Looking back over a musical heritage that has lasted decades, we can feel very lucky to have witnessed it. And, if we are going to just be specific in time, finding the best 70s songs won’t be easy. There was just too much. But how did we get to that stage at all?
After The War
The post-war years saw a continuation of what had gone before, with Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and others similar.
Jazz was still a dominating force with the big bands and people like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. But, through the 50s, with the rise of the “clean-cut college boy” look of Pat Boone and others, there was going to be a musical reaction.
“(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window” might have been viewed as ‘wholesome’ by our parents, but…
Hold Onto Your Eardrums
Along came Elvis, Jerry Lee, Little Richard, and a whole new breed of artists. Into the late 50s and early 60s, and our parents were appalled. Great, wasn’t it? But then, something stirred in Liverpool. The Beatles arrived.
There had been nothing like them before. There was nothing like them at the time, even though there was one London-based band who claimed a rather misguided superiority.
And, there has been nothing like them since. Pop or Rock bands writing their songs, good ones. How dare they.
Over To You Big Jim
The 60s not only bred a new type of band and artist, but it also demanded better instruments. And, of course, better and louder amplification. Over to “Big Jim” Marshall, The “Father of Loud.”
It was Pete Townshend who walked in one day and encouraged an idea that Jim already had. The Vox AC 30s and the Fender amps available didn’t cut it. They just weren’t loud enough. Get some power and volume out there, said Pete. Jim provided it.
Turn It Up
If you hadn’t been to Jim Marshall’s little shop in Hanwell, West London, where were you? If you hadn’t turned up the volume to ten on a Marshall 100-watt stack, then you didn’t know the meaning of loud.
Even the shoppers outside knew what that meant on a busy Saturday morning as they ran for cover. Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Richie Blackmore, Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix, and others, all regulars. Hendrix’s drummer Mitch Mitchell worked there in the shop. But, it was all just leading up to the 70s.
The Beatles gave us the start in the 60s, but they were gone after just eight glorious years. Most of the people frequenting West London gave us much of what came in the 70s. And, what a decade it turned out to be.
Music, and the artists creating it, went to another level completely. The 60s were wonderful, but the 70s were groundbreaking.
We are going to look at some of the best 70s songs. I say “some” because it is impossible to include everything. It was an exceptional decade. A decade full of Pop, Rock, Progressive Rock, Folk, Funk, and plenty more. Let’s get in the DeLorean and remember a few. And, it started with a bang with…
Top 150 Best 70s Songs
All Right Now by Free
It isn’t an exaggeration that this song started the 70s with a bang. Not their first release; it was taken from their third album, Fire And Water.
It was the song that brought them international recognition, yet it only took about ten minutes to write after a gig in England’s Northeast. And reached #2 in the UK and 4 in America.
This was their biggest success in the 70s. They released some very good stuff, but the internal squabbles prevented them from achieving what was waiting for them.
Seven Seas Of Rhye by Queen
This was a song written mainly by Freddie Mercury with some additions from Brian May. It was included in a different format on their first album, entitled Queen. The version we know was released again on Queen II.
It was their third single and peaked at #10 on the UK chart. The inclusion of Mercury initiated the change from the previous band, “Smile,” to “Queen.” It raised the level way above what we were used to from Smile. And this track gave us an insight into how good they were going to be.
25 or 6 to 4 by Chicago
It was at the Isle of Wight festival in August of 1970 when we were hit by Chicago. They started this song, and everybody just stopped and looked. The horns, Terry Kath doing his thing, were stunning.
I rarely ever buy singles, but I bought this one. It made #7 in the UK and #4 in America. Their previous single, a cover of the Spencer Davis Group song “I’m A Man,” had been good, but this was something else.
They didn’t keep it up, though, and changed their style later and became very Pop-oriented. But this track still resonates with me. Furthermore, I consider it one of the most overlooked songs of the 70s.
Let It Be by The Beatles
By the start of the 70s, it was all over for The Beatles. We don’t need to go into all the reasons. Yoko got most of the blame, but we ought to thank her. If she was to blame, then she also was the reason George and especially John went off on their own and wrote some great music.
“Let It Be” was a track from the album of the same name and was their final album release that wasn’t a botched-up compilation. However, it wasn’t the last album they recorded; that was Abbey Road.
It was written by Paul McCartney but didn’t make it to #1 in the UK and peaked at #2. Although, it hit #1 in plenty of other countries, including America. And it remains one of the most iconic 70s songs.
