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Top Songs of 1968 - The Summer of Despair

Updated on November 30, 2013

1968 started out so full of hope and promise in the United States, but by April 4th the downward spiral had begun. Robert F. Kennedy was running for President and Martin Luther King Jr. was at the height of his powers. After RFK announced he was running for President, LBJ dropped out of the race. It did not look like a shoo-in but there was a possibility RFK would be the next US president.

On April 4th, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. This sparked country-wide rioting; all but Indianapolis where RFK gave one of his greatest speeches. Then, just 2 months later RFK was murdered after winning the California primary. After Richard Nixon was elected in November of that year, many people who had been full of idealism just gave up.


But, it was not all bad.

There was still some amazing music to try to help to help soothe people’s souls after so much violence and hopelessness. Some amazing music came out of that year and most of it is timeless.

Otis Redding - (Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay

I think I remember this song more from the early 70s than from 1968. Otis Redding has such a great voice. This song brings back memories of the seaside and the summer.

This song was at the top of the Billboard charts on April 4, 1968, the day Martin Luther King was shot.

Simon and Garfunkel - Mrs Robinson

From the movie The Graduate starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, “You’re trying to seduce me Mrs. Robinson.” I liked Simon and Garfunkel’s fresh, folksy sound.

This song was at the top of the charts on June 6, the day RFK was shot.

The Doors - Hello, I Love You

Jim Morrison was definitely one of the great voices of the late 60s and an amazing performer. He was also a poet and a creative genius in my opinion.

The Four Tops – Don’t Walk Away Renee

I absolutely love the Four Tops; this is one of their greatest hits. It was originally recorded by the Left Banke in 1966. Levi Stubbs has an instantly recognizable voice.

Steppenwolf - Born to be Wild

I saw the film Easy Rider in 1970 at a retrospective theatre in Toronto. Of course I had heard the song before that. It is a classic a great Canadian band. It got a lot of airplay in Canada in 1969, the year my family and I moved to Canada.

Status Quo - Pictures of Matchstick Men

I had to include some psychedelic music. This is long time favorite song of mine. It is so English and Status Quo were one of the most popular bands of the time.

Gary Puckett and the Union Gap - Young Girl

Even as a kid I loved this guy’s voice, it was so powerful. The songs were great too. I remember listening to this single on a little portable record player of my older sister’s.

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Susie Q

I didn’t really get into CCR until the early 70s, and then I got into them in a big way. My brother-in-law had left some of his albums at our house and I spent hours listing to them; he had maybe 3 CCR albums. Great stuff and it stands the test of time.

Aretha Franklin - Think

Aretha has one of the all time greatest voices in popular music. I can’t think of any song of hers that I don’t like.

The Turtles - Elenore

Another happy, shiny Turtles song; I featured Happy Together in my Songs of 1967 article. I hadn’t heard this song in a few years but I remembered all the lyrics.

The Beatles - Hey Jude

This is a classic Beatles tune. I have been a Beatles fan since I was 6 or 7. My friends and I used to play Beatles. I was Paul and played my tennis racket with my left hand. I remember at one of my birthday parties The Beatles showed up on television, everyone ran from the table before we even had cake to see them.

Share your impressions of the songs of 1968

Submit a Comment

  • gmwilliams profile image

    Grace Marguerite Williams 

    6 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

    I remember the summer. I further remember feeling all the hope being lost after the assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. The music then spoke volumes to our youthful souls. I was just about to enter high school. Great hub which brought back memories of what could have been if those two great men were alive!

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    The summer of 1968 has a lot of memories for me. June 4 I was sworn into the USAF and left for boot camp. I was leaving my girl friend at home and family. I remember the first couple of weeks were the hardest but I adjusted. when we would get some time off on weekends all us guys would go to the squardron BX, eat hamburgers and listen to all the latest tunes on the juke box. That was maybe the loneliest summer of my life but I learned so much about myself and life,....worth every minute, no regrets...

  • anndavis25 profile image


    7 years ago from Clearwater, Fl.

    Well, I do believe you are a music lover, Uninvited. In 1968 I lived in Memphis and remember the Martin Luther King incident. We had a curfew, and nobody could be out after 10 at night. The streets were deserted. It was a scary time. Also, I was a back-up singer, and sung at all the studios and in on the front end of Rythm and Blues. Worked at the Sam Phillips Sun studio. Everything went Country, and moved to Nashville to join in the Hee Haw movement.

  • michael ely profile image

    michael ely 

    8 years ago from Scotland

    Hi Uninvited Writer, I just discovered this Hub of yours and glad i did. I was too young in 1968 to know about the events or the music, but now it's a period that i am interested in and have read different things about it. Like you say everything went from sweetness and optimism to a more cynical time. The assasinations and The Vietnam War were obviously major focal points and the music seemed to echo the times sounding a lot darker and heavier. Great songs included in a great Hub. Michael.

  • Tom_Radford profile image

    Tom Radford 

    8 years ago from Singapore

    I really like this hub. I've often wondered about why 1968 was such a sad successor to the summer of love and this list of songs paints a picture of a very different world to Sgt Pepper and the happy, naieve psychedelia of '67. A switch went off and reality flooded back in. But in its wake so did a river of new talent and wonderful songs. Great stuff

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    This was my 18th summer and it was a most miserable year, but this music did help us get through it all and they just don't make 'em like that anymore, such fine musicians and lyricists singers. Just expanded my mind with pot then for the first time, first time I got smashed as well.

  • profile image

    Nancy's Niche 

    8 years ago

    I really enjoy these hubs and all the old songs...Memories by the score return...Good ones I might add!!! :o)

  • barryrutherford profile image

    Barry Rutherford 

    8 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Young Girl get out of my mind was the hit song when Martin Luther King was killed i remember the association well !

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    most of the music from that era was great,but the type i liked best and still do was the phil specta wall of sound,the ronnettes etc

  • Lee B profile image

    Lee Barton 

    8 years ago from New Mexico

    This includes some of my all-time favorite music ever! Thank you! I'll have to bookmark to listen to them all again.

  • Uninvited Writer profile imageAUTHOR

    Susan Keeping 

    8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    True Izzy, I don't think I heard most of these songs until I moved to Canada in 1969, except for the 4 Tops, Gary Puckett, Status Quo...and the Beatles of course.

  • IzzyM profile image


    8 years ago from UK

    Great songs UV, even though there were 2 or 3 there that I hadn't heard before - the hits are different on both sides of the Pond!

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    8 years ago from south Florida

    Who can forget the song, "Mrs. Robinson," from the move, "The Graduate" which introduced a very young Dustin Hoffman?

    Thanks for another trip down memory lane, U.W.

  • Uninvited Writer profile imageAUTHOR

    Susan Keeping 

    8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    Great songs you mentioned, Hush is definitely a great one.

    I love 60s music too, I am so glad that was the music of my formative years.

  • Mike Lickteig profile image

    Mike Lickteig 

    8 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

    1968 certainly had some amazing music, and it was a transitional period in a lot of ways. My sister had the 'Bookends' album, and I used to play that all the time (when she let me in her room, of course). That album also had 'America' on it.

    I'm not an expert, but I think 'Heard it Through the Grapevine' came out in 1968, also. And, Deep Purple's first big hit (in my opinion), 'Hush.'

    Great music from this era. I was a big fan of the Doors and Jim Morrison. And, you are correct--Otis Redding had a wonderful voice.

    Thanks for bringing back memories of some great music. I loved 60's music.



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