My Top Ten Songs of the 1970's
Having been born in the latter half of the 1960's, it's safe to state that the music that makes me smile more than any other, more or less, is the music that was made during the decade that I spent my young childhood: the 1970's.
I specifically recall spending many evenings and nights, in bed on the way to going to sleep, listening to the AM stations on my medium-sized green box radio and hearing the many good sounds coming from all those singers who, unlike folks like Justin Bieber today - don't even get me started on him, as if I hear "Baby, Baby, Baby, ohhhh" one more time I'm going to scream in utter frustration - actually wrote what they sung.
It made for some pleasant memories.
This top ten list, made in chronological order, was a very tough one to make as for every one of these songs I'm about to mention, there are ten more songs that I could have chosen.
So without wasting anymore time, here's what I think are the ten best songs of that "Me" decade:
1. YOUR SONG, ELTON JOHN (1970)
At the risk of sounding like a know-it-all, this was the perfect first single from this pianist and the perfect song to begin the decade.
Making his U.S debut at the Troubador in Los Angeles' West Hollywood district that year, this tune by Reginald Dwight was sweet, thoughtful, and with his piano playing and lyrics by his partner Bernie Taupin had a subtle effect to the point where people knew that this bespectacled Brit had a great career in front of him.
I'm not sure, however, if anyone thought that he would become the Liberace of rock and roll, what with all the outlandish costumes that he wore while touring during the 70s.
It doesn't matter, though. Sir Elton is truly a legend, and it all began with this song.
2. LAYLA, DEREK AND THE DOMINOES (1970)
One author called this classic the most intense love song of the rock era.
And seeing that Eric Clapton wrote this while in anguish over his then-unrequited love for Pattie Harrison, who happened to be married at the time to legendary ex-Beatle George - who happened to be Eric's best friend on top of that - one would think that it was no wonder that the song was as intense as it was.
I think it was the symphonic aspect to "Layla", borrowed from an ancient Persian poem, that made the song so good, with its guitar riffs and piano solos in the middle.
Oh, Pattie did leave George to marry Eric later in the 70s; I wonder if this song had anything to do with that.
3. WHAT'S GOING ON, MARVIN GAYE (1971)
I've said this before and I'll say it again:
Motown grew up with this cut and its accompanying album.
If you wanted to hear music that covered the issues of that time; war (Vietnam in this case), poverty, racism, overcoming hate with love, this is the song that you went to again and again.
And to think that it took a year for Motown boss Berry Gordy to release this single and the album, which I consider one of the five greatest albums of all time, because he was too stuck on Motown's "formula" and didn't think it would sell.
With wonderful lyrics like, "War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate," it's incredible to me that Berry could have initially thought so low of this recording.
Marvin certainly went from being a great entertainer to a legend with this song, which apparently showed his troubled soul as he would go on to have drug problems and was eventually shot and killed by his father in 1984.
It was real sad what happened to that man, but at least we have songs like this one to remember him by.
4. OOH CHILD, THE FIVE STAIRSTEPS (1971)
I remember liking this song a lot as a four and five-year old, and even today whenever I'm feeling depressed or bad about whatever situation I happen to be in, this classic smash automatically makes me feel better.
In other words, this is the ultimate "cheer up" song one where you always feel that everything will turn out OK after you hear it.
5. STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN, LED ZEPPELIN (1971)
If I were forced to choose one song as the greatest in the rock/pop era - specifically, since that genre began with "Rock Around The Clock" in 1955 - this cut, written by Jimmy Page and sung brilliantly by Robert Plant, would be the one.
Despite some cynical sentiments from hard-core rock fans, with a lone acoustic guitar and recorder beginning this cut and gradually expanding to a searing guitar solo and pounding drums, I firmly feel that this nearly eight-minute single is the best ever; like "Layla" a real rock symphony.
It certainly pushed the accompanying album, Led Zeppelin IV, with its picture of the elderly man on the cover, to dizzying heights and made it an all-time great.