Your Song by Elton John
As the impending end of The Beatles painfully came to its bitter conclusion, we needed someone to fill the void that would be created. Up stepped a chubby little boy from Pinner in West London.
He was the most unlikely-looking replacement you could imagine if you had seen him at 13 or 14 years old. But, within a few years, he was playing Friday nights at the Northwood Hills pub in West London, and the place was rocking.
“Reggie Dwight” didn’t sound so cool, so he took the name of the sax player he played with, Elton.
His association with Bernie Taupin is legendary and came about when he answered an ad in the paper of all things. This song, one of the best of his career, was one of the early results of that collaboration. Released in 1970, it reached #7 in the UK and #8 in America. Reggie was on his way.
Emerald by Thin Lizzy
The 70s threw up some great ‘live’ performers. But, between 1977 and 1978, none were better than this lot. They were the hottest live band on the planet, and the album, Live And Dangerous, proved that.
This track, “Emerald,” was taken from that album. Despite all the perpetual internal problems, for just one year, it finally all came out well.
Observers “in the know”…
Will look at the album cover and see the name Tony Visconti. That will usually mean a bit of, shall we say, “post-concert tweaking.” But, the basis of the show at Wembley that night is evident.
I was there that night and had never heard a live rock band so good. So many years later, I still haven’t.
Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who
And, on the subject of great live bands of the 70s, that period cannot be mentioned without tipping your hat to The Who. A sensation most of the time but scary at other times.
It was unnerving to see pieces of Marshall cabinets, bits of the drums, and what was left of Townshend’s guitar flying into the audience. Someone remarked once that America could end the Vietnam war tomorrow; just send The Who out there.
There was a single version and the full eight-minute album version from Who’s Next. Townshend had matured as a writer by now, and this got the full “anti-establishment” treatment.
It reached #9 in the UK and #15 in America. And 165 on the decibel meter and peaking even higher at the Streatham Locarno in London one night.
It was the last song that the band played live with Keith Moon for a film recording at Shepperton Studios in London.
Radar Love by Golden Earring
While The Beatles were strutting their stuff in Hamburg, Germany, so were Golden Earring in Amsterdam, Holland. Formed a year after The Beatles, they kept virtually the same lineup for 60 years.
It was still the same until recently. They finally all called it a day and picked up their bus passes well into their 70s and went off for a coffee.
Bye Bye Eddie
The Van Halens left Holland, but the Dutch weren’t short of solid rockers, and this band was at the forefront. “Radar Love” was their international breakthrough single and is what you might call a “Rock masterpiece.”
It was released in 1973 in Europe and 1974 in America. It reached the Top 10 in countries across Europe and #13 in America.
Hocus Pocus by Focus
Let’s stay in the land of clogs, cheese, and raw fish with onions, and serve up another Dutch delight. You could be forgiven if you thought that the members of Focus were all “off their trolley.” They were what you might call unusual.
You don’t often get someone yodeling in a frantically-paced Rock song, but that is what you get here. They were all classical and jazz-trained musicians, and they put it all to good use. But, they were more than a Progressive Rock band.
They took the term “progressive” to where no one, even until now, has been able to follow. And, apart from the yodeling, we had flute and whistling as well.
This track was taken from their 1971 album, Moving Waves. Apart from stunning musicianship, they had a sense of humor with the title of the song.
It’s Too Late by Carole King
In my opinion, one of the best albums of the 70s was Carole King’s Tapestry, which is from where this track is taken.
The single was released in 1971 and peaked at #6 in the UK and went to #1 in America. It was written by Carole King with Toni Stern.
It sits in a sad place as it is the story of a relationship breakup. Her voice adds to the melancholy, as does the simplified arrangement. A great track from a great album. And it’s easily one of the best 70s songs.
Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin
It isn’t possible to talk about great 70s music without including Led Zeppelin. The problem is choosing a song. But, I suppose it has to be this.
Not much needs to be said; it speaks for itself. Released as a track on Led Zeppelin IV, it has become a symbol of 70s rock music and Zeppelin themselves.
A combination of Page’s guitar, Plant’s vocals, and some great drumming met with John Paul Jones’s excellent orchestrations.
Fire by The Ohio Players
The 70s was also the period that Disco and “dance fever” took hold. Once again, almost impossible to pick one from all that happened.
