While there were many great male vocalists of the 70s, there was a select group who came to define the sound of the decade. In this article, we take a look at 21 of the most famous 70s male singers and remember what made them so iconic.
1. Marvin Gaye
The “Prince of Motown” came to prominence in the 1960s, but it was in the early 70s that he released his iconic masterpieces “What’s Going On” and “Let’s Get It On.” With a four-octave vocal range that could fit gospel spirituals and sensual ballads, Gaye has one of the most iconic voices of the 70s. Sadly, his life was cut short in 1983 when he was shot by his father in an altercation.
2. Freddie Mercury
Nobody had a more powerful voice than Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. With flamboyant theatrics, his iconic voice came to define the ascendance of arena rock in the 70s. With hits like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” and “We Are The Champions,” it was impossible to turn on the radio without hearing Mercury’s voice throughout the decade.
3. Bruce Springsteen
The 70s introduced an American icon, Bruce Springsteen, to the music world. Singing with a desperation that audiences could feel in their gut, he released his first four albums throughout the decade, including the instant classic Born to Run. Backed by the East Street Band, Springsteen’s powerful vocals came to define the decade for many and the songs are still played and beloved by massive audiences today.
4. David Bowie
With his flamboyant androgyny, David Bowie ushered in the age of glam rock as the Martian Messiah Ziggy Stardust. With hit albums including Hunky Dory (featuring “Changes” and “Life on Mars?”) and The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (1972), he quickly established himself as one of the most important vocalists of the decade. While that would have been enough to cement his place on this list, Bowie shape-shifted to release the album Young Americans, with the hit single “Fame” in 1975.
5. Al Green
Al Green set the soul soundtrack for the whole decade when he released a slew of hits at the start of the decade. Tunes including “Take Me To The River,” “Tired of Being Alone,” and “Let’s Stay Together” slungshot him to elite superstardom. With his passionate delivery, few artists have produced so many enduring hits, let alone in such a short period of time. A majority of his 11 Grammy awards are a result of the musical work he completed in the 70s.
6. Paul McCartney
The Beatles officially broke up in 1970, so it seemed reasonable enough that the era of Paul McCartney had come to an end. But it was not so—in 1970, he released his self-titled debut solo album—the lo-fi record shot straight to number one on the US charts. He quickly followed that up with Ram in 1971, again jumping to the top of the charts. By 1973, McCartney had formed his band Paul McCartney And Wings, and they released their platinum record Band On The Run. They would remain prolific across the rest of the decade.
7. Willie Nelson
While Willie Nelson is now a cultural icon, he had not yet achieved such soaring levels of fame at the start of the 70s. Along with his trusty guitar, Trigger, he took over the radios, starting in 1973 with his album Shotgun Willie. He followed it up with critically and commercially acclaimed Red Headed Stranger (1975) and Stardust (1978). A main figure in the outlaw country music scene, Nelson’s legacy has been defined by the fantastic work he did in the 70s.
8. Bob Marley
Bob Marley is one of the most beloved cultural icons across the entire globe. The Jamaican singer pioneered the reggae genre. In the early 70s, he and his band Bob Marley And The Wailers rode their music to international fame. They were prolific throughout the decade, with records including Soul Rebels (1970), Catch a Fire (1973), Rastaman Vibration (1976), and the classic Exodus (1977). Few artists have captivated the world like Marley did, and he did it all with his voice.
9. Robert Plant
While Led Zeppelin got their start in the late 1960s, Robert Plant and the band shot into the upper atmosphere in the early 70s. In 1971, they released their infamous fourth album, which they didn’t want to give a name to. It featured iconic tracks including “Stairway to Heaven” and “Misty Mountain Hop”—it was impossible to turn on the radio without hearing Plant’s voice. They followed this up with Houses Of The Holy in 1973. Their subsequent tour set new records for concert attendance.
10. Michael Jackson
The undisputed “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson was still the adolescent frontman for his family band, The Jackson 5, when they released the smash hit “I Want You Back” in January of 1970. For the first five years of the decade, he would star as the Jackson 5 singer. For nearly all of the decade, his voice was front and center on the radio, associated with bubblegum pop. In 1979, Jackson released Off The Wall, featuring hit singles like “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and “Rock With You,” ending the 70s just hinting at the heights he would reach.
11. Elton John
Sir Elton John first made waves with his 1970 single “Your Song.” He started the decade with albums Tumbleweed Connection (1970) and Madman Across the Water (1971), introducing the world to hit songs like “Levon” and “Tiny Dancer.” John achieved his first number-one album in the US with Honky Chateau, featuring “Rocket Man” in 1972. This prolific stretch was wrapped up with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Captain Fantastic, and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, and his collaboration with The Who on the film Tommy.
