1961: 20 Songs Released in 1961 You Must Hear

My rules:

  • Only one song per artist/group
  • The song must be released that specific year
  • Songs from live albums not allowed (that’s another & more complicated list)

Please feel free to publish your own favorite songs from 1961 in the comments section…

Here we go…

    • Summertime – John Coltrane

      Released on Coltrane’s March 1961 album: “My Favorite Things”.

    • Crazy – Patsy Cline

      Ballad composed by Willie Nelson. It has been recorded by several artists, most notably by Patsy Cline, whose version was a #2 country hit in 1962.
      Released as a single October 16, 1961

      I’m crazy for feeling so lonely
      I’m crazy
      Crazy for feeling so blue
      I knew you’d love me as long as you wanted
      And then some day
      You’d leave me for somebody new

  • Back Door Man – Howlin’ Wolf

    Released by Chess Records as the B-side to Wolf’s “Wang Dang Doodle” (catalog no. 1777) in.. 1961.

    I am a back door man
    I am a back door man
    Well, the men don’t know
    But the little girls understandWhen everybody’s sound asleep
    I’m somewhere making my midnight creep
    Yes, in the morning, the rooster crow
    Something tell me, I got to go

  • Little Sister – Elvis Presley

    Written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman & released as a single August 8, 1961

    Little sister, don’t you
    Little sister, don’t you
    Little sister, don’t you kiss me once or twice
    Then say it’s very nice
    And then you run
    Little sister, don’t you
    Do what your big sister done

  • Stand By Me – Ben E. King

    Written by King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, inspired by the spiritual “Lord Stand by Me”.
    Released as a single in 1961 (recorded October 27, 1960)

    When the night has come
    And the land is dark
    And the moon is the only light we’ll see
    No, I won’t be afraid
    Oh, I won’t be afraid
    Just as long as you stand, stand by me

  • Hit The Road Jack – Ray Charles

    “Hit the Road Jack” is a song written by rhythm and bluesman Percy Mayfield and first recorded in 1960 as an a cappella demo sent to Art Rupe.
    It became famous after it was recorded by singer-songwriter-pianist Ray Charles with The Raelettes vocalist Margie Hendricks.
    Released as a single in 1961.
    The song is ranked #387 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

    Hit the road Jack and don’t you come back
    No more, no more, no more, no more
    Hit the road Jack and don’t you come back no more
    What you say?

  • Crying (Roy Orbison)

    Written by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson, released as a single July 1961.

    I was all right for awhile
    I could smile for awhile
    But I saw you last night
    You held my hand so tight
    As you stopped to say, “Hello”

  • Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms) – Solomon Burke

    A country song written by Virgil “Pappy” Stewart and originally recorded by Stewart and the Arkansas Cowgirls in 1953. It was a minor country hit for Faron Young that same year, reaching No. 10 on the country chart and was also recorded by Patsy Cline and Percy Sledge. Its most successful version was recorded by singer Solomon Burke as his second single from Atlantic Records in 1961, becoming Burke’s first hit single.

    A love that runs away from me
    Dreams that just won’t let me be
    Blues that keeps on bothering me
    Chains that just won’t set me free
    So far away from you and all your charm
    Just out of reach of my two empty arms

  • Tell It Like It Is – Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers

    From the album “The Freedom Rider” released in 1961.

  • Gypsy Woman – The Impressions

    Written by Curtis Mayfield and recorded by his group The Impressions, released as a single in 1961.

    From nowhere through a caravan around the campfire light
    A lovely woman in motion with hair as dark as night
    Her eyes were like that of a cat in the dark
    That hypnotized me with love

  • Runaway – Del Shannon

    “Runaway” was a number-one Billboard Hot 100 song made famous by Del Shannon in 1961. It was written by Shannon and keyboardist Max Crook, and became a major international hit. It is No. 472 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time from 2010.

    As I walk along, I wonder
    A-what went wrong with our love
    A love that was so strongAnd as I still walk on, I think of
    The things we’ve done together
    While our hearts were young

  • I Pity the Fool – Bobby Bland

    Released as a single in 1961.

