The 70s was one of the best music decades we’ve ever seen. Emerging genres blended with the themes of the 60s that were so popular, and we ended up with numerous hit songs that are still incredibly popular today. Even if you weren’t alive during this era, you know plenty of the tracks that it produced. In this article, we’ll take a look at the 51 best songs that came out in the 70s.
1. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Bohemian Rhapsody is a four-part, six-minute-long suite of a masterpiece that is always in the running when you’re discussing the best songs ever written, let alone the best tracks of the 70s. Made up of four main sections and an introduction including a ballad, an operatic passage, a hard rock section, and a reflective ending, the song runs the gamut of everything you could ask for in a single track.
It would eventually rise to the top of the charts on two separate occasions, first upon its initial release in 1975 and again in 1991 after Freddie Mercury’s death. It remains legendary, iconic, and a track that pushes the boundaries of what is possible in music today.
2. Let It Be – The Beatles
The Beatles started the 70s off by breaking up, creating one of the biggest musical breakups in history. But they didn’t just go their separate ways and leave the world with nothing. Let It Be was released as part of their 1970 album and was one of the most poetic ways they could have said goodbye to us. The song showcased the talents of Paul McCartney on the mic and walked the thin line between toughness and tenderness, a firm but caring track that told the world to just let them go.
3. Dancing Queen – ABBA
It’s hard to point to any other song by ABBA and say it was more loved than Dancing Queen. The track itself is one of the all-time disco classics and remains a bop today. In interviews with the band, they said that it’s always hard to know whether a song will be a hit or not, but this was the exception because it was so obviously good. It would go on to dominate the charts in the US, becoming their most popular song and one of the most recognizable tunes of the 70s.
4. Hotel California – The Eagles
Hotel California was the title track of The Eagles’ 1977 album, and it would go on to become the best-known single to ever come from the band. On several occasions, the guitar solo from the song has been voted the best of all time, but it’s the lyrics that brought mystery to the track.
They described it as their interpretation of life in Los Angeles in the 70s, though the creepy lines and style of the song have made it one of the most iconic tracks in history. Interestingly, they were approached about making the song into a film, though they didn’t like the idea and it ended up never happening.
5. Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gees
Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive might have been one of the best songs to come out of the Saturday Night Fever era. Over the years, it became the group’s most recognizable track and was part of a string of singles that allowed them to tie The Beatles for the most consecutive number-one hits in a row—at the time—at six. Today, it’s still prevalent in other media that try to depict the 70s and is one of the best-known songs of the entire decade.
6. Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
Stairway To Heaven isn’t just one of the best songs of the 70s, it’s widely regarded as one of the best rock tracks in history. It progressively increases in tempo and volume as it moves through its three sections. While it wasn’t actually released as a single in the US, it was the most requested song on FM radio stations during that time period.
7. Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac
Go Your Own Way is easily one of the most iconic songs Fleetwood Mac produced, but it was the story and heartbreak behind the track that pushed it to become something so special. Lindsay Buckingham wrote the song during the fallout of his breakup with Stevie Nicks. It instantly became a hit and was one of the biggest reasons the band’s Rumours album is noted as one of the best albums of all time.
8. Man in Black – Johnny Cash
Man In Black was the song that Johnny Cash styled himself after, the title track of his 1971 album, and a statement protest song against quite a lot of things. The treatment of the poor, mass incarceration, and the Vietnam War were all on the table for this track.
He wrote it shortly after meeting with students at Vanderbilt University, debuting as a surprise introduction at a concert. It would go down as one of his most iconic songs, finding a place as the opening track of his posthumous album Johnny Cash And The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
9. Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough – Michael Jackson
Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough was the first track on Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall album in 1979 and remains one of the most legendary songs of his career. It was his first solo recording that he had full creative control over, becoming his second number-one hit and the first time he topped the Soul Singles chart as a solo artist. It would eventually become internationally successful, becoming one of the most iconic disco tracks of all time, winning him his first Grammy and American Music Awards.
10. Jolene – Dolly Parton
Jolene is one of Dolly Parton’s most iconic country music songs, but the inspiration for such an emotional track will seem pretty mild to most. She wrote the song after a red-haired bank teller flirted with her husband shortly after they were married. In the track, she is actually worried and confronts the woman, begging her to not take her husband away from her. It has remained a classic of the genre and one of the most covered songs in her catalog since it was released in 1973.
11. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
The title track of Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 album, Born To Run marked his entry into the mainstream music world and his big breakthrough that turned him into a star performer. It was his first worldwide single release and his first top-40 hit on the Hot 100, peaking at number 23 on the chart. It would eventually be honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by being placed on their list of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
12. Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers
Ain’t No Sunshine is probably the one song from Bill Withers that even the young people today are going to know. The mournful, soulful tune describes how dark and cold the world gets when he’s away from his lover and his tortured voice adds a poignant emotion to the track that helped make it an all-time classic. In 1971, it served as the breakthrough hit for him, rising to number six on the US R&B chart and number three on the Hot 100.
13. Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Free Bird is one of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s most legendary Southern rock hits and one of their most-played songs. The legacy of the track led to people shouting for it at any sort of concert, no matter the artist or genre. Surprisingly, some obliged crowds despite it not being their song, including the likes of Bob Dylan. They often use it as the finale of their concerts, as it’s their signature track and their longest, with live performances often going for 14 minutes or more.
14. No Woman, No Cry – Bob Marley
No Woman, No Cry is one of Bob Marley’s most famous songs and was released in 1974 and 1975. It doesn’t actually mean that not having a woman doesn’t mean you’ll cry, it’s actually meant to tell her not to cry. He is likely the sole writer of the song, but he gave a songwriting credit to a person who ran a soup kitchen in Kingston, Jamaica, allowing her to always have money from the royalties to keep the kitchen running.
15. Rocket Man – Elton John
Rocket Man was inspired by a short story in The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury and echoes David Bowie’s Space Oddity. It’s another classic song that sees Elton John team up with Bernie Taupin to create one of the singer’s most impactful and memorable tracks. It would eventually be known as one of the greatest songs of all time, cementing his Honky Chateau album as one of his best and serving as the lead single for the album.
16. Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
Comfortably Numb was released on Pink Floyd’s 1979 album The Wall, but it wouldn’t be until 1980 that it came out as a single. It was mostly based on Roger Waters’ experience being injected with tranquilizers before a performance in 1977, and it would become one of their most well-known tracks.
Eventually, it would be recognized as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone, but the most notable part of the track is that it contains two incredible guitar solos, rather than the one standard solo you’d expect.
17. Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel
Bridge Over Troubled Water was the title song for Simon & Garfunkel’s fifth studio album in 1970. It was meant to be a piano song that incorporated gospel and wall of sound elements, becoming one of the most successful tracks of the year. It took home five Grammy Awards in 1971 and is the duo’s signature song. It’s also one of their most covered tracks, with over 50 other artists taking a turn at the helm, including the likes of Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, and Johnny Cash.
18. Superstition – Stevie Wonder
Superstition is one of the most fun songs on the list and one of Stevie Wonder’s best singles. It was the lead single for his 15th studio album Talking Book in 1972 and discusses common superstitions and the negative effects that come along with them. In 1973, it topped the Hot 100 and Soul Singles charts, becoming his first number-one single since 1963. It would then go on to win two Grammy Awards the following year.
19. Heroes – David Bowie
David Bowie’s Heroes was inspired by two lovers he spotted in Berlin. Their love put them in constant fear of death, as they were from opposite sides of the wall. It’s an incredible art rock song, portraying the couple dreaming of finally being free. It served as the lead single and title track of his 1977 album and received fairly positive reviews at the time. Over the years, the song’s reputation has grown, with many hailing it as a classic and one of his greatest tracks of all time.
20. London Calling – The Clash
London Calling was the title track of The Clash’s 1979 double album and remains one of the best apocalyptic singles of all time. The title of the song is derived from a common phrase used in WWII in broadcasts to occupied countries. The track itself discusses flooding, financial collapse, and even the possibility of nuclear accidents in the UK. Part of the punk rock boom in London, it also takes on issues like police brutality and the ineptitude of the state government.
21. Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
Dreams is another incredible track from the lauded Rumours album by Fleetwood Mac. This time it was Stevie Nicks at the helm, writing about her relationship and breakup with Lindsay Buckingham. It’s got one of the best choruses out of any Fleetwood Mac song and has the dreamy, magical vibe we’ve come to expect from them. Today, it stands as one of their biggest hits and most memorable songs, earning a spot as one of the top tracks of the 70s.
22. How Deep Is Your Love – Bee Gees
How Deep Is Your Love is one of the Bee Gees’ best songs and was yet another feature of the film soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever. It remains one of their most successful songs, topping the Hot 100 in 1977 and spending 17 weeks inside the top 10 of that chart. It would also spend six weeks on top of the US adult contemporary chart and three weeks at number one in the UK. Eventually, it would be known as one of everyone’s—even the band’s—favorite Bee Gees songs.
23. Imagine – John Lennon & the Plastic Ono Band With The Flux Fiddlers
Imagine was a beautiful song, but it wasn’t all that complicated. John Lennon based the song on a book of poetry by Yoko Ono and ended up producing a classic. He was already an impactful voice in the music industry, but this track only built on that reputation and was something that was easily digested by any listener.
