Counting Down the Best Songs of the 70s
Cast your memory back to a time of bell-bottoms, platforms, and Farrah Fawcett haircuts. A time when social commentary came in the form of a Creedence Clearwater Revival song and wearing a miniskirt. The 70s launched off from an international space-age dream and thrust the world into a fabulous new age that celebrated revolution, science, and boogie fever.
This turbulent decade was a cornerstone in the expansion of musical subcultures. From Glam Rock to Eurodisco, the 1970s broke down the previous barriers of commercial success and honed in on artistry from all walks of life that spoke deeply to unified human experience. Can you dig it?
50. Burning Love by Elvis Presley
Why it’s the 50th Greatest song of the 70s
From the King of classic Rock’n’Roll, “Burning Love” of the album Elvis (Fool) (1973) sways its way into the 70s with the familiar charm of gospel and blues that brought Elvis Presley his rising fame throughout the 50s and 60s. The King shines in all of his rockabilly glory by enthralling listeners with the chugging line of “just a hunk, a hunk of burning love.”
49. Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ by The Velvet Underground
Why it’s the 49th Best song of the 70s
Meandering from a steady ballad that gently nods at the unfortunate, “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” lifts itself into an anthem that captures the ironic freedom of those who “ain’t got nuthin’ at all.” Echoing the lyric “sweet nuthin’” with the final guitar solo, The Velvet Underground builds a calm strength to close out their album Loaded (1970) on a powerful, hopeful note.
48. Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush
Why it’s the 48th Top song of the 70s
Retelling the story of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Kate Bush’s whimsical and playful song by the same name sweeps up listeners. The eclectic sound of female falsetto combined with the passionate retelling of a well-loved story has made “Wuthering Heights” a shining track on the album The Kick Inside (1978), so much so it’s even inspired parodies.
47. Pink Moon by Nick Drake
Why it’s the 47th Greatest song of the 70s
Stripped back and understated, the title track to the album Pink Moon (1972) is a song that flew under the radar until the late 70s. Having repackaged Nick Drake’s work, Island Records released the album as part of the Fruit Tree box set in 1979. The reclusive history of Nick Drake fueled his posthumous commercial success and creates an intimate charm to this particular track.
46. I Feel The Earth Move by Carole King
Why it’s the 46th Best song of the 70s
Whether you know it or not, everyone knows at least one Carole King song. “I Feel The Earth Move”, from the album Tapestry (1971), is a classic, from that punchy piano to the flowing harmonies, the song hits audiences with that soul sound that transports you straight back into the 70s.
45. Cry Baby by Janis Joplin
Why it’s the 45th Top song of the 70s
Launching from a huge swell of emotion, “Cry Baby”, from the album Pearl (1971), is Janis Joplin at her finest. Gorgeous riffs swing through and land harmoniously with Joplin’s voice, making you reminisce a heartbreak that you didn’t even know you’d had. Only Janis Joplin can carry the weight of such a feeling and hit you with the reality that “the road’ll even end in Kathmandu.”
44. Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell
Why it’s the 44th Greatest song of the 70s
Few do social commentary as eloquently as Joni Mitchell does in “Big Yellow Taxi”. From the album Ladies of the Canyon (1970), this upbeat track jolts us to see the irony in what it means for society to progress. The chorus echoing “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone,” gives a down-to-earth perspective that is just as relevant today as it was in 1970.
43. Live and Let Die by Wings
Why it’s the 43rd Best song of the 70s
One of the most notable Bond themes, “Live and Let Die” by Wings (released in 1973) stands out as a huge commercial success for Paul McCartney in his years since leaving The Beatles. Building brilliant instrumentals whilst continuing to live up to Wings’ exuberant nature, the song shows the artistry of playing with tempo.
42. Piano Man by Billy Joel
Why it’s the 42nd Top song of the 70s
Making a lasting impression, “Piano Man” (1973) is the title track of the album that launched Billy Joel’s career. Witty and observational, the narrative of the song makes a point of acknowledging the collective experience of feeling out of place. With rapturous lines that celebrate the hardships of his characters, Billy Joel introduces himself as an artist who can see people for their anguish and lift their spirits.