    I pity the fool, I pity the fool, I pity the fool
    I pity the fool that falls in love with you
    And expects you to be true, I pity the fool
    Look at the people

  • Tender years – George Jones

    “Tender Years” is the title of a song written by Darrell Edwards and recorded by American country music artist George Jones. The song was George Jones’ second number one on the country chart where it spent seven non consecutive weeks at the top and a total of 32 weeks on the country chart.
    Released as a single in April 1961.

    You keep saying, you love him
    I believe that it’s true
    And it just doesn’t matter
    How much I love you

  • Bewildered – James Brown & The Famous Flames

    “Bewildered” is a popular song written in 1936 by Teddy Powell and Leonard Whitcup.
    James Brown and The Famous Flames recorded “Bewildered” in 1959, and released it as a single Feb 1961.

  • Quarter to Three – Gary “U.S.” Bonds

    Adapted and expanded from “A Night with Daddy ‘G’ – Part 1” (Legrand LEG 1004), an instrumental by the Church Street Five, which was written by Gene Barge, Frank Guida and Joseph Royster, and sung by Gary U.S. Bonds. The song became a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States on June 26, 1961, and remained there for two weeks.

    Don’t you know that I danced, I danced till a quarter to three
    With the help, last night, of Daddy G.
    He was swingin on the sax like a nobody could
    And I was dancin’ all over the room.

  • Big Boss Man – Jimmy Reed

    “Big Boss Man” is a blues song first recorded by Jimmy Reed in 1960 & released as a single in April 1961. Unlike his most popular songs, the songwriting is credited to Luther Dixon and Al Smith. It was a hit for Reed and has been interpreted and recorded by a variety of artists, including Elvis Presley and B.B. King, who had record chart successes with the song.

    Big boss man
    Can’t you hear me when I call?
    Big boss man
    Can’t you hear me when I call?

  • Hello Walls – Faron Young

    “Hello Walls” is an American country music song recorded by Faron Young. It became a massive hit in 1961, reaching #1 country and #12 pop, and introduced its songwriter – Willie Nelson – to a national audience. The record spent 23 weeks on the chart.

    Hello, walls – (hello) (hello)
    How’d things go for you today
    Don’t you miss her
    Since she up and walked a way
    And I’ll bet you dread to spend
    Another lonely night with me
    Lonely walls
    I’ll keep you company.

  • Don’t Worry – Marty Robbins

    “Don’t Worry” is a 1961 country/pop single written and recorded by Marty Robbins. “Don’t Worry” was Marty Robbins seventh number one on the country chart and stayed at number one for ten weeks. The single crossed over to the pop chart and was one of Marty Robbins’ most successful crossover songs, peaking at number three on the Hot 100.

    Don’t worry ’bout me, it’s all over now
    Though I may be blue I’ll manage some how
    Love can’t be explained can’t be controlled
    One day it’s warm next day it’s cold

  • Funny How Time Slips Away – Billy Walker

    Written by Willie Nelson and first recorded by country singer Billy Walker.
    Walker’s version peaked at #23 on the Hot C&W Sides chart.
    Released July 1961.

    Well hello there
    My it’s been a long long time
    How am I doin’
    Well I guess Im doin’ fine
    It’s been so long now and it seems that
    It was only yesterday
    Yeah, ain’t it funny how time slips away

  • Walk On By – Leroy Van Dyke

    Written by Kendall Hayes and performed by American country music artist Leroy Van Dyke. It was released in June 1961 as the first single and title track from the album Walk On By. The song was Van Dyke’s most successful single, spending 37 weeks on the country chart and a record-breaking 19 at the number-one position. “Walk on By” crossed over to the pop chart peaking at number five, and was named by Billboard magazine as the biggest country music record in history.

    If I see you tomorrow on some street in town
    Pardon me, if I don’t say hello (hello)
    I belong to another, it wouldn’t look so good
    To know someone I’m not supposed to know

Spotify playlist:


Sources: Wikipedia, Allmusic.com