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Music Monday: 50 Years Ago—A Look Back at 1967

Keith Chaffee, Librarian, Central Library,
Collage of several album covers and the number 1967

When you look back at 1967, maybe it's the legendary acts you remember. The Rolling Stones were at the height of their career, topping the charts with "Ruby Tuesday," and The Supremes had two big hits with the melancholy "Love Is Here and Now You're Gone" and the chipper "The Happening." Aretha Franklin's "Respect" started her era of chart domination, and even Frank Sinatra hit the top of the pop charts, teaming with his daughter Nancy for "Somethin' Stupid."

Or maybe you remember the artists who didn't have such great success beyond their one big moment. Lulu had the year's biggest hit with "To Sir With Love," and Strawberry Alarm Clock's "Incense and Peppermints" was one of the era's biggest psychedelic rock hits. Bobbie Gentry's cryptic "Ode to Billie Joe," The Buckinghams' breezy "Kind of a Drag," and The Box Tops' scruffy "The Letter" would be the biggest hits those acts would have.

But more than anyone else, it was The Monkees who dominated 1967. "I'm a Believer" and "Daydream Believer" each spent more than a month at the top of the singles charts, and their first four albums — The Monkees, More of the MonkeesHeadquarters, and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. — all went to #1, topping the album charts for a total of 29 weeks.

Meanwhile, California's "Bakersfield Sound" was taking the country music world by storm. Merle Haggard ("Branded Man," "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive") and Buck Owens ("Sam's Place," "Where Does the Good Times Go") would each have a pair of chart-toppers, and Wynn Stewart had his biggest hit with "It's Such a Pretty World Today."  And while they weren't the very first female country stars, Tammy Wynette ("I Don't Wanna Play House") and Loretta Lynn ("Don't Come Home a-Drinkin'") were serving notice that the genre was no longer going to be so male-dominated as it had traditionally been.

Legends Aaron Neville ("Tell It Like It Is"), Stevie Wonder ("I Was Made to Love Her"), and Gladys Knight and the Pips ("I Heard It Through the Grapevine") would each land at the top of the R&B chart, as would the more obscure Freddie Scott ("Are You Lonely for Me").

Classical composers were experimenting with new ideas and techniques. Steve Reich's Piano Phase was part of his early exploration of phase music; Toru Takemitsu's November Steps added the biwa and shakuhachi, traditional Japanese instruments, to the orchestra; and Aaron Copland took on twelve-tone music in his orchestral work Inscape.

The Grammy Awards were still a relatively small event when the 9th annual ceremony was held in 1967, with many fewer categories than it has today. Among the honorees were Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, for "What Now My Love"; the Ray Conniff Singers, for their version of the love theme from Dr. Zhivago, "Somewhere My Love"; and the New Vaudeville Band, for their novelty earworm "Winchester Cathedral". Jerry Herman's Mame was chosen Best Musical Score, and Duke Ellington's  "In the Beginning God", from his Concert of Sacred Music, was named Best Original Jazz Composition. Julian Bream was honored for his collection Baroque Guitar, and Porter Wagoner's collaboration with the Blackwood Brothers, Grand Old Gospel, was named Best Sacred Recording.


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