41. Up And Around The Bend by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Why it’s the 41st Greatest song of the 70s
Although Creedence Clearwater Revival didn’t stay together for all of the 70s, it’s safe to say they left a lasting impression on the music industry. From the album Cosmo’s Factory (1970), “Up And Around The Bend” starts with an iconic guitar riff that perfectly introduces lead singer John Fogerty’s rugged voice. Pioneering American Rock and Roll from Woodstock to the Forrest Gump’s soundtrack, this track shines as a perfect example of the band coming together in their prime.
40. Heart of Glass by Blondie
Why it’s the 40th Best song of the 70s
Sliding in at the end of the 70s, Blondie’s hit “Heart of Glass” from the album Parallel Lines (1978) opened up new wave and pop-rock to the coming decades. With a mix of disco sound and synthesizers cooing, Debbie Harry floats in and out of this dreamy song to share her misfortune in love. This track explores new territory for the 1970s but keeps the best parts of all the rock and glamour.
39. Ramblin’ Man by The Allman Brothers Band
Why it’s the 39th Top song of the 70s
From the album Brothers and Sisters (1973), “Ramblin’ Man” is a country-rock hybrid that has become a staple sound of the 1970s. With a strong southern influence, this track holds sweet harmonies and intricate guitar solos, combining into a rich sound that is entirely unique to The Allman Brother’s Band. Whether you’re a fan of country or not, there is no doubt that you know this song!
38. Beast of Burden by The Rolling Stones
Why it’s the 38th Greatest song of the 70s
Coming into the 70s as seasoned rock stars, “Beast of Burden” is a track that doesn’t fall prey to The Rolling Stone’s accustomed hunt for shock value. Instead, this track sits quietly at the end of the album Some Girls (1978) and seductively lures listeners into something more intimate. Mick Jagger’s plea to be relieved in this song is a shift from more thrashing tracks like “Respectable”.
37. Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now by McFadden & Whitehead
Why it’s the 37th Best song of the 70s
McFadden & Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” uplifts anybody on a dancefloor and is undoubtedly a prime example of the perfect disco track. Boosting the mood of dancers from the 70s and for generations to come, this track from the album McFadden & Whitehead (1979) hit #1 on the R&B charts and #13 on the pop charts in 1979.
36. Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours) by Stevie Wonder
Why it’s the 36th Top song of the 70s
Coming into the 70s with a reputation since signing with Tamla Records at age 11, the title track from Signed, Sealed & Delivered (1970) vibrantly bursts. Combining a funky layer of horns and sitar guitar, this track from Stevie Wonder grabs listeners with its playful composition. Regardless of age, almost everyone around today knows this very song making it a timeless classic.
35. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan
Why it’s the 35th Greatest song of the 70s
Composed for the movie soundtrack of Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (1973) “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” holds two short verses and a simple sentiment that makes a powerful statement. At a different pace from his earlier songs, this soulful track arose to fame quite quickly making it one of Bob Dylan’s most famous songs.
34. The Boys Are Back In Town by Thin Lizzy
Why it’s the 34th Best song of the 70s
Whether you know it or not, you know this Thin Lizzy song. Hailing from the album Jailbreak (1976), “The Boys Are Back In Town” is a hit track for the Irish Hard-Rockers. Quickly putting the band on the map, this song has gained international success as an influential example of having two lead guitarists who can smash out one hell of a riff.
33. Smoke On The Water by Deep Purple
Why it’s the 33rd Top song of the 70s
Deep Purple is known for two things best, pioneering the early Heavy Metal scene and creating a song favored by every guitarist at some point during their musical education. Retelling the story of the Montreux Casino fire of 1971, “Smoke On The Water”, from the album Machine Head (1972), became an instant classic with that gritty leading bass.
32. Heart of Gold by Neil Young
Why it’s the 32nd Greatest song of the 70s
An understated hit to make it to this list, Neil Young’s top track from the album Harvest (1972) plays on his lyrical charm and elevates his artistry from his days of Crosby, Stills & Nash. “Heart of Gold” is undoubtedly a shining example of 70s country rock that continues to inspire generations of country and folk musicians, having been covered by Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kace Musgraves.
