Decade by Decade Music: 1970s

After working my way through the 40s, 50, and 60s, we have now arrived at the 70s. Time of the Brady Bunch, bootleg jeans, platform shoes, and some of the best music ever! I'm only a little psyched that this day has arrived. Now, there is the question of how I will be able to keep my list to 10…

To have a look back at the other posts I've written in this series, check out these posts written earlier this month:


1. Queen – "Bohemian Rhapsody" (buy)

Written in 4 parts, Freddie Mercury stylized the song as a "mock opera" or progressive rock song. The song begins with a 5 part a capella harmony before Mercury begins his ballad. He tells the story of how he killed a man and instructs his mother (and the world) to carry on if he's not "back again tomorrow". A guitar solo enters just before the song enters into a complex operatic section with a variety of rhythmic and harmonic changes as well as vocal multi-tracking making the narrator's story even more complex. Before the song concludes, Mercury throws in a guitar riff and takes on the hard rock section of the song. Finally, "Bohemian Rhapsody" reaches regular tempo again and we hear the narrator repeat that "nothing really matters to me…"

The song is complex and intricate … and 6 minutes. The band feared that it would be cut when played on the radio or, worst of all, that it may not make it to the charts at all. Shock and surprise, the song hit #1 on the UK singles charts and #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. And the song was kept complete when played on the radio! In the time since, the song has reached platinum in both the UK and US as well as being featured in the movie Wayne's World providing it with a new audience and chance on the Billboard Top 100 as recently as 1992 where it reached #1. In 2004, "Bohemian Rhapsody" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Clearly this song is truly one of the best of it's time. :)

2. Don McLean – "American Pie" (buy)

When Buddy Holly died in a plane crash, Don McLean was inspired to write "American Pie". Since that time he has refused to share the meaning behind the song stating that "You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me ... Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence." The song reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

3. Aerosmith – "Dream On" (buy)

A power-ballad by the Boston native band, the song is best known for it's climax to showcase frontman Steven Tyler's screams. The song peaked nationally at #59 in 1973 and an edited version was reintroduced in 1976 debuting at #81 and eventually breaking into the top 40 at #6!

4. Lynyrd Skynyrd – "Sweet Home Alabama" (buy)

Anthem of the south (even for those from Georgia), the lyrics were written as a response to two songs by Neil Young "Alabama" and "Southern Man" that depicted racism and slavery. The song reached #8 on the Billboard chart and was certified gold. It is often played at most southern functions and festivals in particular at the Stone Mountain fireworks shows during the summer in Georgia right alongside other favorites like "Georgia" by Ray Charles.

5. Eric Clapton – "Layla" (buy)

Inspired by classical poet of Persian literature, Nizami Ganjavi's The Story of Layla and Majnun, "Layla" is the story of unrequited love. The second movement or piano coda is my favorite part; I could listen to it over and over again for hours and hours on end. :) The song reached number 10 on the Hot Billboard Charts and Gold certification in the 70s.

6. The Eagles – "Hotel California" (buy)

According to The Eagles, the high life in California is not all that it's made out to be… or something like that. In "Hotel California" a weary traveler sees a hotel and decides, after a long day, that he's tired and would like some rest. At first, it's great and he's enjoying it, but slowly things start to change for the worst. Then, when he tries to leave he's told "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." Some claim the song is about an actual hotel in California while others suspect the singers were speaking about a mental hospital. The singers, as I mentioned before, claim to just be speaking about excess in America. The song peaked on the Billboard Top 100 charts at number 10 and reached gold certification in the US. It has also received a grammy and been featured in the Guitar Hero World Tour game.

7. Billy Joel – "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" (buy)

Let's take a turn away from the 70s rock scene and take a moment to recognize New York great Billy Joel, whom I could not leave out of this list. While I love so many of Joel's songs, I decided on this one because of it's fun melody and thoroughly New York lyrics. This song reached 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 when it was released in 1977. Later it became a broadway hit in 2002 when Movin' Out (the musical) was introduced to broadway featuring many of Joel's hit songs. Movin' Out is the story of immigrants, specifically Italian but Joel was hoping any immigrant would be able to relate to the lyrics, working their way up through the system. At the very least, it's a fun song … and the lyrics sometimes feel all too true.

8. Three Dog Night – "Joy to the World" (buy)

I think Justin would be disappointed in me if I didn't include this one. :) This song was produced in 1970 as a silly song meant to bring the band Three Dog Night back together. Surprisingly, it topped the charts reaching #1 status in the US and became one of the best-selling singles of all time. The band claims it is not one of their best songs ever recorded, but it is definitely one of the most popular!

9. David Cassidy (The Partridge Family) – "I Woke Up In Love This Morning" (buy)

As a non-traditional child obsessed with the TV Land channel and watching tv shows older than myself, one of my favorite shows was The Partridge Family, so I knew I had to include at least one of their songs in my list. Unsurprisingly, David Cassidy and his real-life mother Shirley are the only ones in the band that actually could sing. David Cassidy is now in the news for other reasons, better or worse, but his happy days on The Partridge Family always make me smile.

10. The Jackson 5 – "ABC" (buy)

Before Michael Jackson (singular) had taken the world by storm, he was part of the boy band The Jackson 5, a group made up of him and his brothers. They sang crooners like "I'll Be There" as well as kid friendly hits like "ABC". It kicked the Beatles "Let It Be" (!!) out of the Billboard top 100 #1 spot and is considered one of the band's signature songs. And a great one it is too!

10+. Tony Orlando & Dawn – "Knock 3 Times" (buy)

I couldn't let the 70s pass by without mentioning this song. My mom used to walk around the house singing it randomly. :) Dawn, as you might can tell from the music video is the make up of 2 female singers going under a single name, specifically Toni Wine, and Linda November. Orlando originally heard the song, a story about a man who is in love with the woman who lives below him, from another singer and decided that, if produced the way he envisioned, it could be a hit. He was correct with the song skyrocketing to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and on charts in other countries across the world.

As always, there were songs I simply didn't have room to include in my list of 70s favorites. AC/DC "Highway to Hell" comes to mind as well as The Pretenders "Brass in My Pocket" and ABBA's "Dancing Queen" among others. Did I include any of your favorites? Or miss out on any that you think deserve to be on the list? Share with me! I'd love to hear what your selections would have been!


  1. LOVE this idea for a series! I've just read them all. I really like Clapton's MTV Unplugged version of Layla. I think that when you can (successfully) cover a song in different styles and genres it just goes to show that it's a great song!

    1. Glad you enjoyed this series! It was a lot of fun putting together even if I did spend hours on end listening and re-listening to some of the songs I chose. I'll have to check out the MTV unplugged version of Layla. Since I saw your comment I may have played Layla on repeat all morning while getting things done around the house. ;) It's just a great song! :)


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