By 1976, disco and funk were both in full swing and were soaring up the charts. The year also gave us some timeless classics that are still well-known today. In this article, we’ll use Billboard’s year-end charts to determine the 35 best songs to come out in 1976.
1. Silly Love Songs – Wings
Paul McCartney still had a lot of pull in the music world by the time he formed Wings, so it’s no surprise that one of their tracks was the best-selling single of 1976. Silly Love Songs first appeared on their 1976 album Wings At The Speed Of Sound. It was aimed at music critics that said he only wrote silly love tracks, giving a pointed jab to that kind of criticism about his work.
It became his 27th number-one single as a songwriter and the first person to have a year-end single be number one with two different groups. It topped the US Hot 100 and rose to number two on the UK Singles Chart.
2. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – Elton John And Kiki Dee
Today, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart is one of the best songs to break out during karaoke night, but when it was released in 1976, it was one of the biggest tracks of the year. Elton John teamed up for the duet with Kiki Dee and melted the hearts of millions, earning a song that rose to number one in several countries, most notably the US, UK, France, and Canada.
3. Disco Lady – Johnnie Taylor
Disco Lady went on to become the biggest hit of Johnnie Taylor’s career. It spent the entire month of April on top of the Hot 100 in 1976 and six weeks in total at the apex of the R&B chart. When all was said and done, the song had sold over 2.5 million copies. Interestingly, it has the distinction of being the first Hot 100 number-one single to have “disco” in the title despite it not being a disco song at all.
4. December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night) – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night) originated from the 1933 repeal of prohibition, but the lyrics were altered to make it about a young man’s first time with a woman instead of about alcohol. The most successful version of the song came out in 1976 when Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons recorded it, rising to number one on the UK Singles Chart, Hot 100, and Cash Box Top 100 rankings.
5. Play That Funky Music – Wild Cherry
Wild Cherry’s Play That Funky Music might be a legendary song today, but it only originated because they needed a tune to dance along with to keep getting bookings. They came up with the track when a bar patron asked “Are you gonna play some funky music white boys?’ at one of their gigs, and an epic recording was born.
This went on to reach the top of the Hot 100 and Hot Soul Singles charts in 1976, eventually selling over 2.5 million copies and earning a platinum certification from the RIAA.
6. Kiss and Say Goodbye – The Manhattans
The Manhattans’ Kiss And Say Goodbye was recorded for their eponymous 1976 album and released as a single in that same year. It quickly became an international success story, rising to the top of the charts in the US and several European countries and leading to it topping the European Hot 100 Singles chart. It was one of the biggest hits of the 70s as a whole, topping every one of the pop and R&B singles charts it was eligible for.
7. Love Machine – The Miracles
Love Machine was the best-selling single of The Miracles’ entire career. In 1976, the track rose to the top of the US Hot 100 and number three on the UK Singles Chart. It wound up being one of the best-selling pop songs of all time, ranking at number 582 on Billboard’s All-Time Hot 100 charts.
8. 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover – Paul Simon
The track 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover was the second single to come from Paul Simon’s album Still Crazy After All These Years, and it would become one of his most popular singles of all time. It remains his only number-one hit single, rising to number one on the Hot 100 in 1976 and becoming a top-20 hit internationally.
9. Love Is Alive – Gary Wright
Gary Wright’s Love Is Alive was released on his 1975 album The Dream Weaver. Alongside the title track of the album, it rose to number two on the Hot 100 but spent seven weeks longer on the chart than its counterpart. Several other songs on this list held it out of number one, namely Kiss And Say Goodbye and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.
10. A Fifth of Beethoven – Walter Murphy
A Fifth Of Beethoven showed how innovative and flexible disco music really was as a genre. The track was an instrumental adaptation of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, though the “fifth” in the title of this song is a pun referring to a bottle of alcohol. It had a 19-week climb on the Hot 100, eventually peaking at the number one spot for a week before sliding back down.