Some of the music was very contrived and plastic. We will ignore that stuff. This one, however, spoke volumes. A great dance track and a funky sound, it was a highlight of the 70s Disco scene. It was the first track on the album of the same name and reached #1 in America.
Ohio by Neil Young
Another 70s icon that had to be included, Neil Young, is recognized as a great artist not only from the 70s but any decade. He has often taken up causes and wrote songs with stinging establishment criticism. That is what this is.
The song is about an anti-Vietnam war protest in 1970 at Kent State University in Ohio. The national guard murdered four unarmed students. Cue Neil and his songwriting, “Tin Soldiers and Nixon Coming.”
It was called by some the greatest protest song ever. It seems as though he didn’t protest loud enough since Nixon got re-elected. Including a big majority in Ohio.
Tumbling Dice by Linda Ronstadt
A song written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, which the Stones often played. It was included on their album, Exile On Main Street.
So why not include their version?
Two reasons. This version is better, especially the vocals. And secondly, Waddy Wachtel is an infinitely better guitarist than Keith Richards ever was, even when he could play a bit.
Linda Ronstadt was one of the best female singers of the 70s and could turn her hand to most things. Thought of in some circles as a Country singer, this song shows she was a bit more than that. She crossed all genres and even sang some light operatic material.
This song was taken from her album, Simple Dreams. A good song given the Ronstadt treatment.
Angie by The Rolling Stones
The Stones were always living in the shadow of The Beatles, especially from a songwriting point of view. However, this track from the album, Goats Head Soup, was special.
A great song written by Jagger and Richards, it was released as the first single from the album in 1973. It reached #5 in the UK and #1 in America.
Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple
Say the name “Deep Purple,” and most people will think of this track. Four very good musicians and a singer that could shatter your wine glass at the top of his range. This was released in 1972 on one of their best albums, Machine Head.
Thundering riffs, heavyweight drums, and bass are just what you expect from Purple. A song, as we know, written about a real fire in Switzerland where they were recording at the time.
Eruption by Van Halen
In 1962, the Van Halen family left their native Holland to resettle in California. The guitar changed forever in the hands of Eddie and was never looked at in the same way again.
The two brothers, Eddie and Alex, formed Van Halen. Their first album, Van Halen, released in 1978, was a stunning offering that made everyone sit up and take notice.
“Eruption” was the highlight and made guitarists all over the world wonder what on earth was going on. The Flying Dutchman’s credentials were established as a guitar great.
The Green Manalishi by Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac was one of the outstanding bands of the 70s, so an inclusion from them in this list is inevitable. But, I am not going to include anything from Rumours or any of those albums released by the more “Pop-oriented Mac.”
This goes back to the dawn of the 70s in the UK when Peter Green led the band. One of the great Blues guitarists of his time. In the late 60s and early 70s, they were at their very best, and this is a “Greenie” song from that period.
Deep, very dark, moody, and heavy with their blues inspirations. In my view, the best track that Fleetwood Mac ever released. It reached #10 in the UK. They didn’t have another Top 10 hit in the UK after this until “Tusk” and the ‘new’ Mac nine years later.
Living For The City by Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder was one of the artists who lit up the 70s and a few other decades as well. Difficult then to choose just one track from all the outstanding recordings he made. This song from his album, Innervisions, is the one that gets my vote.
Released in 1973, it made #15 in the UK and #6 in America. It is a song that portrays the problems that black people still have in America. What do you think of the musicians? He played everything on this track himself. That is an artist at work.
Space is at a premium as we move towards my Top 5 songs of the 70s. So, let’s abbreviate and mention some that should be on this list of the best 70s songs.
Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens
Released in 1971 on his album, Teaser And The Firecat. A Christian hymn, it was written in 1931 and inspired by the town of Alfriston in East Sussex. And the piano? Played by Rick Wakeman of Yes. It reached #9 in the UK and #6 in America.
Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits
Our introduction to Mark Knopfler and a band that was going to develop into one of the most important acts of the next twenty years. Released in 1978, it peaked at #8 in the UK and #4 in America.
Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush
Was the world ready for Kate Bush? Probably not, but we got her anyway. Songwriter and performer extraordinaire, this was her first release in 1978, inspired by the Bronte novel. It was taken from her excellent first album, The Kick Inside.
We have Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd to thank for helping her on her way in the early days. Even paying for the first recordings she made.
Jingo La Ba by Santana
Another hugely influential guitarist and band, Santana’s first two albums were groundbreaking. New rhythms are the style, and this track must be top of the list. It was taken from their first album, Santana. The thundering drums and rhythms set this apart as something very special.
