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.
5. The Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter”
Pop Go the Sixties (December 31, 1969)
Given its date, this performance barely fits within this decade (and this list). It took place as part of Pop Go The Sixties, a 75-minute special broadcast on the BBC on New Years Eve 1969 to celebrate the best British pop music of the previous 10 years. Other performers included The Who, The Kinks, and The Beatles.
4. James Brown – “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag/I Feel Good”
The Ed Sullivan Show (May 1, 1966)
This was the first of two appearances James Brown made on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1966. Though his musical talent undoubtedly qualifies him, this performance by Godfather of Soul deserves to be on this list simply because of the fancy footwork he showcases here.
3. The Doors – “Light My Fire”
The Ed Sullivan Show (September 17, 1967)
Ed Sullivan famously told Jim Morrison to refrain from singing the line, “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher,” before the Doors’ performance of “Light My Fire,” a recommendation flagrantly disregarded. Though Sullivan had originally intended to have the Doors on his show as many as five more times after this original performance, they were later told by their manager they would never work for Ed Sullivan again. Jim Morrison allegedly replied, “Hey, man. We just did The Ed Sullivan Show.”
2. Jackson 5 – “I Want You Back”
The Ed Sullivan Show (December 14, 1969)
Michael Jackson was only 10 years old when the Jackson 5 made their debut performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. “I Want You Back,” the band’s first hit single, was the closing number of their three song set that night. They reappeared on the show the following year to perform “ABC” and reprise “I Want You Back.”
1. The Beatles – “All My Loving/Till There Was You/She Loves You/I Saw Her Standing There/I Want to Hold Your Hand”
The Ed Sullivan Show (February 9, 1964)
This performance was the first of three weekends in a row in 1964 when The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, legendarily initiating what would become the British Invasion. Though this appearance was relatively early in their career, the band already has much of the talent and showmanship that would bring them international success and artistic achievement over the next six years. At the moment when they abruptly transition from “Till There Was You” to “She Loves You” and you hear that first chant of “Yeah, yeah, yeah!” you remember exactly the kind of matchless charisma and energy that allowed these “youngsters from Liverpool” to change the world.