11. Sara Smile – Hall & Oates
Sara Smile was the third single to be released from Hall & Oates’ eponymous album and their first top-10 hit in the US. It would go on to reach number four on the Hot 100, giving them their breakthrough single that turned the pair into household names.
12. Afternoon Delight – Starland Vocal Band
Afternoon Delight was notable in 1976 thanks in large part to the suggestive nature of the song’s lyrics. It earned a gold record in the US and became a number-one single in July of that year, while a cover version of the track by Johnny Carver rose to the top 10 of the Hot Country Singles chart.
13. I Write the Songs – Barry Manilow
Barry Manilow was reluctant to record I Write The Songs, a single written by Bruce Johnson in 1975, because he didn’t want the lyrics to be misconstrued as him singing about himself. Recording it turned out to be a good choice for him though, as it spent two weeks on top of the Hot 100 in 1976 and won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1977.
14. Fly, Robin, Fly – Silver Convention
Fly, Robin, Fly was the third single released from Silver Convention’s Save Me album. It would end up making the group only the second German act to have a number-one song in the US. This was special since the entire song only has six words. Despite the light lyrical load, it did grab a Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance in 1976.
15. Love Hangover – Diana Ross
Diana Ross’s Love Hangover came from her eponymous solo album in 1976. Alongside I Thought It Took A Little Time, it entered the charts on the same day in 1976. It would go on to reach number one on the Hot 100 and made her the female vocalist with the most number-one singles in the history of the chart.
16. Get Closer – Seals and Crofts
Get Closer was the title track of Seals and Crofts’ 1976 album and a major hit on the Adult Contemporary charts in the US. It rose to number two on that chart while peaking at number six on the Hot 100 and featured vocals by both band members’ daughters.
17. More, More, More – The Andrea True Connection
More, More, More was the title track for The Andrea True Connection’s debut album, though the song is credited to her recording project rather than herself as an individual. It became one of the most popular tracks of the disco era and a signature song for her, rising as high as number four on the Hot 100 and number three on the Cash Box Top 100.
18. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
For my money, Bohemian Rhapsody is the best song on this list, but it was placed at number 18 on Billboard’s year-end rankings. What was really a mashup of several tracks Queen had lying around, it would become the most legendary song of their career and one that in hindsight is among the best tracks ever composed.
This mock opera consistently ranks among the very best pieces of music, spent nine weeks on top of the UK Singles Chart, and is the third best-selling single of all time in the UK. In the US, it rose only to number nine on the Hot 100 in 1976 but would reach the number two spot in 1992 after the film Wayne’s World was released.
19. Misty Blue – Dorothy Moore
Misty Blue was originally written by Bob Montgomery and several artists have released it as a successful single over the years. Dorothy Moore’s 1976 version was the highest-charting version of the track, rising to the top five of the Hot Country Songs chart that year and helping make it a standard in both the country and blues genres.
20. Boogie Fever -The Sylvers
Boogie Fever was by far the most commercially successful single The Sylvers ever released. It was a feature of their 1975 album Showcase and eventually rose to the top of the Hot 100, Soul Singles, and Canadian RPM charts.
21. I’d Really Love to See You Tonight – England Dan & John Ford Coley
I’d Really Love To See You Tonight first appeared on England Dan & John Ford Coley’s 1976 album Nights Are Forever. It would eventually peak at number two on the Hot 100, remaining in that position for two weeks and being fended off by Play That Funky Music for the number one spot. This melodic tune was rerecorded by Dan in 1995 as a country music song for his album The Quiet Room.
22. You Sexy Thing – Hot Chocolate
You Sexy Thing was the second single from Hot Chocolate’s eponymous 1975 album, and it was a ball of fun. In 1976, the song rose to number three on the Hot 100 and number two on the UK Singles Chart but would later gain notoriety for its prolific use in films like The Full Monty.