The anthemic song was all about imagining a world where people worked together, were peaceful, and understood each other. The simple message of the track still resonates with listeners today, making it one of the most long-lived songs of the 70s.
24. What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On isn’t as recognizable today as some of his other songs, but when it was released it was the pinnacle of the Motown soul brand that he had helped build. The track is a continuation of the anti-war themes that were prevalent throughout the 60s and early 70s, diving into societal issues on all levels and asking the simple question: What the hell is everyone thinking?
25. Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond
Neil Diamond has offered several explanations for the inspiration for Sweet Caroline, from being about John F. Kennedy’s daughter to being about his ex-wife. Regardless of whichever events actually inspired the song, it’s become an all-time classic thanks to its prolific chorus. While the initial release of the track was in 1969, it was the 70s before it really picked up steam.
26. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was a big hit single for Elton John in the 70s, but it would take on a whole new meaning at the end of his career. Written by Bernie Taupin, the song is about leaving a fantasy world and returning to a simple life, the desire to escape from the excess of fame, and to go back to the farm.
It draws on the land of Oz from The Wizard Of Oz film and book for its imagery. In the end, it would be the name of John’s final tour, and though Taupin wrote it about his own feelings, it came to have the same meaning for a tired John who wanted to retire and spend time with his family 50 years after originally recording it.
27. American Pie – Don McLean
Don McLean’s American Pie served as the title track of his 1971 album and has become the most famous song of his career. It ended up spending four weeks at the top of the Hot 100 in 1972, becoming one of the longest songs of all time to reach that level of success on the charts.
28. Killer Queen – Queen
There are so many songs by Queen that could have been included on this list that narrowing down which ones to include is ridiculously hard. Killer Queen is deserving of a spot, thanks in part to its chart success and in part to the way it showed Queen’s mastery of their craft. While it’s typically an underrated song by people who might not be big fans of them, it showcases the four-part harmonies that saw the band at their very best.
29. Paranoid – Black Sabbath
Heavy metal was just beginning to pick up steam as a genre in the 70s, and it was in this decade that it was popular enough to actually rise fairly high on the composite charts. Black Sabbath was at the forefront of that movement, progressing the genre like no other. Their single Paranoid served as the title track of their 1970 album and was a massive success. It reached number four on the UK Singles Chart and number 61 on the Hot 100.
30. Your Song – Elton John
Elton John’s career was at its highest peak in the 70s, and what a wild ride it actually was. He owned the charts for years with hit singles, some of which have already appeared on our list. But it was his hit single Your Song that got it all started in 1970. It was the first song from him that rose to become an international top-10 hit, reaching number eight on the US charts and number seven in the UK.
31. I Wanna Be Your Lover – Prince
Prince is another one of the best-selling artists of all time, coming in at the end of the 70s to produce some of the biggest hit pop songs of the decade. In 1979, his second album would be released, and I Wanna Be Your Lover was the lead single of the album. It became his first major hit in the US, peaking at number 11 on the Hot 100 and reaching the top spot on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart.
32. Y.M.C.A. – Village People
We all know this loveable song by Village People, but very few people know how it became so popular. The dance routine that goes along with it actually came about by mistake.
They played it on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, with Clark having the audience do the famous dance movements to spell out the letters of the title. The band ended up loving it, even though it was different from the choreography they put together that had inspired it. And thus, one of the most recognizable hit songs of the 70s was born. Even today, it’s still a popular tune to play at sporting events.
33. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive remains one of the most iconic songs of the 70s. It served as the second single to come from her sixth studio album in 1978, becoming a popular disco anthem and cementing a place in pop culture for decades to come. It spent three weeks at the top of the Hot 100 in 1979 and also topped the charts in Ireland and the UK. This is one of the tracks preserved in the National Recording Registry.
34. Let’s Get It On – Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye put out some great music in his career, but Let’s Get It On is probably the song you’ll recognize the fastest. The wah-wah opening of the track has become synonymous with sexual desire and romance, especially in other media like films and television shows over the years since it was first released in the 70s. It was also one of the tracks most instrumental in cementing his place as a sex symbol and helped set the tone for his music throughout the rest of his career.
35. Play That Funky Music – Wild Cherry
Rob Parissi is the writer behind Play That Funky Music, and the story behind its inspiration is awesome. While Wild Cherry was playing small bookings, they were actually a hard rock cover band. At the time, disco was the biggest craze, making it harder for them to get gigs. During one particular set, one of the patrons asked another one of the members “Are you going to play some funky music, white boys?” From then on, a hit song was born.
36. Rhinestone Cowboy – Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell’s version of Rhinestone Cowboy ended up being one of the biggest crossover hits of 1974. Popular with both country and pop crowds, he originally heard it on the radio in Australia, learning it and eventually developing his own version of the song. It was the lead single and title track of his 1975 album, peaking at number one on both the Hot 100 and Hot Country Singles charts.
