The #1 Singles of 1969

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We’ve introduced another way of looking at the most popular music for a given year. The topic, as you know by the headline, is singles and while we have done stories on the biggest hits of the year, this series slices things a bit differently. Here, we look at the year’s #1 pop hits in the U.S.–in this case, 1969–according to Record World, a competitor of Billboard.

Earning a #1 single is an achievement that goes on an artist’s permanent biography.

In 1969, eight songs stayed at the top for three weeks or more. And another 13 were at #1 for two weeks. All told, 27 different singles reached number one in 1969. (That’s in contrast to 1974, when 44 songs topped the chart.) Our recap begins in reverse, and alphabetically by artist, starting with the nine that grabbed the top spot for a single week as the decade came to a close. (Note: Many of the chart numbers will differ with those compiled by Billboard.)

1 Week

Johnny Cash – “A Boy Named Sue”

The Man in Black’s biggest pop success of his career was written by Shel Silverstein, author of the children’s book The Giving Tree, among many others.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Proud Mary” and “Bad Moon Rising”

It was quite a year for the swamp rockers, who also had hits with “Green River,” “Down on the Corner” and “Fortunate Son.” (And, yes, we know that these two singles peaked at #2 in Billboard.)

The Fifth Dimension – “Wedding Bell Blues”

When Marilyn McCoo sings “Bill, I love you so, I always will” on this beautiful Lauro Nyro composition, she’s addressing it to her fellow group member Billy Davis Jr. The couple were married that year.

Tommy James & the Shondells – “Crystal Blue Persuasion”

Some of Motown’s singing stars had a big year-end TV special. (See below)

Their last of seven Top 10 singles since 1966.

Henry Mancini – “Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet

The 1968 film, targeted to teen audiences, was a big success and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.

Related: “Only” 23 singles reached the top in 1968

Oliver – “Jean”

The ballad was the follow-up to his earlier ’69 hit, “Good Morning Starshine.”

Sly & the Family Stone – “Everyday People”

What a great song! Six months later, the funk-rock-soul band’s performance was one of the highlights at the Woodstock Music and Art Festival.

Steam – “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”

The Chicago White Sox organist is credited in 1977 with being the first to use the song to taunt the opposing team when the visitors’ pitcher was knocked out of the game. There was no actual group named Steam. You can read plenty more about how the song came to be here.

Three Dog Night – “One” and “Easy to Be Hard”

The first two of a mighty stretch of chart dominance as the group earned nine Top 5 hits from 1969-1973.

Related: Our feature story on Three Dog Night

The Turtles – “You Showed Me”

This cover of a Byrds tune was the group’s last hit single.

Young-Holt Unlimited – “Soulful Strut”

The former members of the Ramsey Lewis Trio are credited as the performers on this instrumental classic. But legend has it that it’s actually the work of session musicians.

2 Weeks

The Foundations – “Build Me Up Buttercup”

The joyous song was the second hit from the diverse British soul band. Two decades later, it received renewed attention in the 1998 film, There’s Something About Mary.

Tommy James & the Shondells – “Crimson and Clover”

We could listen to this psychedelic song over and over.

Peter, Paul and Mary – “Leaving on a Jet Plane”

This John Denver composition was the decade’s final #1 single.

Elvis Presley – “In the Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds”

The King was in the midst of a career resurgence and though this pair couldn’t have been more different, they were both recorded at Memphis’ famed American Sound Studio with producer Chips Moman. Listen to an earlier take of “In the Ghetto.”

Tommy Roe – “Dizzy”

The pop singer spun his way to the top of the singles chart for the first time since 1962’s “Sheila.”

3 Weeks

The Cowsills – “Hair”

This terrific single was part of a seven-week run of two cover songs from the musical hit of the same name. (See below for the other stellar number.) Imagine how much bigger the photogenic singing family would have been if there had been social media back in the day.

The Rolling Stones – “Honky Tonk Women”

Not very many rock and roll songs reached #1 in ’69. Guess which single was at the top while Woodstock was taking place. Yup, this one.

Diana Ross & the Supremes and the Temptations – “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”

The song was the leadoff single from the Nov. 1968 Diana Ross & the Supremes Join the Temptations album. Inexplicably the song was not performed on their joint TCB special that aired on NBC that December. Nevertheless, it became a monster hit for the Motown stars who began the year at a familiar spot on the charts. Exquisite vocals from Eddie Kendricks and Miss Ross.

Zager & Evans – “In the Year 2525”

It’s ironic that the week of one of man’s greatest achievements, the Apollo 11 moon landing, this apocalyptic tale would be #1. Still freaks us out every time we hear it.

Related: Our feature on the gloomiest #1 single

4 Weeks

The Archies – “Sugar, Sugar”

The third single from the fictional band with musicians assembled by Don Kirshner. The song was co-written by Jeff Barry (who co-wrote such classics as “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” and “Then He Kissed Me,” among many others) and Andy Kim (who scored as a singer with such Barry co-compositions as “Be My Baby” and “Baby I Love You,” before earning a #1 hit with his own song, “Rock Me Gently”). Got it?

The Beatles – “Get Back”

In case you were wondering where they were, fear not! They’re well-represented on the 1969 list. First up is this favorite, which ascended to the top in just its fourth week on the chart.

The Fifth Dimension – “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”

What a great production! The music was recorded by the Wrecking Crew and it all led to a well deserved Grammy Award for Record of the Year, as well as Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Group. Close your eyes and listen to it again for the first time.

5 Weeks

The Beatles – “Come Together/Something”

In a chart rarity, the double A-sided single shared the #1 spot with the Fifth Dimension’s “Wedding Bell Blues” on the Nov. 22 chart. And because you’ve heard the studio versions countless times, here are earlier takes of both songs.

Related: Only 11 albums reached #1 in 1969

Greg Brodsky

4 Comments so far

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  1. Bill
    #1 Bill 16 December, 2020, 19:35

    Not the best year. Beatles and Rolling Stones were good.

    Reply this comment
  2. tomservo56954
    #2 tomservo56954 30 December, 2020, 04:36

    According to BILLBOARD, the Supremes/Temptations, the Cowsills, Johnny Cash and Oliver also peaked at #2 with CCR, along with “Crystal Blue Persuasion”
    #3 for the Foundations, Young-Holt Unlimited, and “In The Ghetto”
    #6 for the Turtles
    #5 and #4, respectively for Three Dog Night

    Reply this comment
  3. Yazmatazz
    #3 Yazmatazz 24 August, 2021, 07:09

    1969. A great year for me as I turned 13 and was really starting to build my music collection. I bought each of these great 45’s that year….. along with many more. Thank you for that nice trip down memory lane!

    Reply this comment
  4. Mitch
    #4 Mitch 13 September, 2021, 09:12

    The alternate view of history offered by Record World does not merit discussion or consideration. Billboard’s is the final word. History is written by the victors.

    Reply this comment

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