 'My Girl reached number one and became The Temptations' signature song. 

    Robinson's inspiration for writing the song was his wife, Miracles member Claudette Rogers Robinson. That's quite the Valentine's gift.

  10. Ray Charles - 'You Don't Know Me'

    Originally a '50s country song by Eddy Arnold, Ray Charles covered it beautifully for his first country album in 1962.

    The song about unrequited love is heartbreaking, and was famously used in the 1993 film Groundhog Day.

  11. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell - 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough'

    Written by the incredibly talented husband-and-wife duo of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, 'Ain’t No Mountain High Enough' was released on the Tamla Motown label.

    Nickolas Ashford once said: “We call 'Ain't No Mountain' the golden egg that landed us at Motown.” 

  12. Glen Campbell - 'Wichita Lineman'

    Despite being an unfinished song about a bloke working up a telephone pole, this became one of the greatest love songs of all time.

    Written by Jimmy Webb, Glen Campbell's version became one of his signature songs and was a hit around the world.

  13. Percy Sledge - 'When a Man Loves a Woman'

    Inspired by a break-up, 'When A Man Loves A Woman' is Percy Sledge's most recognised song.

    It reached number one in America and went on to become an international hit, proving to be a hit twice in the UK, after reaching number four in 1966 and, on reissue, peaked at number two in 1987.

  14. The Four Tops - 'Reach Out (I'll Be There)'

    Another Holland-Dozier-Holland masterpiece for Motown, this was one of the Four Tops' biggest and best known hits.

    It was sung (almost shouted) by Levi Stubbs, with member Duke Fakir later saying: "We realised that when Levi hit the top of his vocal range, it sounded like someone hurting, so he made him sing right up there.

    "Levi complained, but we knew he loved it. Every time they thought he was at the top, he would reach a little further until you could hear the tears in his voice."

  15. Ben E King - 'Stand By Me'

    Read more: The Story of... 'Stand By Me'

    Apparently there have been over 400 recorded versions of ‘Stand By Me’. We’re not surprised - it’s a fantastic song!

    It was also the title of one of the best movies of the 1980s, and it was performed at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding in 2018.

  16. Etta James - 'At Last'

    ‘At Last’ became Etta James' signature song and it was her version that was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

    Barack and Michelle Obama famously danced to the romantic tune after he was first inaugurated as President in 2009, with Beyoncé performing the ballad.

  17. The Righteous Brothers - 'Unchained Melody'

    Read more: The Story of... 'Unchained Melody'

    Now perhaps best known for the pottery-making scene in Ghost thanks to Patrick Swayze, this ballad is all about the sweet vocals of Bobby Hatfield.

    The song has reached number one in the UK four times: Jimmy Young, Righteous Brothers, Robson & Jerome and Gareth Gates. So, we've kinda liked it for a long time.

  18. The Beatles - 'Something'

    George Harrison wrote this Beatles ballad about his then-wife Pattie Boyd, who was later the inspiration for Eric Clapton's 'Wonderful Tonight'.

    The song was featured on the iconic album Abbey Road, and became one of the band's greatest ever love songs.

  19. Andy Williams - 'Can't Take My Eyes off You'

    It is impossible not to sing along to the 'bah-bah-bah's of this tune whenever it comes on.

    Frankie Valli actually recorded it first, but Andy scored a bigger hit with in the UK. It was later used in Bridget Jones's Diary, and he ended up re-recording it with Denise Van Outen in 2002.

  20. The Beach Boys - 'God Only Knows'

    Featuring on The Beach Boys classic 1966 album Pet Sounds, when ‘God Only Knows’ was first released, it amazingly only reached 39 on the US charts.

    It reached number two in the UK, and we'll always think of the final scenes of Love Actually when we hear it.

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