37. You Make Me Feel Like Dancing – Leo Sayer
Leo Sayer released You Make Me Feel Like Dancing on his 1976 album Endless Flight. It was a huge disco hit, rising to number one on the Hot 100 and becoming his first hit single, while also making it to number two in the UK.
38. You’re The One That I Want – John Travolta and Oliva Newton-John
It would be almost impossible to do this list without including at least one or two songs from the film Grease here. And while you might be able to argue that some of the tracks in the film are better, it’s impossible to argue that You’re The One That I Want isn’t the most iconic one. It was one of the biggest movies of the decade and was chock full of great songs, spawning a singing career for Olivia Newton-John in the process.
39. You’re So Vain – Carly Simon
You’re So Vain is a funny and coy song from Carly Simon that would eventually become her signature song. It ended up earning a ton of accolades, mostly thanks to how easily people related to it. The track describes a self-absorbed lover that she essentially takes down throughout the song with witty lyrics and a catchy melody.
40. Another Brick In The Wall – Pink Floyd
Another Brick In The Wall was a three-part composition by Pink Floyd that was part of their 1979 rock opera. Part 2 in particular is the song most people today will recognize, as it was a protest track about the abuses of corporal punishment and rigid schooling. One of the most iconic parts of the song is the repeated verse, sung first by the band and then by a choir of children.
41. Lean On Me – Bill Withers
Bill Withers’s Lean On Me is one of the ultimate feel-good songs out there. It’s all about having someone to lean on and being there for other people when times get hard. It will always be one of the most uplifting tracks about lifting up those around you that you can find, and it served as a fairly solid hit for him after it was released in 1972.
42. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper – Blue Öyster Cult
(Don’t Fear) The Reaper by Blue Öyster Cult is an awesome rock song that deals with the inevitability of death and the possibility of eternal love. It has some amazing bass lines in the track, but it’s the lyrics that really draw you in. The narrator essentially urges listeners to accept that an end will come, but take chances when it comes to love because it may be worth it.
43. Piano Man – Billy Joel
The Piano Man himself had to find a spot on our list. Billy Joel wrote Piano Man by using his experiences as a piano player at bars. For the most part, each of the people he describes in the song was an actual person he interacted with at one time or another, keeping their stories true to life.
44. Ballroom Blitz – Sweet
Ballroom Blitz is a quintessential glam rock song from Sweet. It was a number-one single in Canada, a number-two in the UK, and made it to number five in the US. Even today, it’s an enduring favorite of the era, with over 90 million streams on Spotify.
45. Killing Me Softly With His Song – Roberta Flack
If you’re looking for a soulful single, look no further than Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly With His Song. It was a huge hit in 1973, rising to number one in the US, Canada, and Australia.
46. Hopelessly Devoted to You – Olivia Newton-John
We’re back to Grease and Olivia Newton-John for this entry. Hopelessly Devoted To You was an amazing love track that held a hint of sadness in its core from the film. A solo song by Sandy in the movie, it would eventually be one of the best-selling singles to come from the film soundtrack. The track then went on to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song but lost out to Last Dance from Thank God It’s Friday.
47. Kashmir – Led Zeppelin
Kashmir took nearly three years to perfect, as the band started writing it in 1973 and wouldn’t release it until 1975. It eventually became a staple of any Led Zeppelin concert and is remembered as one of their two most progressive epics, with the other being Stairway To Heaven.
48. The Joker – Steve Miller Band
Look, any song with as memorable an opening line as “Some people call me the space cowboy” is going to be popular decades after its release. The Joker appeared on Steve Miller Band’s 1973 album as the title track of the album and would eventually rise to the top of the US Hot 100.
49. Kiss You All Over – Exile
Exile was able to capitalize on the popularity of both rock and disco music in the 70s. Their biggest hit single ended up being Kiss You All Over, a song that ended up being their only hit in the pop market and the one track they would be remembered for the most.
50. Tiny Dancer – Elton John
Tiny Dancer is yet another amazing collaboration between Elton John and Bernie Taupin. This one was meant to be a snapshot of life in California during the 70s, contrasting the difference in women between L.A. and Taupin’s homeland of England. It would eventually become one of his biggest hit songs and has received all manner of awards and honors.
51. Riders on the Storm – The Doors
To finish out the list, I would be remiss if I didn’t include at least one song from The Doors. Riders On The Storm was something of a magnum opus for the legendary band, and it would be the last track Jim Morrison recorded before his sudden death in 1971. The song eventually rose to number 14 on the Hot 100 and number 22 on the UK Singles Chart.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.