The 1970s was one of the best decades for rock music. Some of the most creative music came out during the decade, and the rock genre diversified into multiple subgenres like punk, progressive, blues, heavy metal, soft, and glam rock. This list contains the absolute best 70s bands that thrived during the decade:
1. Led Zeppelin
This hallowed group was an English rock band based in London. The group consisted of four members, and they mostly sang heavy metal and hard rock and drew inspiration from blues. They originally called themselves the New Yardbirds but later changed their name to Led Zeppelin, which was the title of their debut album. The album was ranted top ten in several countries, and their 1971’s “Led Zeppelin IV” album was among the best-sellers, having sold more than 37 million copies.
2. Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd, formed in 1965, was one of the top bands in progressive rock history. Before settling on their name, the English band had operated under several names. Waters, their lead singer, introduced new concepts that contributed to the immense success of their albums. Some of their greatest albums were 1973’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” and 1979’s “The Wall.” They created a musical film based on the latter, which won two British Academy of Film Awards.
3. The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones were one of the few first-wave rock groups that maintained their success in the ‘70s despite the new standard being hard and pop-rock. They were a British band, and to keep up with the new rock culture, they started doing hard and dirty blues-inspired rock with a twinge of country rock. They became more polished through the decade and practiced diverse styles while still maintaining their blues-rock approach.
4. Black Sabbath
This band was among the top pioneers in heavy metal. They produced some of the best hard rock with the unique vocals of Ozzy Osbourne, their lead singer. Their songs often featured dark but mind-blowing lyrics in minor keys. Their catchy song themes, perfect guitar work, and incredible bass made them stand out. Their songs featured key elements that started getting adopted in the heavy metal genre that only kicked off much later.
5. The Who
This was one of the best British bands in the ‘70s. Initially, their music was inspired by English culture but later diverted to evolve with the cultural changes. Their first ‘70s album, “Who’s Next,” was a perfect blend of hard rock, folk, and rock n roll, and featured great lyricism and music composition. The band produced great music with complex rhythm, perfect guitar work, and lyrics that highlighted the deep issues of that period.
6. Deep Purple
This was one of the best 70s rock bands that leveraged hard rock. Their music often featured distorted electric organs, hard guitar lines, wailing drums, and high-pitched vocals. They released their first great album, Deep Purple in Rock, in 1970 which was hard rock with small touches of progressive rock. They later produced the Machine Head album, which was purely hard rock, and it became their most famous album. They continued releasing more albums and grew a large fan base throughout the decade.
7. The Eagles
The Eagles band was formed in 1971 in Los Angeles and has been one of the best performing rock bands since the early 1970s. They have won multiple awards, including five American Music Awards and six Grammy Awards. Their first album, Eagles, was successful with two singles, “Witchy Woman” and “Take it Easy,” featuring in the top 20 singles in Canada and the US. Their best-selling album was the 1976’s “The Greatest Hits (1971 – 1975)”, selling more than 38 million copies worldwide.
Kansas was a great progressive rock band whose music was also inspired by boogie and classical rock. They produced astounding music in the 1970s with electric guitar solos, heavy synthesizers, and sweet symphonies. They had harmonic melodies and great anthems and produced complex but great music. In a few years, they were initially a hard rock band and switched to symphonic progressive rock. They were one of the greatest rock bands from the state of (surprise, surprise) Kansas, US.
This was one of the finest bands in progressive rock at the time. Their songs were smooth and professional, switching from their ‘60s psychedelic rock. Their 1971 “Yes” album showed great musical and lyric prowess and featured tasteful songs. “Fragile” was the band’s first album that featured jazz and classically-influenced songs, and they got deeper into progressive rock with their “Close to the Edge” and “Relayer” albums.
10. Bad Company
Bad Company was an English hard rock and blues-rock band from Westminister, London. It was formed by Paul Rodgers (singer) and Mick Ralphs (guitarist) in 1973, who later added Boz Burrell (bassist) and Simon Kirke (drummer). The band achieved immense success with their first three albums getting to the top 5 in the US and the UK. Their best-performing songs still play on classic radio to date, including “Bad Company,” “Ready for Love,” and “Shooting Star.
