Halftime Leisure

The Music of Mad Men

February 26, 2019

You don’t have to admire the philosophy of Don Draper to appreciate the music of his time. Mad Men brought forward the most exquisite of 1960s fashion and interior design, but also some of the time’s most beautiful and sometimes-forgotten anthems.


  1.     “You Only Live Twice” by Nancy Sinatra

The dramatic strings and Sinatra’s sultry vocals on this song end the fifth season of the show, and listening to them will take you right into the scene: sitting at a bar, Don Draper to your left smoking a cigarette and ordering an old fashioned, while you look around mesmerized by the class and elegance of your entourage.


  1.     “Shahdaroba” by Roy Orbison

“Shahdaroba, shahdaroba, means the future is much better than the past!” Orbison has recorded many great songs in his lifetime, other than the obviously well known “Pretty Woman.” This is one of them. It’s hopeful, dreamy, and its instrumentation reflects its Arabian-inspired mission.


  1.     “Trust In Me” by Etta James

Etta James has a unique artistic approach which sprinkles her songs with emotion, sultriness, and romance. A wonderful vocal piece, “Trust In Me” is a typical example of early 1960s soul music.


  1.     “Bye-Bye Birdie” by Ann-Margret

From the 1963 original motion picture Bye Bye Birdie, this song appears in one of the advertisements made by the executives of Sterling Cooper. It’s also a cultural landmark of the decade, with Ann-Margret’s passionate performance representing all the desire and irony of the decade.


  1. “Song to Woody” by Bob Dylan

I can’t speak of 1960s music without mentioning the great folk/rock musicians that defined the decade. While the show focuses on the corporate class of American society, the effects of hippie art and the civil rights movement infiltrate Manhattan men’s life, and so does their music.


  1.     “Bonnie and Clyde” by Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg

In a way, this song is similar to the show: It tells a story of love, violence, and complications, in its own aesthetic infused with suspense. Drawing on a French rendition of Bonnie Parker’s poem “The Trail’s End,” this song embodies the French view of mythical American stories.


  1.     “A Beautiful Mine” by RJD2

Originally a rap song, this song was later changed to become an instrumental track and chosen as the theme song of the show. Today, nothing screams Mad Men like its roaring drums and melodramatic strings.

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