The best decade of music is 1970. Many people, due to age, might think it’s the 1980s, but in this entry, we’ll try to explain why the music produced between 1970 and 1979 is the best in global terms. To move forward a bit, the main point is to discuss the variety of genres that coexisted during this time with a fresh and quality sound. Following that line, also the number of new sounds that have remained with us forever. The refinement of old sounds, as well as their diversification into styles that covered a wide variety of tastes and, why not say it, psychotropic substances that had started to proliferate towards the end of the 1960s.
Because, when we talk about the 1970s in musical terms, we’re also talking about the best years of genres and styles like Soul and its successful and danceable diversification, Disco music. Also, the existence of predominant Pop Rock as a clear fact. We can’t forget about Melodic Songs that have helped create so many offspring, along with the great hits of Chanson or Funk (in a more international scope).
Of course, we can’t forget about Folk, which matured a lot since the ’60s, fostering at the same time the figure of a style that mixed a bit of everything, the Ballad or the Power Ballad, if performed by a Heavy Metal band. This was greatly aided by Progressive Rock, which also led to Psychedelic Rock (or vice versa). And all this without even mentioning Reggae, Rhythm & Blues, Glam, Punk, or Garage.
Are you missing the presence of Synth-Pop? Because that was also present in the ’70s. In fact, the end of the decade had as much New Wave as what is now known as 80s pop. The thing is that it’s music from the late ’70s that we associate with the ’80s. Therefore, in addition to including a playlist with 800 songs from the best decade of music, the ’70s, we’re also going to go through year by year our favorite or noteworthy songs apart from the list.
Songs Representing the Best Decade of Music
Choosing only 10 songs from the list is difficult, as they’re all very good and have their charm. But since I’ve decided to do it, I’ve opted for a mix of very cheerful, catchy, and fun songs along with some that are a bit more serious but generally uplifting. Here are 10 reasons that summarize the best decade of music.
Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)
Anticipating events, we start with Paranoid, one of the most popular songs by the British heavy metal band Black Sabbath (led by Ozzy Osbourne, also known as the prince of darkness), featured on their second album of the same name. The most interesting thing is that it was composed and intended as a filler for the album, but from its birth, it’s already one of the most famous songs in the genre as well.
If we think of Paranoid now, it’s undeniable that it still has a great impact on popular culture, as the album itself is considered one of the best heavy metal albums of all time and a cult classic. The song has been homaged and covered by many bands like Megadeth or Avenged Sevenfold. If you like it and didn’t know about it, I also recommend other classics like War Pigs, Iron Man, or Electric Funeral, which reflect the band’s negative view of the human condition and social criticism at that time.
T. Rex – Get It On (1971)
Another pure genre of the ’70s, born and gone in this decade, is glam. One of the best examples of the style and spirit is Get It On, the song by the British glam rock band T. Rex, released in July 1971 as the second single from the album Electric Warrior. The song was written by the band’s leader, Marc Bolan, and is inspired by Chuck Berry’s Little Queenie.
In the United States, the song was released under the title Bang a Gong (Get It On) to differentiate it from the song of the same name by the group Chase, although nowadays the original title is the only valid one.
While the song has a glam rock sound, it also contains boogie rock influences and features contributions from Rick Wakeman or Blue Weaver on piano, Ian McDonald on saxophones, and Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan on backing vocals.
The song was a success in the English-speaking market, appearing among the best-sellers in popularity charts, reaching number 12 in the United States and number 15 in Canada, for example. Although covered by many artists like The Power Station, Blondie, or U2, no one has been able to be as brilliant.
Carly Simon – You’re So Vain (1972)
Since we’re very focused on rock, I believe it’s convenient to gradually move on to other genres or styles. For that, a very effective way is You’re So Vain, the song by the American singer-songwriter Carly Simon, released in November 1972 as the first single from the album No Secrets. The song is a critique of a self-centered lover to whom Simon says, “You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you“. The song was a hit in several countries, reaching number one in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
The song was also nominated for several Grammy awards and is considered one of the best songs of all time by various music publications. The identity of the subject of the song has been the subject of much speculation, as Simon has said that the song refers to three men, of whom she has only publicly revealed one: Warren Beatty. The song features uncredited backing vocals by Mick Jagger and was sampled by Janet Jackson in her song “Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song Is About You)” in 2001.
Sly & The Family Stone – If You Want Me To Stay (1973)
So, changing genres completely, we’re already enjoying the greatest black music of all time with If You Want Me To Stay. The American funk band Sly & The Family Stone released this song in June 1973 as the lead single from the album Fresh. The song was written and produced by the band’s leader, Sly Stone, and recorded with little involvement from the other members. As for the lyrics, the song is a declaration of independence from a lover who tells his partner that if she wants him to stay, she has to let him be himself.
