Top Six 1960’s Songs with Harmonica Riffs

By Alex Paclin

Written by Alex Paclin on . Posted in Blog: Harmonica Articles, Harmonica Players

1. Born in Chicago

This is a song by Paul Butterfield, released on his debut album. The album presents band originals and songs in the style of electric Chicago blues. It is one of the first blues albums recorded in America featuring a white singer, trailing a few years behind the British blues movement where white singers and musicians had been performing and recording blues since the late 1950s.

D harmonica, 2nd position, key of A

-2 -2 -2” -2 -2 -2” -1
2 -2 -2” -2 -2 -2” -2” -2” -2
-2 -3’ 4 -4’ 4 -3’ -4’\ -2 -2

2. Drinking Muddy Water

This song is an update of the 1950 Muddy Waters blues classic “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” and nominally a tribute to the bluesman. 

Jimmy Page worked as a session guitarist on “Little Games” album which includes this song and uses a slide-guitar part to follow the vocal line (later the same technique was used on Led Zeppelin’s “You Shook Me”).

Harmonica is played by Keith Relf, the lead singer of Yardbirds and it uses a repetitive riff.

-2 -3’ -2 -2” -2 (repeat)

3. I Should Have Known Better

This was one of several songs written and recorded specifically for the Beatles’ debut movie, “A Hard Day’s Night”. The harmonica-driven arrangement by the group was similar to that heard on Frank Ifield’s recording of “The Wayward Wind”, a hit on the UK Singles Chart in March of 1963. Lennon’s harmonica playing opens the track, the last occasion the Beatles were to feature this instrument on an intro and thus draws a line under a significant period of their early music.

C harmonica, 2nd position, key of G

-34trill -34trill 45 -45 45 (x4)

4. From Me to You

A song by The Beatles released in 1963, first single to hit No. 1 in the UK singles chart. The title was inspired by the name of the letters section of the New Musical Express magazine, which they had been reading: “From You to Us”. McCartney noted that their early songs tended to include the words “I”, “me” or “you” in them, as a way of making them “very direct and personal” to the band’s fans.

C harmonica, 1st position, key of C

4 -4 5 -4 4 -4 -4 -3” (x2)

5. I’m Ready

A song written by Willie Dixon and released as a single in 1954, but re-recorded in 1969 for the album “Fathers and Sons”. “I’m Ready” was inspired by a comment of Muddy Waters prior to a gig, when harmonica player Willie Foster visited him at home. While drinking, Waters ribbed Foster for bringing a suitcase for a weekend. He said, “I mean you ready!” And Foster said, “Ready as anybody can be!”. Dixon proceeded to write this song and continued the use of swagger and supernatural imagery found in “Hoochie Coochie Man”.

Chromatic harmonica in C, key of Eb

-5s 5s -5s   -5s 5s -5s
-5s 5s -5s   -5s 5s -5s
-6s 6s -5s   -6s 6s -5s
-5s 5s -5s   -5s 5s -5s

6. I Was Made to Love Her

A song by Stevie Wonder peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart in July 1967. When asked in a 1968 interview which of his songs stood out in his mind, Wonder answered “I Was Made to Love Her because it’s a true song.” The song features Wonder’s harmonica in the intro, strings following the bridge section and an electric sitar. The last lyric line “You know Stevie ain’t gonna leave her” was ad libbed by Wonder. 

Chromatic harmonica in C, key of Eb

-8s -7s -7 -6   -6s -6 -5 -6 7 7 7s 7 -6
-7s -7s  7s 7 -6 -6
7s 7s 7s 7s  7s 7 -6 -6

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