The music world had changed by 1973, as despite some familiar faces producing hit singles, many of them were in new groups or working as solo artists. In this article, we’ll take a look at Billboard’s year-end rankings to determine the 35 best songs to come out in 1973.
1. Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree – Tony Orlando and Dawn
Tie A Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree ended up being a worldwide hit for Tony Orland and Dawn in 1973. The song reached the top 10 in 10 different countries, with eight of those reaching the number-one spot on the charts. In both the US and the UK, it was the best-selling single of the year, crowning it as the number-one track of the year on Billboard’s year-end chart and our list of the best songs from 1973.
2. Bad, Bad Leroy Brown – Jim Croce
Bad, Bad Leroy Brown is an iconic song that had a long legacy in the media. It’s a track I even heard growing up in the 90s and early 2000s, and it’s frankly just a fun song to listen to. Written and performed by folk singer Jim Croce, it first appeared on his 1973 album Life And Times. The track went on to reach the top of the Hot 100, spending two weeks in that position. It also earned two Grammy nominations. Sadly, it was his only number-one single and was released the same year of his death.
3. Killing Me Softly with His Song – Roberta Flack
Killing Me Softly With His Song has been recorded by numerous artists over the years, with some of them achieving solid hits. Despite some controversy over the original writing credits for the track, other artists would turn it into big hits, with Roberta Flack’s single in 1973 being the most successful. It reached the top spot of the Hot 100 and the number six spot on the UK Singles Chart. She would also appear on later versions of the songs by The Fugees and Johnathan Peters.
4. Let’s Get It On – Marvin Gaye
Let’s Get It On is one of the most iconic Marvin Gaye songs out there, and it served as the title track for one of his albums. Funky, romantic, and sexual in nature, the track was an instant hit and became his most successful single for Motown in addition to turning him into a sex symbol. It eventually rose to the top of both the US Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard Hot Soul Singles charts.
5. My Love – Paul McCartney & Wings
My Love was released as the lead single of Paul McCartney & Wings’ 1972 album Red Rose Speedway. One of the silly love songs he was often accused of writing, the reputation in no way diminished the track’s success. It spent four weeks at the top of the Hot 100 and peaked at number nine on the UK Singles Chart, serving as their first hit in the US.
6. Why Me – Kris Kristofferson
While Kris Kristofferson is a legendary name in the country music world, Why Me was his one and only hit single as a solo artist. It eventually rose to the top of the country charts in the US and peaked at number 16 on the Hot 100, but its run on the Hot 100 was one of the longest in history—at the time—as it stayed in the top 40 of the chart for 19 weeks.
7. Crocodile Rock – Elton John
Crocodile Rock became Elton John’s first US number-one single when it rose to the top of the Hot 100 and held the spot for three weeks in 1973. The song is full of nostalgia for the origins of rock and roll, pop culture, and life in the prior decades. All of those things helped it resonate with the millions of listeners who fell in love with the track.
8. Will It Go Round in Circles – Billy Preston
Billy Preston released Will It Go Round in Circles on his 1972 album Music Is My Life. Alongside Bruce Fisher, he was the principal writer for the song, and it served as a single for the album that was released in 1973. It went on to reach the top of the Hot 100 and was the first of his two number-one hits as a solo artist.
9. You’re So Vain – Carly Simon
You’re So Vain was voted onto the RIAA’s list of the songs of the century and has been crowned the ultimate track of the 70s by the UK’s Official Charts Company. It was a critical song that derided a former lover’s attitude and was a brilliant and fun way to poke fun at someone who had done you wrong. It went on to earn three Grammy nominations and topped both the Billboard Hot 100 and US Adult Contemporary Chart.
10. Touch Me in the Morning – Diana Ross
Touch Me In The Morning is the first single and the title track of Diana Ross’s 1973 solo album with the Motown label. It went on to become her second number-one single by reaching the top of the Hot 100 and spent a total of 21 weeks on the chart, which remained her longest run until 1980.
11. The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia – Vicki Lawrence
Described as a Southern Gothic murder ballad, The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia is one of the ultimate classic country songs. It served as the title track of Vicki Lawrence’s 1973 album and would eventually rise to number one on the Hot 100. I heard this track growing up, though the version I listened to was the cover recorded by Reba McEntire for her 1991 album.
12. Playground in My Mind – Clint Holmes
Playground In My Mind is a really cool track because it featured Paul Vance’s seven-year-old son singing in the chorus of the song. While Billy Lawrence first recorded the track in 1971, the song would ultimately turn into a hit single when Clint Holmes recorded his version of it in 1972. The following year, it eventually made it to number two on the Hot 100 and spent 23 weeks on the chart.
13. Brother Louie – The Stories
The Stories’ song Brother Louie describes an interracial relationship that was rejected by both parties’ parents. It was originally performed by the group Hot Chocolate and was a hit on the UK Singles Chart, rising to number seven. The Stories covered the song six months later and saw their version sell over one million copies and rise to the top spot of the Hot 100.
14. Delta Dawn – Helen Reddy
Delta Dawn was recorded by several notable names over the years, from Bette Midler to Tanya Tucker. But it was Helen Reddy who found the most success with the song. In 1973, her version rose to the top of the Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts.
15. Me and Mrs. Jones – Billy Paul
Billy Paul’s Me And Mrs. Jones describes the heated love extramarital affair between the fictional Mrs. Jones and the narrator of the song. The two know they are doing something wrong, but the relationship seems so strong that it’s too hard to walk away. His recording of the track reached the top of the Hot 100 and held that position for three weeks while also topping the R&B chart and remaining in that spot for four weeks.
