The short-lived disco craze, the growth of hard rock to the global stage, and the beginnings of pop punk all occurred in the 70s. With a decade full of various styles—from hard rock to sultry sounds—choosing the best is challenging, especially since comparing artists across genres is akin to ranking apples against oranges.
That’s why we present, in no particular order, 25 of the best 70s musicians. We’ve chosen artists who influenced future trends, hit the charts hard, or can boast songs that are still remembered as iconic.
1. Pink Floyd
While Pink Floyd was formed in the mid-60s, the band reached icon status and international acclaim in the 70s and 80s. “The Dark Side Of The Moon” album, which is still popular among new and old Pink Floyd fans, came out in 1973, and the popular Roger Waters-led era began in the late part of the decade, when “The Wall” came out. It wasn’t until the mid-90s that David Gilmour stepped up to lead Pink Floyd.
The band’s influence continues to live on in psychedelic and progressive rock as well as pop culture. We bet there’s not a prog rock fan from the 70s and 80s, for example, who hasn’t tried using “The Dark Side Of The Moon” as the soundtrack for the viewing of “The Wizard Of Oz.”
2. Led Zeppelin
Did all the great rockers of the 70s come from England? While the answer is no, the Brits did seem to churn out some top talent in the late 60s and into the 70s, and Led Zeppelin is one example. Fronted by Robert Plant on vocals, the band crashed onto the music scene with its recognizable sounds, which infused rock with blues and folk.
Like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin came together in the 60s but experienced the height of success in the 70s, developing a hard rock sound that would be mimicked by many groups in the 80s and even influence rock into the 90s. Led Zeppelin’s fan favorite “Stairway To Heaven” came out in 1971, and for the decade, it seemed like all that glittered really was gold for the band.
3. Stevie Wonder
Fun fact: Stevie Wonder’s name is actually Stevland Hardaway Morris—probably too much of a mouthful for a stage name, and we have to admit, there’s a certain magic to having the smooth, blind songwriter, piano player, and singer called “Wonder.”
He hit singles charts as a youth in the 60s, but many of the songs he’s most known for today come from his 70s albums. Those include “Superstition” and “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life.” In the mid-70s, Wonder was only 25 years old, but he had multiple Grammy Awards and plenty of commercial success coming in the following decades.
4. Elton John
Elton John began his career playing pianos in pubs before working his way up to writing songs for others. It wasn’t until 1969 and into the early 70s that the powerhouse piano player and vocalist made his own mark on the global music stage. But within no time, his complex, emotional power ballads were attracting enormous audiences.
While John continued to delight audiences decades later, some of his most iconic songs originated in the 70s, including “Bennie And The Jets,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and “Candle In The Wind.”
5. The Rolling Stones
Here’s another English rock band that started in the 60s. While The Rolling Stones did hit high levels of success in the 60s, that was followed by ups and downs that are common with rock bands. It was in the late 70s and early 80s that they had their biggest commercial successes, and it’s really a storied three-decade run that makes them the lasting icon they remain in pop culture today.
6. Neil Young
Like most artists on this list, Neil Young began his career in the 60s, and by the end of that decade, was part of the group Crosby, Stills, and Nash & Young. By the early 70s, the Canadian singer-songwriter was breaking free as a solo artist, releasing hits like “Walk On,” “Time Fades Away,” and “Like A Hurricane.”
Young makes this list not for a single hard-hitting chart hit but because of his lasting ability as a songwriter. His music catalog holds more than 1,100 songs.
Here’s a band that’s not from England and actually first formed in the 70s—in 1971 to be exact. By the middle of the decade, this fast-paced band had hit major success with the release of “Hotel California.”
The Eagles were nominated for Grammy Awards in 1973 and 1976, winning one in the latter for “Lyin’ Eyes.” They went on to garner more nominations in the 70s and beyond, including a Record of the Year win in 1978 for “Hotel California.” Even younger people today are likely familiar with some of the music from the Eagles, as many of the band’s songs appear in movies and television shows still.
8. Fleetwood Mac
Here we bring the Brits and Americans together. Fleetwood Mac was formed in 1967 and had some success through the late 60s and early 70s.
However, it wasn’t until the band asked guitarist Lindsey Buckingham to join—and he said yes on the condition his girlfriend, Stevie Nicks, could come along—that Fleetwood Mac hit its stride and found global success. During this time, the band released favorites like “Landslide” and “Say You Love Me.”
9. Three Dog Night
An American rock band that formed in the late 60s and saw commercial success in the 70s, Three Dog Night actually hosted the first New Year’s Rockin’ Eve—the one that would become known as Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve for decades.