The song has a funk sound with influences of soul and jazz, and as we said, it’s almost entirely the work of Sly Stone, who not only provides vocals but also handles guitar, piano, organ, and bass, supported by Andy Newmark on drums and Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini, and Pat Rizzo on horns.
In terms of success at the time, it was a hit throughout the English-speaking market, appearing among the best-sellers in popularity charts, reaching number 12 in the United States and number 15 in Canada, for example. Although covered by many artists like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Etta James, or Mica Paris, no one has been able to be as great.
Barry White – You’re The First, The Last, My Everything (1974)
Continuing with black music, we take a leap towards soul, R&B, and a preview of what will become disco music in a few months. You’re The First, The Last, My Everything is the most popular song by the American soul singer Barry White, released in October 1974 as the second single from the album Can’t Get Enough. Written by Barry White, Tony Sepe, and Peter Sterling Radcliffe and produced by White himself, the song is a declaration of love to someone who is everything to the singer, and has a soul sound with disco and funk influences that clearly evoke sensuality and sexuality in the listeners.
Bob Marley & The Wailers – No Woman, No Cry (1975)
We surpass the halfway point of the decade with another unquestionable classic of music, No Woman, No Cry, a reggae song popularized by Jamaican singer Bob Marley and his band The Wailers. Composed by Bob Marley and Vincent Ford, a friend who helped him in his early days, the song is an expression of comfort for a woman suffering from poverty and violence in the Trenchtown ghetto, where Marley lived.
As is logical in the progression of this list, No Woman, No Cry has a reggae sound with influences of folk and soul, and features the collaboration of Aston Barrett on bass, Carlton Barrett on drums, Tyrone Downie on organ, and the I Threes (Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt, and Marcia Griffiths) on backing vocals.
The song was released in 1974 as part of the album Natty Dread, but perhaps the live version edited on the album Live! in 1975 is better known, and that’s the one we highlight in our list. As for its impact today, the song has also been covered by many artists like Joan Baez, Fugees, or Boney M.
ABBA – Dancing Queen (1976)
Amidst soul, funk, and reggae, it’s only fair to turn to the most popular style of the mid-’70s. For that, we highlight Dancing Queen, which serves as an example of pop and disco and was yet another success for the famous Swedish group ABBA. The song was written in 1975 by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Stig Anderson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. The song was included on the group’s fourth studio album titled Arrival, released in 1976. As for its message, the song celebrates youth and dancing, directed at a girl who feels like the queen of the dance floor.
As mentioned, the song has a pop sound with disco influences and could be one of the best examples of europop. In addition to appearing on the aforementioned album, Dancing Queen was released as a single in August 1976 and became one of ABBA’s biggest hits and a disco genre highlight, reaching number one in various countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Germany, or Spain.
Fleetwood Mac – Dreams (1977)
The song Dreams is a rock song performed by the British group Fleetwood Mac. The song was written by vocalist Stevie Nicks in 1976, during the recording process of the album Rumours. The song’s lyrics are inspired by Nicks’ breakup with her bandmate Lindsey Buckingham and reflect her feelings of loneliness and hope.
With a soft and melodic sound, a simple rhythmic base, and a keyboard melody imitating the sound of a celesta, the song features Stevie Nicks on vocals, Lindsey Buckingham on guitar and backing vocals, Christine McVie on keyboards and backing vocals, John McVie on bass, and Mick Fleetwood on drums. It was the second single from the album Rumours released in March 1977 and, of course, it has been covered by many artists like The Corrs, Tori Amos, or Lorde.
Blondie – One Way Or Another (1978)
Despite its upbeat rhythm, the story behind the lyrics of One Way Or Another is almost horror-like. We’re talking about one of the most popular songs of the new wave and, of course, the American band Blondie. The song was written by vocalist Debbie Harry and bassist Nigel Harrison in 1978, inspired by Harry’s experience with a stalker who pursued her after breaking up with him. The song is included on the band’s third studio album titled Parallel Lines, released in 1978.
The Police – Message In A Bottle (1979)
We conclude the list with Message In A Bottle, hoping that the list has pleased you enough to at least consider the 1970s among the top decades when wondering about the best music era. That said, let’s talk about the British group The Police. The song was written by lead vocalist and bassist Sting in 1979, inspired by his feeling of isolation while touring with the band.
The song is included on the band’s second studio album titled Reggatta de Blanc and released in 1979. It tells the story of a castaway who sends a message in a bottle asking for help, but only receives more bottles with messages from other castaways in return. In terms of melody, we find a reggae rock sound with influences of new wave and power pop.
(Madrid, 1987) Novelist by vocation, SEO specialist by profession. Music lover, cinephile and reading lover, but in “amateur” mode.