As music decades go, you were one of the all-time best. You put the “classic” in “classic rock.” You capped off an incredible run for Motown sounds. Your folk music singer songwriters rose to iconic pop status. And, of course, with a twinkle in your eye and those really big collars, you gave us disco.
You carried us through a transition from the political and cultural turbulence of the ‘60s and handed us off to the MTV music revolution of the ‘80s. We have so much to thank you for musically, dearest ‘70s. To honor you, we’re paying homage with FanLabel’s favorite songs from each year of your decade:
“I’ll Be There” – Jackson 5
“I’ll Be There” falls under The Jackson 5’s biggest hits of all time. Released by Motown Records, it is a part of the “Detroit Era” of Motown music. This song was the group’s fourth No. 1 hit in a row, following “ABC,” “I Want You Back” and “The Love You Save.” This made them the first African American male group to achieve four consecutive No. 1 hits.
“American Pie” – Don McLean
Don McLean’s “American Pie” was not only a hit for it’s catchy chorus but also for its deeper meaning. McLean coined the phrase “the day the music died” referencing to the plane crash that killed rock ‘n’ roll icons Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. The song acts as a tribute to these mens but also to the overall fast lifestyle of that rock ‘n’ roll generation.
“Rocket Man” – Elton John
“Rocket Man” was the turning point of Elton John’s career. It became his biggest song to date and the attention it received assured John that could successfully hold a career as a musician. Rocket Man was inspired by Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Rocket Man.” The lyrics describe an astronaut who is leaving his family behind to begin his flight to Mars.
“Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” – Jim Croce
“Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” was by far one of biggest hits of the decade, spending two weeks at the top of Billboard charts in addition to receiving two Grammy nominations. Unfortunately, the song was Jim Croce’s last hit before his death six months after its release.
“Black Water” – Doobie Brothers
Patrick Simmons, lead vocalist of the Doobie Brothers, wrote Black Water during the bands trip to New Orleans. He recalls “When I got down there it was everything I had hoped it would be…The way of life and vibe really connected with me and the roots of my music.” Simmons was also inspired by the novels Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn that he read in his childhood. Black Water became the first Doobie Brothers No. 1 hit.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is an iconic example of the progressive rock genre that gained popularity during this decade. Unlike most popular songs, Bohemian Rhapsody has no chorus. It can be broken down into six parts: intro, ballad, guitar solo, opera, rock and outro. Freddie Mercury takes listeners on a rollercoaster of musical style and emotion. A biographical film of the same name is set to release in theaters this November.
“Dancing Queen” – ABBA
“Dancing Queen” was basically the first Europop disco hit! It has gained popularity among all ages being featured in the musical “Mamma Mia.” Band member, Anni-Frid Lyngstad cried when she first heard the song so it’s easy to see how ABBA knew it was going to be a hit when they were recording it.
“Jet Airliner” – Steve Miller Band
“Jet Airliner” was written by Paul Pena. Pena attempted to record the song himself but after having little success, the lyrics were given to Steve Miller Band. The reference to “New England town” refers to Pena’s birthplace and is unrelated to the band. Once recorded by Steve Miller the song reached No. 8 on Billboard’s top 100.
“Beast of Burden” – The Rolling Stones
A “beast of burden” is an animal that does labor for a human, like a horse. The song was written by Keith Richards for Mick Jagger. Richards said, “When I returned to the fold after closing down the laboratory [referring to his drug problems throughout the 1970s], I came back into the studio with Mick… to say, ‘Thanks, man, for shouldering the burden’ – that’s why I wrote “Beast of Burden” for him, I realise in retrospect.”
“Comfortably Numb” – Pink Floyd
The song is written about Pink, a struggling rockstar who is medicated by a doctor so he can perform at a show. The song’s real life basis came from Roger Waters’ experience of being injected with tranquilizers before a show and the following performance. The song first existed as a wordless demo and then Waters added in the “I have become comfortably numb” portion. It is famous for two crazy guitar solos.
Keep an eye out for contests we run that feature songs of the ‘70s. Some are based on genre, some are year-by-year, and some highlight #1 hits!