But that’s not why Three Dog Night makes this list. They made it due to the fact that their song, “Joy To The World,” is almost synonymous with 70s rock. Ask a group of people to sing a line from a 70s rock song, and we bet that a good number of them belt out “Jeremiah was a bullfrog…”
10. Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell’s music career meandered through the 50s and 60s before she found acclaim in the 70s. While many deemed her a hippie—and her 1969 song “Woodstock” fed those perceptions—she’s also an influential female voice of the 70s.
Throughout the decade, she released eight studio albums, hitting silver, gold, or platinum certification with them all. She also released a live album during the 70s that hit gold.
Here’s another English rock band that formed in the 60s before adding members and finding critical and commercial success in the 70s. The band released hits in the 70s including “Ripples,” “Mad Man Moon,” and “Follow You Follow Me.”
But it’s more about what people came out of the band than what songs did, perhaps. This effort launched multiple solo careers in the late 70s into the 80s, including Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins.
12. David Bowie
What did the Brits know in the 60s and 70s that launched so many successful music ships? David Bowie’s early career put him on the path to glam rock innovation by the early 70s, and by the end of the decade, he’d reinvented his look and sound yet again.
That innovation is part of what lands Bowie on this list; his willingness to experiment and put out new sounds made him a driving force on the charts and an inspiration to many of the artists of the 80s, 90s, and today.
13. Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen may be nicknamed “The Boss” and a veritable household name in music-loving houses today, but he struggled during the early part of his career. It wasn’t until the “Born To Run” album in 1975 that the artist saw breakout success. It was filled with songs that met the approval of the radio stations, and ample play time earned Springsteen a solid place with fans.
While he hit his commercial peak in the 80s, it was the 70s breakout work that got him there, which is why we’re including him on this list.
14. Marvin Gaye
No list of the best music artists of the 70s would be complete without mentioning Marvin Gaye. Some of his hits, including “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” are perennial favorites still played on golden oldies and classic rock stations today.
And we think you haven’t heard a sexy-time song if you haven’t heard “Let’s Get It On,” Gaye’s provocative 1973 hit.
15. Bob Marley
If you’re looking for artists who rocked the 70s music world with hip new sounds and made waves with songwriting you might not be aware of, Bob Marley is the man. He achieved critical acclaim and commercial success in the 70s with his upbeat, unique type of rock and Jamaican rhythms.
You might not know that Marley first wrote and recorded “I Shot The Sheriff,” which was later made famous by the Eric Clapton cover.
16. The Who
If you didn’t know this one was coming after all those other English rock bands formed in the 60s showed up, that’s on you. The Who was popular in punk, rock, and pop circles, and many of the chart-toppers of the 80s and 90s prove it.
During the 70s, The Who released songs such as “Love, Reign O’er Me,” “You Stand By Me,” and “Behind Blue Eyes.”
17. Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton’s storied music career was well on its way by the 70s. He’d played with Cream and other bands, and by the 70s, he was easily topping charts with solo singles. His bluesy voice and guitar prowess made him a powerhouse, and even younger listeners today can pick out songs like “After Midnight,” “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” and “Wonderful Tonight.”
18. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers reached acclaim in the late 70s with hits like “Refugee” and dominated the charts in the 80s. The folk-rock sound partly pioneered by Petty was a huge influence on a lot of music in the 90s.
19. Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan brought beat poetry to the big stage with his odd, bluesy voice and songwriting that would become legendary. While he had success in the 60s, it was his eventual return to touring in the 70s that cemented his place as a fan favorite.
Throughout the 70s, he also wrote songs for and recorded with a number of other artists. He wrote “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” in the 70s, and it became one of his most covered songs ever.
20. Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson may have become the “King of Pop” in the 80s, but it was his journey with The Jackson 5 and the launch of his solo career in the 70s that got him there. During this decade, he released favorites like “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.”
Originating not from England but Germany, Kraftwerk brought unique techno sounds to the 70s and influenced a future generation of electronic pop.
22. Creedence Clearwater Revival
No list of best 70s musicians would be complete without bringing up Creedence Clearwater Revival. While Tom Fogerty’s departure in the early 70s brought discord, this band dominated in 1970 and 1971, leaving a lasting influence on pop and rock.
23. Bee Gees
Sorry that it took us so long to get here, but we definitely needed to include disco artists. The Bee Gees’ iconic songs like “Stayin’ Alive” and “Saturday Night Fever” make them synonymous with the genre.
24. Billy Joel
Billy Joel might have hit the charts hard in the 80s, but true fans know he was rising to the top as early as the 70s. His 1977 hit “Vienna” saw a resurgence in popularity in 2021 and 2022 as a TikTok sound trend.
25. KC & the Sunshine Band
Let’s round out the count of the best 70s musicians with the final word on disco from KC & The Sunshine Band. It’s the ultimate music for getting everyone on the floor and dancing.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.