11. Lynyrd Skynyrd
This band’s music was majorly influenced by country, blues, and rock and roll. They produced hit songs with beautiful guitar solos and catchy jams. They made flawless transitions from hard rock to slow country melodies in their songs to provide a unique and crisp sound. They made a live band in which all band members shone differently through improvisation while keeping their original Southern sound. One of their best albums of the ‘70s was “One More from the Road.”
12. Fleetwood Mac
The Fleetwood Mac band had two female vocalists and several backup musicians. Initially, they were a British band, but they moved to the United States in 1973. They came up with their line-up in 1975 and released their first self-titled album. During the early ‘70s, the band was trying to find their original sound, which they did during the mid-late ‘70s. Through the incredible talent of their songwriter, Stevie Nicks, they released incredible songs majorly in pop-rock with a touch of country.
Rush started as a hard rock band and gradually switched to progressive rock in the mid-1970s. With Geddy on the bass, Neil Peart on the drums, and Lifeson on the guitar, the band’s second and third albums did much better than their first. “2112” was their first fully-progressive song, and they delved deeper into progressive rock with each album that followed. The “A Farewell to Kings” album was their best, with a soft epic and incredible progressive sounds.
This band got into progressive rock in 1970 with their first album, Trespass. They gained popularity with their unique singing style whereby they incorporated folk music and nursery rhymes into their rock music. With Peter Gabriel as the lead singer, the band flourished in the ‘70s when Steve Hackett joined them as their guitarist. Each band member contributed to the huge success the group experienced in the ‘70s, with every album they produced doing exceptionally well.
14. Soft Machine
Soft Machine is one of the most polished rock bands that leveraged psychedelic rock, whose main influence was jazz style. Their sound often featured saxophones and relaxing jazz, while sticking to the rock genre. They have some of the most unique musical masterpieces that cannot be replicated and often use improvisation to create psychedelic songs. Their best album was “Third.”
Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury, had a great vocal range (we consider him one of the best male singers ever) of the that contributed heavily to the band’s immense success. He also played piano alongside Brian May on the guitar, John Deacon on the bass, and Roger Taylor on the drums. They released several successful albums in the ‘70s, including Queen, Queen II, and Sheer Heart Attack. “A Night at the Opera” was their best album, with a perfect flow and most songs becoming hits. Their last ‘70s album was “Jazz,” which incorporated a blend of piano rock.
KISS was one of the best arena rock bands in the 1970s, gaining appraisal for their astounding stage performances and originality. They incorporated metal and hard rock into their songs with great vocals to produce catchy music. Ace Frehley, their guitarist, was incredibly talented and produced some of the coolest solos. They were highly creative and were the first rock band to get on stage with full outer space costumes and makeup, and they symbolized the free spirit of rock n roll.
UFO was one of the greatest second-generation hard rock bands after the likes of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin. The British band started in the early 1970s as a progressive/space rock group until Michael Schenker joined them as their lead guitarist when they decided to move into solid hard rock. Their success comes from their perfectly written songs, astounding guitar work, and catchy melodies. They produced successful albums such as “Revolutionary” and “Strangers in the Night” when Schenker was in the group.
18. Roxy Music
Roxy Music was one of the most successful art rock bands, and their leader was Bryan Ferry, who was also successful as a solo artist. Their music was wild, fun, and experimental, using fine keyboard and refined guitar solos. They were diverse and produced songs in multiple subgenres, including jazz, blues, progressive, rock n roll, and funk. They valued simplicity in their songs while keeping them interesting and original.
19. King Crimson
This band was among the pioneers of progressive rock. They incorporated jazz and classical elements into their songs using saxophones and flutes. They were also experimental and created music in jazz/fusion and psychedelic subgenres. King Crimson paved the way for many progressive rock bands that formed after them.
20. The Stooges
The Stooges were among the first bands that thrived in punk rock before it became famous. The band members were free-spirited and liked doing things their way. They also did some hard rock, experimental, and avant-garde music, and their best album was “Fun House” in our opinion. The Michigan-based band was formed by Iggy Pop (singer), Ron Asheton (guitarist), Dave Alexander (bassist), and Scott Asheton (drummer). They initially produced primitive rock and roll before getting into punk rock.
