Music tastes, along with our culture, were in transition in the 1970s. Love songs 70s bridged the divide between the 60s counterculture and the upbeat songs of the 80s. The 70s produced a more relaxing, mellow music environment that invited new love songs. Here are our favorites, in particular.
1. “After the Love Has Gone” (1978) Earth Wind & Fire / David Foster
This is a lament about the loss of love. “Something happened along the way. What used to be happy is sad.”
2. “Ready to Take A Chance Again” (1978) Barry Manilow/Charles Fox
The narrator tells us he’s despondent after he was dumped. Despite his misgivings, he is “ready to put my love on the line with you”.
3. “One Less Bell to Answer” (1970) 5th Dimension Marilyn McCoo / Bacharach
Miss McCoo is conflicted about her lover walking out on her. She says she should be happy he’s gone. No more bell to answer, no more eggs to fry, one less man to pick up after. But all she does is cry.
4. “Trying to Get That Feeling Again” (1975) Barry Manilow
This guy is saddened by his inability to feel the love he used to have. He laments the fact that he can’t get the feeling he used to have “every time she walked by”.
5. “Laughter In The Rain” (1974) Neil Sedaka/Cody
This is a happy song about love. He’s walking in the rain with his lover and proclaiming “the happy way I feel inside”.
6. “I Won’t Last a Day Without You” (1972) Paul Williams/Carpenters
The singer proclaims that he can survive the madness of the world and his unfulfilled dreams but “I won’t last day without you”.
7. “If You Leave Me Now” (1976) Chicago/Peter Cetera
Even though there are too many “oooohs” the lyrics adhere to the rule that the singer is talking to his lover and regrets the things that went wrong in their relationship. But he begs her to stay and see it through.
8. “Too Much Too Little Too Late” (1979) Johnny Mathis
Mathis made a hit duet with Deniece Williams with more lamenting about a lost love that is too late to be recovered. Much pessimism with this one.
9. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (1970) Ashford Nickolas / Simpson Valerie
This song by Diana Ross was previously a hit for Marvin Gaye. Talk about devotion and persistence! She proclaims that no mountain or river will keep her away from her lover if he ever needs her.
10. “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” (1975) Neil Sedaka/Greenfield
This song was commonly perceived as a slower version of Sedaka’s 1962 hit. Actually, the 1975 version is as he originally composed it – a slow love song. In 1962 his publisher persuaded him that it would never sell as written given the prevailing musical tastes of the time. So he rearranged it for its fast and peppy 1962 release which was not appropriate for a love song. In 1975 we heard the original version.
11. “It’s Too late” Carole King
She is saddened by her lost love but concludes it’s too late to save it – “though we really did try to make it”.
12. “Midnight Train to Georgia” (1973) Gladys Knight and the Pipps
Evidently, things didn’t work out for her guy in L.A. and he’s coming home to Georgia. She’s going there to join him because she “would rather live in his world than live without him in mine”.
Next: Top 70s one hit wonders
13. “Killing Me Softly With His Song” (1973) Roberta Flack
This is a narrative apparently about what a guitar player/singer does for her every time she sees him perform. The melody is great; the lyrics and premise so-so.
14. “We’ve Only Just Begun” (1970) Paul Williams/Carpenters
This is a love song about promise. There is much hope and confidence about the future because these two lovers will face it together.
15. “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me” (1973) Gladys Knight/ Weatherly
She says if anyone writes the story of her life “you’ll be there between each line of pain and glory” because “you’re the best thing that ever happened to me”.
16. “Close To You” (1970) Bacharach/Carpenters
This guy tells his girl that birds and all sorts of strangers hang around because, like him, they long to be close to her. OK. Maybe this song made the list only because of Bacharach.
17. “How Deep Is Your Love” (1977) BeeGees/Gibb
He is very insecure. He needs assurance because “we’re living in a world of fools breaking us down” but he is somewhat reassured because “we belong to you and me”.
18. “When I Need You” (1976) Carole Bayer Sager
This song became a big hit for Leo Sayer. Carole wrote lyrics for this and many other songs with her husband Burt Bacharach. She says “When I need you, I just close my eyes and I’m with you.”
19. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (1972) Roberta Flack
She recounts the feelings she had the first time they met and at various milestones thereafter.
20. “Hopelessly Devoted To You” (1978) Olivia Newton-John
She’s really torn. She knows intellectually she should tell him to get lost, but her “heart is sayin’ don’t let go” because she is hopelessly devoted to him.
21. “Mandy” (1974) Barry Manilow
This was Manilow’s first hit. The original lyrics were for “Brandy” but it conflicted with a 1972 song by that name by the Looking Glass
22. “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” (1977) BeeGees/Gibb
This guy has nothing if he can’t be her everything. He’ll “do anything to be your everything”.
23. “You Belong To Me” (1977) Carly Simon/McDonald
She has some competition (paramour perhaps) for the guy she loves. She warns him that “you don’t even know her”. She wants him to tell her that “you belong to me”.
24. “Love Will Keep Us Together” (1973) Neil Sedaka /Greenfield
This song was a No. 1 hit for Captain and Tennille. The singer implores his lover to “look in my heart and love will keep us together”.
25. “Betcha by Golly, Wow” (1970) Stylistics
The colloquial catchphrase is almost too cute, but the rest of the lyrics hold up well against the criteria applied here. “You’re the one that I’ve been waiting for forever. And our love will keep growin’ strong”.
Good artists tend to have multiple hits, including excellent love songs. Not surprisingly, our top 25 list is comprised of works by just 14 songwriters or artist groups with multiple entries.
Neil was a prolific songwriter with two career phases as a singer. He began composing music as a teenager in the Brill Building with his first hit “Calendar Girl” in 1961. He continued to write songs for himself and others after becoming a teen pop star in the ‘60s. With the British invasion, his recording career declined. But it was revived in the 1970s as he continued recording and composing some of the songs listed here.
In the 60s, Barry earned money by playing piano, arranging, and writing commercial jingles for State Farm, McDonald’s, Pepsi, and others. Bette Midler saw Manilow’s act in 1971 and chose the young musician as her pianist at bathhouses. He became one of the most successful songwriter/singers of our time.
The 5th Dimension
Formed in the late 60s, between 1967 and 1973 they had 20 Top 40 hits on Billboard’s Hot 100. Their catalog included many excellent love songs featuring solo vocals by husband and wife Billy Davis, Jr. and Marilyn McCoo
King’s major success began in the 1960s when she wrote more than two dozen chart hits, many of which have become standards for numerous artists. Carole’s success as a performer in her own right did not come until the 1970s.
Barry Gibb with the Bee Gees
As a songwriter, Barry shares with John Lennon and Paul McCartney the record for most consecutive number ones, each having six. In total, he has written or co-written sixteen number ones.
Daughter of the founder of publisher Simon and Schuster, Carly was a prolific songwriter and singer. Simon wrote 24 Billboard Hot 100 charting singles and 28 Billboard Adult Contemporary charting singles.
After a highly successful career with The Supremes, she embarked on her equally successful solo career in 1970.
One of Howard University’s youngest students, Roberta started as a piano major and later shifted to voice, training primarily in the classics. She was discovered playing piano and singing at a Washington DC nightclub.
Olivia is a British/Australian singer/songwriter (and actress) who had her most prolific song years in the 70s. It was difficult to leave off of this list many of her 70s love songs.
Gladys Knight and the Pips
Gladys achieved her greatest success with the Pips (her backup singers) in the 1970s. It was equally difficult to leave off of this list many of her 70s love songs.
Paul Williams, The Carpenters, Helen Reddy
Paul Williams was known best for his songwriting for many other artists but was also a successful recording artist. Some of the artists he wrote for included The Carpenters, Helen Reddy, and others
Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire
Both of these groups started in the city of Chicago. They both combine R&B, soul, and jazz influences with a big sound of horns, strings, percussion, and keyboards. The two bands are still performing today, sometimes together
The Stylistics was a Philadelphia soul group that achieved its greatest success in the 1970s. Many of their biggest hits were written and produced by Thom Bell a noted musician, composer, and producer of soul music who also served other artists.
Johnny’s most productive era was the 60s. Like so many others of his ilk, his career declined during the British invasion. He made a comeback of sorts in the 70s.