23. Love Hurts – Nazareth
Love Hurts started off as a hit single for the Everly Brothers in 1960, but the Nazareth rock band would be the one to produce the most memorable version of the song. Released in 1975 and having a chart run that lasted through 1977, it would go on to reach number eight on the Hot 100 and become a number-one international hit in several other countries.
24. Get Up and Boogie – Silver Convention
Get Up And Boogie was another one of Silver Convention’s hits to come out in 1976. It served as the title track of their album that year, and just like Fly, Robin, Fly, it only consisted of two repeating phrases. It rose to number two on the Hot 100 but was held out of number one by Wings’ Silly Love Songs and eventually was one of the bigger disco hits of the era.
25. Take It to the Limit – Eagles
Take It To The Limit was the third single of the Eagle’s One Of These Nights album and became their greatest success—at the time—in the UK. It rose as high as number four on the US Hot 100 and broke into the top 15 of the UK Singles Chart by reaching number 12.
26. [Shake, Shake, Shake] Shake Your Booty – KC & the Sunshine Band
Here’s a disco and soul single that just about everyone has heard at some point. [Shake, Shake, Shake] Shake Your Booty was the third number-one hit produced by KC & The Sunshine Band. Some controversy arose over the sexual connotations of the song but that didn’t stop it from reaching the top of both the Billboard Hot 100 and Soul Singles charts in 1976.
27. Sweet Love – Commodores
Sweet Love was the very first top-10 pop hit produced by Lionel Richie and the Commodores. It would eventually peak at number five on the Hot 100 chart and number two on the Hot Soul Singles chart in 1976, but its significance went a bit deeper than just being a hit. It was a signal that the group had turned from their stone-cold funk roots to something that was more flowing and pop-esque.
28. Right Back Where We Started From – Maxine Nightingale
Right Back Where We Started From was originally recorded by Maxine Nightingale who turned it into an international hit single. The song made it to number two on the Hot 100 but was held out of the number one spot. On two other charts, it rose to the top, with those two being the Cash Box Top 100 and Record World rankings.
29. Theme from S.W.A.T. – Rhythm Heritage
Theme From S.W.A.T. was an instrumental arrangement used for the 70s TV show of the same name. Rhythm Heritage’s version wasn’t the one used in the show, but it was still incredibly popular. The song would rise to the top of the Hot 100, Adult Contemporary, and Cash Box Top 100 charts in 1976.
30. Love Rollercoaster – Ohio Players
Love Rollercoaster was featured on the Ohio Players’ 1975 album Honey and became a US number-one hit in January of 1976. Later, cover versions of the song would also be very popular, with one by the Red Hot Chili Peppers being produced for the 1996 film Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.
31. You Should Be Dancing – Bee Gees
You Should Be Dancing was the song that started the Bee Gees’ foray into the world of disco. In 1976, the track spent seven weeks on top of the US dance club, Hot 100, and Cash Box Top 100 charts.
32. You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine – Lou Rawls
Lou Rawls included You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine on his 1976 album All Things In Time, and it wound up being his breakthrough hit. It topped both the R&B and Easy Listening charts and peaked at number two on the Hot 100.
33. Golden Years – David Bowie
Golden Years was the lead single of David Bowie’s 10th studio album Station To Station and was a throwback to his previous album themes. It eventually broke into the top 10 of the Hot 100 and peaked at number eight on the UK Singles Chart.
34. Moonlight Feels Right – Starbuck
Moonlight Feels Right was the debut single of the band Starbuck, and it found a place on the charts at the beginning of 1976. The song eventually spent five months on the US charts in total, rising as high as number three on the Hot 100 and number two on the Easy Listening chart.
35. Only Sixteen – Dr. Hook
Only Sixteen was originally written by Sam Cooke and was released by him in 1959. The song would eventually be covered by several different artists, from the Supremes to Craig Douglas. Dr. Hook’s version of the track in 1976 was the most successful one on the charts, rising to number six on the Hot 100 and number 14 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
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