" ... we had people saying, 'Hey man, gee whiz, Ray, you got all these fans, you can't do no country-western things. Your fans -- you gonna lose all your fans.' Well, I said, 'I'll do it anyway.'" -- Ray Charles

"Time" Man of the Year: Pope John XXIII

Oscar for Best Picture: "Lawrence of Arabia"

Oscar for Best Actor: Gregory Peck for "To Kill a Mockingbird"

Oscar for Best Song: "Days of Wine and Roses" Emmy for Best Actor in a Continuing Series: E. G. Marshall for "The Defenders" Emmy for Best Actress in a Continuing Series: Shirley Booth for "Hazel"
Grammy for Record of the Year: "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" by Tony Bennet Oscar for Best Actress: Anne Bancroft for "The Miracle Worker" Best Seller -- Fiction: "Ship of Fools" by Katherine Anne Porter
"Stranger on the Shore" by Mr. Aker Bilk
"Stranger on the Shore" was released in the spring of 1962 and was the #1 song on Billboard on May 26, 1962. Billboard and Gilbert & Theroux recognized it as the top song for the year and Cashbox ranked it #2. Mr. Aker Bilk was a jazz clarinetist who had learned to play while in military prison -- he had fallen asleep on guard duty. The song was originally named "Jenny" after Bilk's daughter, but when it was commissioned to be the theme for a British children's television show, it took its title from the name of the show. The song's success in the U.S. was unprecedented as few British groups had cracked the American top 10 -- "Stranger on the Shore" was the first to reach #1. It only reached #2 in Britain, but was on the chart for 40 weeks -- a record at the time. It was on the U.S. chart for 21 weeks. His quivering clarinet backed by a full compliment of strings is mesmerizing -- it's my favorite record of 1962.
"The Loco-motion" by Little Eva
Spurred on by The Twist craze, there was a plethora of dance songs in 1962 and songs such as "Peppermint Twist, "Mashed Potato Time" and "Green Onions" certainly bear consideration, but Little Eva's "Locomotion" gets the nod as "the best." Released in the summer of 1962, it became the #1 song on August 25th. The record was a product of Aldon Music's Carole King and Gerry Goffin who had hired Eva Boyd as a baby sitter while they were working in the studio. When it came time to produce a demo of "The Locomotion," they asked Eva to sing it. When Dee Dee Sharp turned down the record, Don Kirshner liked Eva's singing well enough to release her version on his new label, Dimension. At the time, there was no actual dance step, so Eva had to make up the steps. By the end of the summer, everybody was doing the locomotion. It was a fun dance step because it was often done as a group, not necessarily with a partner -- as Little Eva sang, "now that you can do it, let's make a chain now."
"I Can't Stop Loving You" by Ray Charles
Ray Charles' masterful combination of country and rythm and blues, "I Can't Stop Loving You," is a close second as the best song of the year and is my best slow song. The call and response of Ray and the Ray Charles Singers make you want to follow Ray's instruction when he sings, "sing the song, children." That song reached #1 on June 2nd, 1962 and stayed there for five weeks. It was part of the "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music" album that Ray Charles had been discouraged from recording by his label. The album became ABC-Paramount's first gold album. Don Gibson had originally written and recorded the song in1958 and Ray claimed that he knew he wanted to record the song after hearing the first two lines.
"Twist and Shout" by The Isley Brothers
"Twist and Shout" is actually a "cover" song that would be "covered" again, with even more success. Written by Phil Medley and Bert Berns, the song was first recorded in 1961 as "Shake It Up Baby" by The Top Notes at Atlantic Records under the supervision of Phil Spector. The record was a flop, but Berns thought that Spector had not done the song justice so when The Isley Brothers decided to record it in 1962, Berns asked to produce it. The resulting record was much more successful as it exuded the energy of an Isley Brothers performance. It reached #17 on the Billboard chart. In 1963, when the Beatles recorded their first album, "Twist and Shout" was included. It was subsequently released as a single in the United States in 1964 and as part of the Vee-Jay album, "Meet The Beatles." On April 4th, 1964 it reached #2, kept from the top spot by "Can't Buy Me Love" ... by The Beatles.
"Make It Easy On Yourself" by Jerry Butler
When asked about the lyric, "breaking up is hard to do," the immediate response would be the 1962 Neil Sedaka song of that name. But thy lyric is shared by Jerry Butler's "Make It Easy On Yourself." While Sedaka's initial recording is an upbeat rock and roll sound, Butler's record is a soulful ballad. Sedaka's record had infinitely more success, reaching #1 in August of 1962, while Butler's only reached #20. Sedaka recognized the lyric's potential for treatment as a ballad when he recorded it again in 1975 and it reached #8. Make no mistake, these are two totally different songs, but they expressed the same emotion and Butler's rendition of "Make It Easy On Yourself" has far greater impact in expressing the emotion of a breakup than Sedaka's bouncy pop song.
"Surfin' Safari" by The Beach Boys
A good trivia question might be, "What was the Beach Boys first number one record?" Many might answer, "Surfin' Safari." They would be wrong ("Get Around, 1964). If asked what their first top ten hit? -- still wrong ("Surfin' USA," #3, 1963). It doesn't even get the distinction as the Beach Boys' first charted record -- "Surfin'" reached #75 in 1961. How about their first top 40 song? -- yes! It peaked at #14. But it was the song that propelled the group to national stardom and gave momentum to the rising popularity of surf music. It's a good example of how a song increases in popularity when an artist has even more success with subsequent recordings. It would be unimaginable for a Beach Boys concert to not include "Surfin' Safari" and the opening lyric is immediately recognized when heard -- "Let's go surfin' now, everybody's learnin' how, come on on safari with me."
"Devil Woman" by Marty Robbins
While other country songs such as Claude King's "Wolverton Mountain" (#6) and Patsy Cline's "She's Not You" (#5) had more pop chart success in 1962, Marty Robbins' "Devil Woman" is my choice for the best even though it peaked at #16. It was #1 on the country chart for eight weeks. The song is a tale of a man seduced away from his true love by a "Devil Woman." But Mary forgives him, and even offers him his "freedom." It has somewhat of a calypso feel to it and refers to "our shack by the sea" and "evil like the dark coral reef." It evokes sentiments common to such country and folk songs as "Detroit City" and "The Sloop John B" with the cry to return home, "I don't want to stay, I want to get away, woman let go of my arms." The dark cloud of confession of "our great sin" is eventually lifted when Mary takes him back and the song falls in line with its upbeat tempo.