31. December, 1963 (Oh What A Night!) by Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
Why it’s the 31st Best song of the 70s
After making waves in the 60s, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons entered the 70s as a seasoned pop group. “December 1963 (Oh What A Night!)” outshone the album’s title track Who Loves You (1975) as the leading chart-topper. Combining the band’s smooth Jersey Boys sound with strong ties to 70s disco, this track has become a staple in every classic 70s playlist.
30. Come and Get Your Love by Redbone
Why it’s the 30th Top song of the 70s
Before resurfacing in Marvel’s Guardian’s of the Galaxy, Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” from the album Wovoka (1973) has had listeners grooving for decades. With a riff in the chorus that gets you wiggling in your seat, this track enthralls listeners from the beginning with that ever-so-cool funk vibe.
29. What Is Life by George Harrison
Why it’s the 29th Greatest song of the 70s
From his first solo album since parting with The Beatles, “What Is Life” from All Things Must Pass (1970) is an ecstatic single that shows off George Harrison in the prime of his independence. Hearing the playfulness in his use of reverb and the familiar brilliance of cleverly intimate songwriting, it’s no wonder George Harrison’s first solo venture took off with such speed!
28. Barracuda by Heart
Why it’s the 28th Best song of the 70s
Hailing from Heart’s third studio album Little Queen (1977), Barracuda’s stellar riff grabs listeners from the start. Lead singer Ann Wilson poured her fury towards misogyny within the music industry into the track and it sure paid off, along with the commercial success that has spanned decades the song proudly stands as a prime example of 70s heavy metal and hard rock.
27. ABC by The Jackson 5
Why it’s the 27th Top song of the 70s
A staple in the history of pop, the title track from ABC (1970) introduced The Jackson 5 as rising stars hitting the 70s with a fun and playful sound. Making a debut of his own, 11-year-old lead singer, Michael Jackson, wowed audiences with his showmanship and passion for soul and pop. True of the artist he would become, this track transcends generations and became an American pop classic.
26. Lola by The Kinks
Why it’s the 26th Greatest song of the 70s
Notably one of The Kinks’ most famous songs, “Lola” from the album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneyground, Part One (1970) caused waves amongst conservatives worldwide upon its release. With radio stations around the world splicing and banning the song, the tale of an interaction between the singer and a cross-dressing man has surely left an impression. Using their signature gritty-folk balance and tongue-in-cheek style, the band instantly makes you feel like you’ve know “Lola” for years.
25. Riders on the Storm by The Doors
Why it’s the 25th Best song of the 70s
Ambient and a little foreboding, “Riders on the Storm” has been considered one of The Doors’ most well-loved songs. From the album L.A. Woman (1971), this track’s attention to detail lures listeners in. Jim Morrison’s vocals layered with a harmony of singing and whispering combined with a psychedelic keyboard solo mixed with rain sounds make this 7 minutes of intrigue.
24. Layla by Derek & The Dominos
Why it’s the 24th Top song of the 70s
Considered somewhat of a one-hit-wonder, Derek & The Dominos track “Layla” is the embodiment of classic 70s rock sound. From the band’s only album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970), this track is one of few that comes into its own as both an original and unplugged version. Inspired by Eric Clapton’s fascination for the story of Layla and Majnun, the punchy rock sound combined with loving guitar solos make this song a near-perfect example of 70s rock exploration.
23. Let It Be by The Beatles
Why it’s the 23rd Greatest song of the 70s
One of the last songs from The Beatles before their shocking split, Let It Be (1970)’s title track is full of heart and appropriate fanfare. Being Paul McCartney’s final song with the band, his passionate outcry for peace still strikes fans of all ages. To top it off, the guitar solo in this track shows George Harrison in all his glory, powering up his fellow bandmates with a shared message of love.
22. Baba O’Riley by The Who
Why it’s the 22nd Best song of the 70s
The first track from the album Who’s Next (1971), “Baba O’Riley” sets a new standard for the My Generation rockers that rose to fame during the 1960s. Iconized by the line “teenage wasteland,” this track brought The Who enormous commercial success from film and television to live performances and sporting events. With an unmissable synth and fantastic blend of electronic rock and folk, this song has become a chameleon for pumping up crowds all around the world.