Wasted Time by The Eagles
Could we have a list of the 70s without one of the decade’s greatest bands? Of course not? The perfection of The Eagles was at times staggering, especially live. I haven’t chosen the obvious choice, “Hotel California.” Instead, one of my favorite tracks from the same album also called Hotel California.
A great song with a great arrangement and orchestration. Light years away from their Country Rock beginnings, Don Henley’s voice is outstanding.
Onto my Top Five and a choice that is going to surprise a lot of people to start.
Without You by The Doobie Brothers
Now, here is a band that brought it all together. Good songs, great vocals, some excellent musicianship, and it somehow always had a happy feeling. This was taken from their album, The Captain and Me.
The album was released in 1973. and it also contained other great tracks like “Long Train Runnin'” and “China Grove.” Not released in the UK, the album reached #7 in America.
A band that had diversity as well and could cover a range of styles. Well worth their place here, and this was one of the best rock tracks of the 70s.
Yours Is No Disgrace by Yes
Pink Floyd might have been leading the way in Progressive Rock in the 70s, but Yes, even though different, were not far behind. This is a track taken from undoubtedly one of the best albums of the 70s, The Yes Album.
There have been some explanations about the lyrics, but it is an anti-war song. It is sending messages to soldiers who fight honorably that there is no disgrace on their shoulders.
If there is a disgrace, then that responsibility is on the leaders if they sent them there for the wrong reasons. And quite a few have in recent years, which is why this song struck a nerve with some people. Great performance from one of the best progressive bands of the 70s.
Eagle by Abba
Over their exceptional career, Abba wrote and recorded some stunning songs. The names roll off the tongue like a list of the greatest songs of the 70s. But in my opinion, almost unknown as it is in some circles, this was the best of them all.
Written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, it was included on their fifth album, ABBA: The Album.
Surprisingly, it only had a limited release as a single and was not issued in the UK or America. A great song with fantastic vocals from the girls, it typifies freedom and being able to live as you want to.
Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd
Progressive Rock came of age in the 70s, and leading the way was Pink Floyd. “Comfortably Numb” was taken from their masterpiece, The Wall.
They were a band that demanded the listener to do more than listen. Their music seemed to permeate you as a person as they told their story. The Wall was an example of how they made you sit and take notice.
One of the things that made this a stand-out track, not only of the album but of the decade, was Dave Gilmour’s guitar solo. No histrionics, a minimum of effects pedals unlike the 200 that some use, and no floppy hats. He doesn’t need all that; he can play. A great song from a stunning album.
Imagine by John Lennon
And so, to the very last song on this long list of classic songs from the 70s. There is a strong argument in many quarters that this was the song of the 70s. I happen to go along with that.
Some songs come and go…
As do many of the artists that release them, but “Imagine,” released in 1971, is seemingly always with us. It was taken from his album of the same name.
It was released first as a single in America, where it reached #3. But, it wasn’t released in the UK until 1975, when it peaked at #6.
It is more than just a song…
It’s a culture and stylization of the man himself. Some people have discussed and argued why it resonates so much. Musically, I think it is because it is so simple. Nothing complicated, no big arrangement. Just him and a piano with Klaus Voorman on bass and some drums from Alan White.
But, the lyrics, of course, are something else. It portrays how irresponsible we can be, of how we let things that were irrelevant get in our way of happiness. Have you ever sat down, removed your prejudices, and thought about what he is saying?
Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
Love Train by The O’Jays
Heart of Gold by Neil Young
Superstition by Stevie Wonder
Stayin’ Alive by Bee Gees
American Pie by Don McLean
Lola by The Kinks
Reelin’ In the Years by Steely Dan
Bennie and the Jets by Elton John
The Joker by Steve Miller Band
Maggie May by Rod Stewart
Carry On Wayward Son by Kansas
Bad Company by Bad Company
Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond
Dreams by Fleetwood Mac
Dust in the Wind by Kansas
You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Suffragette City by David Bowie
Takin’ Care of Business by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones
Layla by Derek and the Dominos
More 100 Best 70s Songs
- Hot Stuff by Donna Summer
- Heartbreaker by Led Zeppelin
- Love Hurts by Nazareth
- The Boys Are Back in Town by Thin Lizzy
- I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash
- You’re So Vain by Carly Simon
- Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac
- Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce
- Midnight Train to Georgia by Gladys Knight & the Pips
- December 1963 (Oh What a Night) by The Four Seasons
- Rocky Mountain High by John Denver
- Mandy by Barry Manilow
- Philadelphia Freedom by Elton John
- Le Freak by Chic
- Escape (The Piña Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes
- Rebel Rebel by David Bowie
- Brick House by Commodores
- Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye
- Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones
- Band on the Run by Paul McCartney & Wings
- Landslide by Fleetwood Mac
- Let’s Stay Together by Al Green
- Sister Golden Hair by America
- Wildfire by Michael Martin Murphey
- Horse with No Name by America
- Boogie Wonderland by Earth Wind & Fire
- Night Fever by Bee Gees
- I’m Not in Love by 10cc
- Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder
- Imagine by John Lennon
- Stay by Jackson Browne
- Summer Breeze by Seals and Crofts
- I Shot the Sheriff by Eric Clapton
- Lovely Day by Bill Withers
- My Sharona by The Knack
- Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd
- We Are the Champions by Queen
- Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough by Michael Jackson
- Bad Girls by Donna Summer
- We Will Rock You by Queen
- Miss You by The Rolling Stones
- Stayin’ Alive by Bee Gees
- December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night) by The Four Seasons
- September by Earth, Wind & Fire
- Hotel California by Eagles
- Let’s Stay Together by Al Green
- Heart of Glass by Blondie
- Don’t Stop by Fleetwood Mac
- The Chain by Fleetwood Mac
- Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough by Michael Jackson
- Rich Girl by Hall & Oates
- Kiss by Prince
- Reelin’ in the Years by Steely Dan
- Drift Away by Dobie Gray
- Ventura Highway by America
- Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin
- Walk on the Wild Side by Lou Reed
- Bad, Bad Leroy Brown by Jim Croce
- Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel
- Lay Down Sally by Eric Clapton
- Got to Be Real by Cheryl Lynn
- Piano Man by Billy Joel
- Rocket Man by Elton John
- You’re So Vain by Carly Simon
- It’s Too Late by Carole King
- ABC by The Jackson 5
- Superfly by Curtis Mayfield
- Don’t Bring Me Down by Electric Light Orchestra
- Rock and Roll All Nite by Kiss
- Lowdown by Boz Scaggs
- Love Will Keep Us Together by Captain & Tennille
- I Feel the Earth Move by Carole King
- Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith
- Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Joy to the World by Three Dog Night
- Dream On by Aerosmith
- Dancing Queen by ABBA
- Black Water by The Doobie Brothers
- Tangled Up in Blue by Bob Dylan
- Show Me the Way by Peter Frampton
- Black Dog by Led Zeppelin
- Magic Man by Heart
- Dream Weaver by Gary Wright
- Radar Love by Golden Earring
- Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) by Pink Floyd
- One of These Nights by The Eagles
- Long Train Runnin’ by The Doobie Brothers
- Lady Marmalade by Labelle
- Ramblin’ Man by The Allman Brothers Band
- Paradise By the Dashboard Light by Meat Loaf
- Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? by Rod Stewart
- Runnin’ With the Devil by Van Halen
- Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel
- Foxey Lady by Jimi Hendrix
- Lay Down Sally by Eric Clapton
- Turn the Page by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
- Best of My Love by The Eagles
- Blinded by the Light by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band
- Bad, Bad Leroy Brown by Jim Croce
- I’m Not in Love by 10cc
Looking for More Great Music?
Well, take a look at our detailed articles on the Best 80s Rock Songs, the Best 70s Rock Songs, the Best 90s Rock Songs, the Best Songs of The 2000s, and the Best Songs Of All Time for more awesome song selections.
Of course, you need to hear those tunes. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones for Music, the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Headphones Under $200, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, and the Best Bass Earbuds you can buy in 2023.
Best 70s Songs – Final Thoughts
Time to get our breath back. That was like a roller coaster ride through a decade that brought us some great music. But, it could also be described as a decade of experimentation.
What started with The Beatles and Sgt. Pepper and a few other bands in the 60s evolved into Pink Floyd, Yes, and others creating mind-boggling music and sounds that define the age.
That was the 70s…
A creative musical juggernaut, and we only just scratched the surface. Apologies if your favorites aren’t here. I am sure there are plenty of people who would like to have seen other bands and songs.
As I said in the beginning, finding the best 1970s songs will not be easy. There was just too much good music.
Until next time, happy listening.