The Hits of 1962

Who sang that Sherry Baby song?


It was 1962, JFK was the president, Marilyn Monroe died, and it was an exhilarating but also frightening time in our history. The Cuban missile crisis happened, but war was behind us - except for the cold war. The threat of nuclear destruction lent a certain urgency to rock and roll, and lovers' complaints blended with silly dance songs and new sounds to create a fascinating variety of music. It was a soundtrack for escape, yearning, and trying to smile in the face of fear.
What happened in 1962's Music?
As a concept and thematic chunk of time, the 60s was an oddball of a decade - it really started in 1962 and ended in the early 70s. In England, the British Invasion was being born with the Beatles doing their very first recordings and The Rolling Stones playing their first gigs. In a couple of years, everything would change, but for now in America it was good old rock and roll that topped the charts, and a soul-country hybrid, and some surf-rock instrumentals...OK, 1962 was in many ways just as eclectic as the rest of the decade would be, but rustically, provincially, charmingly so.

Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music - Ray Charles
The big hit of the year was the slow-dance ballad I Can't Stop Loving You, a highlight of any Ray Charles songs list. It was taken from his album called Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, which was unique in many ways. The album itself was one of the first concept albums in rock and roll - but it had strong elements of soul, R&B, and country music as well. The concept for the record was a new way of interpreting hillbilly songs, as they were called, and Charles brought them into the modern age with a rocking, soulful, yet countrypolitan sound all his own. The album was a smash hit and contained zero filler - another novel idea for 1962. A recent biopic about Ray Charles is a great introduction to his music and the recording of this landmark album.

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Play that Sherry Baby song
A group from New Jersey released their first album, and it was mostly filler - but the 4 Seasons album had 2 hit singles that were clearly something new. The hip-sounding falsetto, the big drum and bass sounds, the very urban-ness of Sherry and Big Girls Don't Cry launched the group into the stratosphere, where they continued making hits for years.

For the Beach Boys, 1962 was only the beginning
A little band of brothers and friends from California released a single that summed up a culture and an approach to music and life that would color the decade to come and indeed the history of rock - the Beach Boys. When Surfin' Safari came out, the west coast beach subculture was unknown to the rest of the world. The hit song changed all that and revved up the Wilson brothers' career in a big way.

Dance, Surf, Dance Some More
Teenagers loved to dance, and several of the big hits of 1962 were dance tunes that named specific dances. Limbo Rock by Chubby Checker, Mashed Potato Time by Dee Dee Sharp, and The Wah Watusi by the Orlons were songs to dance to, about dances - a weird idea that was just swell with the kids. The instrumental approach produced several hits- the first surf rock song by the Tornadoes called Telstar (echoing the space age just being born), and a soul-flavored no vocals tune called Green Onions by a Memphis group known as Booker T. and the MGs.

The King and others
Of course, Elvis continued his success on the charts of 1962 with Return to Sender, Good Luck Charm, and Can't Help Falling In Love. Phil Spector's girl group the Crystals had his first big hit with He's a Rebel, and Gene Chandler made sure that the Duke of Earl would be ear candy forever. A former doo-wop singer with only one name - Dion - made a hit out of a song about a womanizer and cheater that you just had to love - the Wanderer. And an important song in the history of rock was first recorded and released by the Contours. Do You Love Me was later covered by British invaders The Dave Clark Five, and by Bruce Springsteen in concert, among many others. It was a superb example of the best of what rock had to offer in that long-ago time, 1962.


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