Top songs and musical events of 1961

From the first international song festival in Sopot to the cult single "The Beach Boys".

Musical chronicle of the best songs of 1961

The year 1961 was remembered for many hits that are not forgotten even decades later. So, it was at this time that the legendary “Can't Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley came out, “Moon River” performed by Audrey Hepburn, the first large-scale performance of “The Beatles” took place.

International Song Festival in Sopot

The song contest, which has been held since 1961 first in the Polish city of Gdansk, and then in Sopot, is often compared with Eurovision in terms of the scale and brightness of the performances.

The first festival took place in August 1961, the venue was the Gdansk Shipbuilding Hall, where the competition was held for another two years. One of the main organizers was the Polish composer Vladislav Shpilman. The competition was divided into three parts: in the first one, the best song of Poland was chosen, in the second, they voted for the best recording studio, and in the third, representatives of different countries participated.

Forest Opera in Sopot, where the competition was held after 1963
Forest Opera in Sopot, where the competition was held after 1963

Among the Polish performers in 1961, Irena Santor won the first place with the song "Embarras". Seventeen countries took part in the international competition. Switzerland took first place with the song "Nous deux" performed by Joe Roland. The second was given to the singer Nora Brokstedt from Norway, the third - Barbel Wahholz from the GDR.

Initially, the festival in Sopot was conceived as a way to show that musicians from the socialist countries are as talented as Western ones. As conceived by the organizers, the Sopot festival was to become an alternative to Eurovision. In the socialist countries, he really gained immense popularity - also because listeners had the opportunity to hear performers whose work was usually inaccessible to them.


In 1961, the popularity of Eurovision continued to grow. More and more countries participated in it - for example, performers from Spain, Finland and Yugoslavia arrived there for the first time. There were sixteen countries in total.

After the victory of the Frenchwoman Jacqueline Boyer in 1960, in 1961 the competition was held in France - for the second time Cannes became its venue. Performances began on Saturday evening, which became a tradition of the festival that has survived to this day.

Jean-Claude Pascal of Luxembourg took first place at Eurovision 1961 with "Nous les amoureux". Second place went to "Looking High, High, High" by British artist Brian Johnson.

The arrival of The Beach Boys

In December 1961, the Beach Boys released their first single, Surfin'. At the beginning of their career, the group worked in a unique genre, which was called "surf pop". The lyrics of most of the songs were devoted to surfing and sea romance.

Photo "The Beach Boys"
Photo "The Beach Boys"

Over time, the group's work changed, and by the mid-sixties, The Beach Boys were already working in the psychedelic rock genre. Their work continued to surprise with originality, they are credited with a decisive role in the development of Californian rock and rock in general, putting such compositions as "Good Vibrations", "I Get Around", "I'm Waiting for the Day" and many others on a par with compositions The Beatles, The Who and The Rolling Stones.

World hits

The biggest selling singles of 1961 in the US and UK were "Tossin' and Turnin'" by Bobby Lewis and "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" Elvis Presley respectively.

"Tossin' and Turnin'" was one of six songs that spent more than seven weeks at the top of the US music charts in the 1960s.

"Are You Lonesome Tonight?" was written at the beginning of the twentieth century, in the 1920s. However, she gained popularity precisely in the performance of Elvis Presley. Interestingly, in 1961, the famous singer Frank Sinatra also recorded a cover of the song.

The best song of the year and, at the same time, the best recording of the composition according to the Grammy from a technical point of view was "Moon River" - a song by Henry Mancini, performed by Audrey Hepburn in the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's". In addition to the Grammy, the song also received an Oscar.

In 1961, such legendary compositions as "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis Presley were released, which is included in the list of the five hundred greatest songs of all time according to Rolling Stone magazine.

In second place on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961 was Roy Orbison's "Crying", a lyric about unrequited love.

The song "La Foule" was first performed by Edith Piaf in 1957, and by 1961 it had gained immense popularity.

"Please Mr. Postman is a hit single by The Marvelettes, released in 1961. It was the group's first single, which immediately brought them a resounding success and the first line in the Billboard rating.

Hits of the USSR

The best-selling record of 1961 in the USSR was “Do Russians Want Wars?” Mark Bernes.

The song "And it's snowing", performed by Maya Kristalinskaya in the film "Dima Gorin's Career" and instantly became a cult, was released in 1961.

At the "Blue Light" of the same year, the composition "New Year's Waltz" performed by Georg Ots was performed.

The film "Girls" was remembered, including bright songs. So, the composition "Good Girls" in 1961 became a hit for many years.

The ironic composition from the film "Moonshiners" was also remembered by the listeners for a long time.

The life-affirming song “And the Heart Beats So Much” from the musical comedy “Artist from Kokhanovka” was loved throughout the Union.

The year 1961 was remembered for its bright performances and the birth of new cult musical groups. He gave the world a lot of good music, from California rock "The Beach Boys" to songs from musicals and soulful performances of songs in Soviet cinema.

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