12. Stevie Wonder
While Stevie Wonder achieved great success as a child in the 1960s, it was in the 70s that the R&B singer reached his highest levels of fame. In 1972, he released the album Talking Book, featuring the number-one hit “Superstition.” At this time, he went on tour with The Rolling Stones and appeared on Sesame Street. He followed this up in 1973 with the classic album Innervisions, which is still considered one of the greatest albums of all time. To best sum up how big Wonder was in the 70s, Paul Simon thanked him for not putting out an album in the same year he won the Best Album Grammy in 1976.
13. Ozzy Osbourne
As the lead singer of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne rose to fame during the 70s. Heavy metal was born during this decade, and he was the muse that sang it into existence. The band helped define the metal genre with Black Sabbath (1970), Paranoid (1970), and Master of Reality (1971). They would put out a slew of classic records throughout the rest of the decade until Osbourne was kicked out of the band in 1979 for his substance abuse.
14. The Bee Gees
The story of the 70s cannot be told without talking about disco and that means talking about The Bee Gees. The Gibb brothers—Barry, Robin, and Maurice—combined together to create the trio’s signature sound. While they had hits at the beginning of the decade, it was the transition to disco that solidified The Bee Gees as some of the most important vocalists of the decade. Their album Children of the World (1976), bolstered by the hit single “You Should Be Dancing,” launched them to new heights. Their most enduring hits came from their work on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, including the tunes “Stayin’ Alive” and “How Deep Is Your Love.”
15. Ronnie Van Zant
The lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ronnie Van Zant led the band to national prominence when they released their album Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd came out in 1973. The album included the band’s most well-known songs like “Free Bird,” “Gimme Three Steps,” and “Tuesday’s Gone.” The album, along with their tour with The Who, helped elevate the band to international fame. Sadly, Van Zant’s life was cut far too short when he died in a tragic plane crash in 1977. The songs he sang in the 70s remain enduring southern rock hits.
16. Barry White
With a voice that hit the bottom of the barrel, Barry White reached the peak of his career in the 70s. He released his debut solo album I’ve Got So Much to Give, which also included the top hip “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Babe.” For the rest of the decade, White proved to be a hit machine with tunes such as “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Baby” and “Never Never Gonna Give You Up.” One of the richest voices to ever sing soul, an obituary for White noted that “If chocolate fudge cake could sing, it would sound like Barry White.”
17. Steven Tyler
Steven Tyler shot to superstardom in the 70s as the lead singer of the rock band Aerosmith. Their first release, a self-titled album in 1973 featuring songs like “Dream On,” did fairly well (though it would go platinum as their fame grew). In 1974, they released Get Your Wings, and a year later, they achieved international fame with their album Toys In The Attic. With Tyler’s distinctive vocal sound, Aerosmith was one of the most prominent rock ‘n’ roll acts of the decade. While the end of the 70s would see them struggle with excess, this was only to be a lull in their illustrious career.
18. Bob Seger
In 1973, Bob Seger formed his band Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet, and they rose to national fame in 1976 with the release of their album Night Moves. The album included the title track and other hits like “Rock and Roll Never Forgets.” With hits throughout the decade, including “Still The Same,” “Hollywood Nights,” and “Old Time Rock and Roll,” Seger was constant on radio stations across the country.
19. Billy Joel
Billy Joel is one of the top-selling musical artists of all time, and it all started for him in the early 70s. In 1973, he released one of his masterpieces—the album Piano Man. While he released several successful albums over the subsequent years, it was his 1977 album The Stranger that brought him his greatest commercial success with tracks like “Just the Way You Are” and “Only the Good Die Young.” He quickly followed this up with the successful 1978 album 52nd Street, closing out the decade as one of pop music’s top acts.
20. John Fogerty
As the frontman of Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty’s growling voice became a sound for the whole nation. Many of CCR’s songs were prominent anthems in the anti-Vietnam war movement. While the band existed for only four years, from 1968 to 1972, they produced countless hits including “Proud Mary,” “Born on the Bayou,” “Bad Moon Rising,” and “Fortunate Son.” Even after the band broke up, the popularity of these tunes kept Fogerty’s voice front and center throughout the decade.
21. Brad Delp
As the lead singer of Boston, Brad Delp gave his voice to several of the most iconic rock and roll albums ever recorded. Starting with their self-titled album, which was released in 1976 and received critical and commercial acclaim, he lent his voice to classic rock hits including “More Than a Feeling” and “Peace of Mind.” The band followed this up with Don’t Look Back in 1978. These albums alone have placed Boston in the rock and roll pantheon and inspire countless people to sing along even to this day.