This band started in 1970 in Boston, Massachusetts and their main style was hard blues-rock and glam rock. The group comprised Joey Kramer, Joe Perry, Steven Tyler, Brad Whitford, and Tom Hamilton. Their songs also featured heavy metal, pop-rock, glam metal, and RnB. Most fans fondly referred to them as the greatest rock and roll band. Their albums won multi-platinum awards, and their songs featured on the Hot 100 Singles, including “Walk This Way and “Dream On.”
22. The Allman Brothers Band
The band’s founders were the brothers Gregg and Duane Allman. They later added Berry Oakley, Dickey Betts, Jai Johanson, and Butch Trucks. The first release that made them break into the industry was 1971’s “At Fillmore East,” a live album. The album featured great songs like “Whipping Post” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Duanne Allman perished in 1971, and the band wrote the song “Eat a Peach” in 1972 as a tribute, which increased their popularity. They continued releasing great classic rock albums throughout the decade.
23. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (ELP)
This trio, alongside their incredibly skilled keyboardist and drummer, was one of the best progressive 70s rock bands . They were the first band to play on mainstream media, and they were famous for their instrumental passages, astounding solos, and going out of their way during stage performances. They were complex, and their sound was mainly keyboard with fast solos. They were highly successful, having sold more than 48 million copies globally and nine gold record albums. Their most successful releases included 1972’s “Trilogy”, 1978’s “Love Beach”, and 1973’s “Brain Salad Surgery.”
Santana is one of the most unique progressive rock supergroups of their era, doing Latin and jazz at a time when it was not popular. Carlos Santana is one of the most talented guitarists of all time, and together with Gregg Rolie (the band’s keyboardist), they produced successful hits. Their first album, Abraxas, was one of their best albums. They started getting into jazz fusion in 1972 with releases like “Welcome,” “Borboletta,” and “Caravanserai.”
25. Joy Division
This British band was prominent in the late ‘70s and thrived in punk rock at a time when most people ran away from the subgenre. They also blended gothic, new wave, industrial, and alternative styles into their music which they delivered through the unique vocals of their lead singer Ian Curtis. Tony Wilson signed them under his label, Factory Records, in 1978 after their “An Ideal for Living” EP.
26. Electric Light Orchestra
The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) had a unique and diverse sound, combining stringed instruments and violins. They did a little rock n roll, pop, folk, disco, progressive, and classical rock. Their music sounded quite similar to The Beatles, but with a unique touch. Their lead singer, Jeff Lynne, had a nice voice that worked well with diverse sounds and sang some of the best melodies for the band.
27. Blue Oyster Cult
This was the one of the best hard rock bands of the 70s that shone greatly. They produced high-quality albums throughout the decade, and most of their songs featured psychedelic influence with trippy bass and bizarre riffs. Their sound was unique and polished, with unique vocals, refined guitar, and psychedelic keyboard work. Their music was fun and catchy, and they were one of the earliest bands that paved the way for the heavy metal music that emerged later.
Chicago was a unique rock band based in Chicago, US, comprising of a guitarist, keyboard player, bassist, singer, and drummer. They were influenced by smooth jazz while maintaining their rock sound. They often included trombones, trumpets, and lots of horns in their songs. Chicago was one of the most popular rock bands in the ‘70s, releasing 13 albums during the decade. They produce catchy melodies in the early ‘70s with each instrument shining in each song.
This was a progressive rock band that incorporated Jazz elements into their music. Their songs featured flowing organ riffs, odd-keyed soft vocals, and perfect guitar solos. They gained popularity for being able to put twists on songs from different genres and make them great rock tunes. Their early ‘70s releases were some of the best.
This was one of the best progressive rock bands in the Netherlands in the 1970s. Their jams often featured guitar solos, flutes, riffs, and Hammond organs. They also liked including keyboards and solos, acoustic guitar, jazz-influenced flutes, and complex bass lines. They had unique vocals and melodies and drummed at break-neck speeds. They had uniquely long songs, and their lead singer loved to yodel – some interesting aspects of the band’s style.
31. ZZ Top
This American rock band started in 1969 and was based in Houston, Texas. Its members were Billy Gibbons (vocalist and guitarist), Dusty Hill (bassist and vocalist), and Frank Beard (drummer). The band specialized in blues, boogie, hard, and Southern rock and made a special sound from Beard and Hill’s rhythm and Gibbon’s guitar style. They produced their first album in 1971, and they became popular in North America by the mid-70s.