The 10 Greatest Televised Musical Performances of the 1960s
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A record-setting 73 million people tuned in on this day in 1964 to watch the Beatles make their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, making that night a landmark moment in the history of both music and television.
To celebrate the occasion we’ve compiled a list of our 10 favorite televised musical performances of the 1960s.
10. Dusty Springfield – “Son of a Preacher Man”
The Ed Sullivan Show (November 24, 1968)
British pop diva Dusty Springfield appeared three times on The Ed Sullivan Show between 1964 and 1968. This performance, her last on the show, was the only one to be broadcast in color. Aretha Franklin was originally offered a chance to record “Son of a Preacher Man” but turned it down, leaving it to become Springfield’s trademark song when it appeared on her 1969 masterpiece album Dusty in Memphis.
9. Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash – “Jackson”
The Ralph Emery Show (September 1967)
This duet between country music’s leading couple had been released earlier in 1967 by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, but it was Johnny and June’s version that reached #2 on the US Country Charts and won them a Grammy. (Interestingly, actress Gaby Rogers, the song’s co-author, has claimed that it was inspired by Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.)
8. The Beach Boys – “California Girls”
The Jack Benny Hour with Bob Hope (November 13, 1965)
This performance was part of an hour-long special broadcast on NBC. Other guests on the show included Walt Disney and Bob Hope. Despite the the seemingly innocent lyrics of “California Girls,” it was allegedly conceived during Brian Wilson’s first experience using LSD.
7. Diana Ross and the Supremes – “Someday We’ll Be Together”
The Ed Sullivan Show (December 21, 1969)
The Supremes appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show four times as a group, once performing a medley alongside The Temptations. This song marks their last performance on the show, and in fact it was immediately after this performance that Ed Sullivan made the first public announcement that Diana Ross was leaving The Supremes to pursue a solo career.
6. Ray Charles – “What’d I Say”
The Ed Sullivan Show (December 3, 1967)
This was Ray Charles’s first time performing “What’d I Say” on The Ed Sullivan Show, though he first recorded and released the song eight years prior to this broadcast. He appeared again on the show in December 1968, when he covered The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.”