5. “Happy Together” by the Turtles
The Turtles were more than a one hit wonder, but this song eclipsed all they’d ever record when it pushed The Beatles’ “Penny Lane” out of the top spot on the pop charts in March 1967. It would stay there for three weeks. It’s a captivating song that encapsulates the spring before the Summer of Love in so many ways. A love song, the haunting background vocals, military drumbeat, and pure 60s guitar all explode when the refrain hits, backed by some brass and more. Twenty years after its release, when it was used in the movie Making Mr. Right (a bomb with John Malkovich), the song was re-released as a single with an accompanying video on MTV and VH1. I got sucked in like I was in 1967.
4. “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” by Cannonball Adderly
Julius “Cannonball” Adderly was a jazz saxophonist. In 1966 he released Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at “The Club” a live album, as the title would have us believe. In reality, it was recorded in front of an audience of friends at Capitol records in Hollywood while the liner notes said it was recorded at a club in Chicago. Maybe the quotation marks around “The Club” were the clue. The title track became an unlikely hit record in 1967, hanging out on the R&B charts for months in the spring where it reached the #2 spot. It even made it to #11 on the Hot 100. It’s a song that overtly tries to capture the progress of the Civil Rights Movement at what was, historically, something of a critical juncture.
3. “When Something Is Wrong with My Baby” by Sam and Dave
After their breakout success with 1966’s “Hold On, I’m Comin’,” Sam (Moore) and Dave (Prater) started carving out their reputation as one of the most successful soul duos of the era. This 1967 hit——it cracked the top five on the R&B charts in March and peaked at #3 by April——was their only ballad hit. Written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, with music played by Stax band Booker T. & the M.G.’s and horns by the Mar-Keys, it was followed by “Soul Man” later that same year.
2. “It Takes Two” by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston
The folks at Motown were looking for a duet partner for Marvin Gaye. They seemingly found one in Kim “Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)” Weston. This song peaked at #4 in March on the R&B charts. A month later Motown would release “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” a duet by Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and people forgot he had ever recorded with anyone else.
1. “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” by Aretha Franklin
Five years and nine albums at Columbia Records still hadn’t made Aretha famous. When Jerry Wexler signed her at Atlantic, he brought her to Muscle Shoals’ FAME Studios where she (and the studio’s legendary musicians) started on one of the greatest R&B albums ever made, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. The title track (with parentheses) was released in February. It hit #1 on the R&B charts in late March, becoming her first hit single. The B-side was “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.”