21. Wild World by Yusuf / Cat Stevens
Why it’s the 21st Top song of the 70s
From the album Tea for the Tillerman (1970), Wild World’s cautionary tale of a lover leaving the singer quickly became one of Cat Stevens’ most well-loved songs. With a mellow introduction, this song carries itself into an iconic ballad that’s humble beginnings are amplified by a fantastic bass riff and clever pauses, grabbing the listener.
20. Walk On The Wild Side by Lou Reed
Why it’s the 20th Greatest song of the 70s
As a longstanding member of The Velvet Underground, it’s no surprise that “Walk On The Wild Side” led to a mainstream breakthrough. Produced by David Bowie, Lou Reed’s second solo album Transformer (1972) holds the track in fifth place and caused quite the stir with its controversial lyrics. With that iconic “doot, di-doot,” and underrated bassline this song opened up a new perspective on glam rock.
19. Jolene by Dolly Parton
Why it’s the 19th Best song of the 70s
Making it into the top 20 with that classic country pick work is Dolly Parton’s title track “Jolene” (1974). The country-pop queen’s impassioned plea for her husband to be spared from a beautiful woman smothers listeners with emotion and a swell of strings. As Parton cries out “Jolene” towards the fade out of the song it dawns on the audience that this short ballad hits swiftly.
18. Move On Up by Curtis Mayfield
Why it’s the 18th Top song of the 70s
An underdog upon its release, “Move On Up” from the album Curtis (1970) hits as a staple in 70s sound. While the track failed to chart in the United States, the track’s positive lyrics and funk beat have risen above its humble beginnings. Progressive rhythm and fabulous brass riffs make this song a smash hit for soul.
17. Rocket Man by Elton John
Why it’s the 17th Greatest song of the 70s
Pioneering classic Rock’n’Roll stardom, Elton Jonn proudly sits in third place with his ballad “Rocket Man” from the album Honkey Château (1972). This song, while modest in comparison to his many hits, strikes a unique balance between narrative and progression. Rocket Man’s swift upswing and generous instrumentals give the feeling of being launched off into space, shooting for Mars.
16. Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver
Why it’s the 16th Best song of the 70s
Whether you’re from West Virginia or not, there is no doubt that the line “West Virginia, Mountain Mama,” has played in the background of your life at some point. John Denver’s track “Take Me Home, Country Roads” from the album Poems, Prayers & Promises (1971) has extended far beyond just an anthem for the state. As John Denver, Bill Danoff, and Taffy Nivert harmonize throughout the final chorus, the composition of this track has made it a classic country song.
15. Imagine by John Lennon
Why it’s the 15th Top song of the 70s
Captivating listeners with a message of change, the title track from Imagine (1971) leaves a lasting impression. As the song starts off with a signature piano melody, John Lennon implores his listeners to dare to dream about a peaceful, humbled world. Heavily influenced by his wife Yoko Ono, the song grew to become Lennon’s most notable work that continues to be considered a united world anthem.
14. Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers
Why it’s the 14th Greatest song of the 70s
From the debut album Just As I Am (1971), “Ain’t No Sunshine” introduces Bill Withers as a unique and complex sound. With the weighty strings and the repeated line of “I know,” Withers captures a significant feeling of loss and dazed confusion. Quickly arising to be his first hit, this track is an underrated example of the depths of soul.
13. I Was Made For Lovin’ You by KISS
Why it’s the 13th Best song of the 70s
Contrary to their usual hard rock songs, “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” from the album Dynasty (1979) stands out as a top track for KISS. Despite being a less than favorable track to their die-hard fans, this song’s disco influence undoubtedly made the band stand out. Topping the charts and becoming a Gold single, this track holds a powerful seat in 70s hard rock history.
12. American Pie by Don McLean
Why it’s the 12th Top song of the 70s
Don McLean’s title track to American Pie (1971) covers an expansive portion of the 20th century, focusing in on “the day the music died.” This impressive eight-minute anthem holds a strong relationship to iconic American legends including Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, and more. While there is much speculation regarding the deeper meaning behind the track’s lyrics, the bigger question is who can remember all of them?
11. September by Earth, Wind & Fire
Why it’s the 11th Greatest song of the 70s
Highly regarded as one of Earth, Wind & Fire’s most notable songs, “September” has made generations get up and boogie. Rightly sitting in the album The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1 (1978) this track is a loved disco classic that has been remixed, sampled, and covered every which way, further proving its brilliance as a dance hit.
10. Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin
Why it’s the 10th Best song of the 70s
Launching off with a distinct cry and masterful riff, “Immigrant Song” captures Led Zeppelin’s enormous influence on Heavy Metal. Hailing from the album Led Zeppelin III (1970), the song’s influence of Valhalla and Vikings charted the way for upcoming heavy metal bands such as Iron Maiden. With powerful imagery and an infectious bass, this transcendent track captured the origins of what would become contemporary rock.
9. Stayin’ Alive by Bee Gees
Why it’s the 9th Top song of the 70s
Storming into the top 10 in platforms and bell-bottoms is “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. Rising to instant fame from the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever (1977), lead singer Barry Gibb’s falsetto launches this disco track into a catchy hook. Harmonies from Robin and Maurice Gibb add to the magic of this dancefloor anthem, making it one of their most well-known songs and one of the most popular disco songs of all time.
8. Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra
Why it’s the 8th Greatest song of the 70s
Of all the bands that managed to incorporate a cowbell into their commercially successful tracks, few have done it as gracefully as Electric Light Orchestra. “Mr. Blue Sky” is nestled into the album Out of the Blue (1977) and closes out the third side of the LP on a symphonic high note. Noted as ELO’s most infamous song, its upbeat lyrics, and fantastic composition have made this song a prime example of 70s classics.
7. The Chain by Fleetwood Mac
Why it’s the 7th Best song of the 70s
Would it really be a 70s countdown without Fleetwood Mac? The first song on side two of the critically acclaimed album Rumors (1977), “The Chain” combines elements of folk, hard rock, and country to create an iconic riff that pulls listeners in. The thumping bassline builds up to Lindsey Buckinham’s brilliant guitar solo that solidifies the band as one of the most iconic groups of the 1970s.
6. Dream On by Aerosmith
Why it’s the 6th Top song of the 70s
From their debut album Aerosmith (1973), “Dream On” powerfully introduces Steven Tyler’s early vocal skills and Aerosmith’s immediate strength as a timeless hard rock band. Positioning the band as masters of power ballads and with a blues influence, this track sets a strong impression. The hook of the chorus hits audiences of all ages, making this early track of Aerosmith a staple 70s rock ballad.
5. Hotel California by Eagles
Why it’s the 5th Greatest song of the 70s
When it comes to 70s soft rock, there isn’t a song that can hold a candle to the title track of Hotel California (1977). Exemplifying clever composition and fantastic use of 12 strings, the Eagles six-minute track shot to the top of the charts upon its release. With a highly regarded solo by guitarists worldwide, this song captures the extensive skill that songwriters explored and demonstrated in the 70s.
4. Dancing Queen by ABBA
Why it’s the 4th Best song of the 70s
Blitzing international charts and spearheading Europop magic is ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” from their fourth album Arrival (1976). Firing off with that disco-infused piano medley, this immediate hit has become a beloved dancefloor anthem for generations. The Swedish group’s uplifting coming-of-age track has become a longstanding familiar favorite that extends far beyond Mama Mia!
3. Moonage Daydream by David Bowie
Why it’s the 3rd Top song of the 70s
In all his Glam Rock glory, “Moonage Daydream” is David Bowie’s shining third track on the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972). This track captures Bowie as an influential out-of-this-world rock icon, whilst exhibiting guitarist Mick Ronson’s impeccable skill.
2. Dreams by Fleetwood Mac
Why it’s the 2nd Greatest song of the 70s
The only repeat offender making this list with their hit track “Dreams” from the album Rumors (1977) is Fleetwood Mac once more. Smoothly starting off with an iconic bassline, Stevie Nicks lures listeners into her soft-rock wonderland. Providing the ultimate meditative 70s rock sound, this track defies age by standing just a strongly in popularity with all audiences.
1. Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
Why it’s the Best song of the 70s
Proudly hitting number one is Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” from the album A Night at the Opera (1975). This symphonic masterpiece smashes the boundaries of hard rock, symphony, and pop by artfully composing the best aspects of all genres into a magnificent journey for the listener. From the slow burn beginning, Queen highlights lead singer Freddie Mercury’s vocals and gently leads to the timeless guitar solo that launches into a full progressive rock explosion, which was unlike anything of the times.