16. Frankenstein – Edgar Winter, The Edgar Winter Group
Frankenstein sold over one million copies and spent a single week at the top of the Hot 100 before it was replaced by Wings’ My Love. It ended up being an international hit, reaching the top 10 in Canada and Mexico while breaking the top 20 in the UK.
17. Drift Away – Dobie Gray
Drift Away was first recorded by John Henry Kertz for his 1972 album Reunion. Dobie Gray was later given the song, and it became not only the best-known version of the track but an international hit single. It eventually peaked at number five on the Hot 100, number 12 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and number seven on the Canada Top Singles list.
18. Little Willy – Sweet
Sweet’s glam rock sensibilities were the perfect thematic background for Little Willy. It was released in the UK as a non-album single in 1972 and would go on to appear on their US debut album the same year. After release, it rose to number three on the Hot 100 and number four on the UK Singles Chart.
19. You Are the Sunshine of My Life – Stevie Wonder
You Are the Sunshine Of My Life became Stevie Wonder’s third number-one single in the US and his first number-one single on the Easy Listening chart. It would also win him a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and earned an additional two nominations the following year.
20. Half-Breed – Cher
Cher’s Half-Breed tackled the life of a girl struggling with societal rejection due to having a mixed-race background and thoroughly discussed issues of racism in the US. It eventually rose to number one on the Hot 100, becoming her second single as a solo artist to achieve that feat.
21. That Lady, Pts. 1 & 2 – The Isley Brothers
That Lady, Pts. 1 & 2 was first released as a single by The Isley Brothers, but it wasn’t until they reworked it into a funk rock-style single in 1973 that it garnered commercial acclaim. It eventually became their first pop single to break the top 10 since 1969 and spent three weeks at number six on the US Hot 100.
22. Pillow Talk – Sylvia
Sylvia was one of the writers of Pillow Talk, but she initially hoped Al Green would be the artist to perform and record it. After he rejected it because it went against his religious beliefs and was too risque, she recorded it herself and created one of the earliest disco music examples. Despite being shortened by a lot of radio stations for its sexual content, the song spent two weeks on top of the Best Selling Soul Singles chart and peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100.
23. We’re an American Band – Grand Funk Railroad
Grand Funk Railroad’s We’re An American Band was the title track of their seventh studio album and their first single to reach the top of the US charts. It would eventually rise to the number-one spot on the Hot 100 and additionally made it to number four on the Canada RPM Top Singles rankings.
24. Right Place Wrong Time – Dr. John
Right Place Wrong Time was the first single to be released from Dr. John’s sixth album In The Right Place, and it eventually became the biggest hit of his career. The song peaked at number nine on the US Hot 100 and rose as high as number six in Canada.
25. Wildflower – Skylark
Skylark was the first of many bands to record Wildflower, and it became one of the biggest hit singles of 1973. It would eventually rise to number nine on the Hot 100 and number five on the Adult Contemporary chart in the US, but in Canada, it topped its Contemporary chart and reached number 10 on the Canada RPM Top Singles list.
26. Superstition – Stevie Wonder
Superstition became one of Stevie Wonder’s most beloved tracks and has consistently ranked on numerous lists of the greatest songs of all time. It was released as the lead single from his 15th album Talking Book and rose to the top of the Hot 100 in January 1973. It would additionally reach number 11 on the UK Singles Chart and won him two Grammy Awards the following year.
27. Loves Me Like a Rock – Paul Simon
Loves Me Like A Rock was the second single to come from Paul Simon’s 1973 album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. It eventually peaked at number two on the Hot 100 and reached the top five in Canada, selling one million copies on the way to earning a gold disc.
28. The Morning After – Maureen McGovern
The Morning After was originally recorded for the 1972 film The Poseidon Adventure. Maureen McGovern recorded her version after the success of the movie and saw it win Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. Her version went on to hold the top spot of the Hot 100 for two weeks, and it found a place on the year-end rankings from Billboard.
29. Rocky Mountain High – John Denver
Rocky Mountain High is one of the two official state songs of Colorado. It served as the title track for John Denver’s 1972 album and rose as high as number nine on the US Hot 100. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the top 100 Western songs of all time and it became one of the biggest hits of his career.
30. Stuck in the Middle with You – Stealers Wheel
Stuck In The Middle With You was first performed by Stealers Wheel and was performed on the BBC’s Top Of The Pops program in 1973. That performance helped the song rise to number eight on the UK Singles Chart, and after crossing over to the US, it rose to number six on the Hot 100.
31. Shambala – Three Dog Night
Shambala was popularized by two releases in 1973 that came at almost exactly the same time. While Three Dog Night’s version came slightly after B.W. Stevenson’s, theirs was much more popular. It rose to number three on the Hot 100 and was inspired by the mythical kingdom of Shambhala, which is supposedly hidden somewhere in the Himalayan Mountains.
32. Love Train – The O’Jays
Love Train was a hit single by The O’Jays that reached the top of both the Hot 100 and R&B Singles charts in the US. It was the group’s first and only number-one hit on the pop charts, but it was buoyed to that position by coming out on the same day that the Paris Peace Accords were signed.
33. I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby – Barry White
Barry White’s I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby was the first single to come from his 1973 debut album I’ve Got So Much To Give. It reached the top of the R&B chart for two weeks and peaked at number three on the Hot 100 that year.
34. Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose – Tony Orlando and Dawn
This song from Tony Orlando and Dawn was included on their 1973 album Dawn’s New Ragtime Follies and was another hit single to come from the same album as Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree. It peaked at number three on the Hot 100, but it took the top spot on the US Adult Contemporary chart.
35. Keep on Truckin – Eddie Kendricks
Keep On Truckin was Eddie Kendricks’ first hit single as a solo artist after leaving The Temptations. It rose to the top of the Hot 100 and R&B charts in the US and would end up being his sole single to reach number one.
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.