5. SATURDAY IN THE PARK, CHICAGO (1972)
Like "Ooh Child", this is another ultimate feel-good song that makes you wish it was summer whenever you heard it, and if it was summertime made you want to go to the park, have a picnic and generally have a grand and glorious time whenever your heard it.
It definitely made me feel good as a five-year old when I first heard it. I particularly loved the horns, which as everyone knows made that band, as well as the piano at the beginning of the song.
As a matter of fact, just thinking about this classic as I'm writing this, makes me smile and want to go outside and play - it had, and still has, that kind of an impact.
7. A HORSE WITH NO NAME, AMERICA (1972)
Oh my goodness, I vividly remember absolutely loving this song when I first heard it as a five year-old kindergardener - and 40 years later, with its gorgeous sounding guitars and bongos providing the backbeat, I still love this song and play it on my portable CD player every chance I get.
I guess this smash would be known as one of the greats when one considers who produced it - George Martin, who produced all of the Beatles' albums, as when someone of that stature produces your first single, you can't go wrong.
8. LOW RIDER, WAR (1975)
One of the quintessential party songs of the decade, especially in Southern California as the band who wrote and sung this great hit, War, hailed from Long Beach.
This was such a wickedly huge smash where I came from in the Los Angeles area (as well as everywhere else), that I'm sure that you could go all over the city and hear it at least once before you headed home, especially in the ethnically mixed areas.
The beauty of this cut was the fact that the arrangement was so simple, with its horns section and bass carrying the song.
Not to mention the impact that "Low Rider" had on car culture, as I'm sure the many low rider car shows permeating the Southern California area and elsewhere in the country got their inspiration from this song.
9. RIDE LIKE THE WIND, CHRISTOPHER CROSS (1979)
I recall so well how people freaked out when this song dropped, it was so - for lack of a better way to put it because I think the word I'm about to use is extremely overused - amazing.
As was many of the cuts from this songwriter's first album, which was one of the best sellers of the year and won quite a few Grammys.
The sad thing about Christopher Cross was that this song, and others like "Sailing" from that first album, had such a tremendous impact that except for "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" in 1981, anything that he did afterwards was unfairly measured to what he had done before; that's why his career sort of stalled as the 80s rolled on.
It was too bad, really, because this man was, and is, a real talent.
10. RAPPER'S DELIGHT, SUGAR HILL GANG (1979)
All right, recite this along with me, you know how it goes - or at least you should:
"I said a hip, hop, a hippet, a hip hip a hip hip a hobbet you don't stop a hoppin to the bang bang boogie to up jump the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie the beat."
This was the song that started the rap/hip-hop genre, which is such an indelible part of the music scene today, recorded by New York DJs Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank and Master Gee.
It was such a substantial hit that I remember it being rapped all over my junior high school when it first came out during my seventh grade year.
Deep down, I knew that this song was the start of something big; I'm quite surprised that the three guys who made up the Sugar Hill Gang didn't become filthy rich with this single.
To this day I still enjoy hearing this song, as it serves to remind me of rap and hip-hop's roots.
HONORABLE MENTION - I took the liberty of mentioning those songs that I likewise loved in the 70s and still do today, but didn't quite make the top ten cut:
- Fire and Rain, James Taylor (1970); Like Elton John's "Your Song", this was a great debut from a great artist.
- Never Can Say Goodbye, Jackson Five (1970); I felt it was mandatory to include a song from Michael (Rest In Peace) and his four older brothers in this list.
- It's Too Late, Carole King (1971); My personal favorite song of all time that was sung by a woman, coming from my personal favorite album of all time, Tapestry, that was made by a woman.
- I Can See Clearly Now, Johnny Nash (1972); This was probably my favorite song as a five-year old, as I listened to it all the time.
- Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing, Stevie Wonder (1973); Like "Ooh Child" and "Saturday In The Park", whenever I feel bad about something this classic from Stevie's Innervisions makes me feel better.
- How Deep Is Your Love, Bee Gees (1977); You know I had to include at least one song from that group and from that Saturday Night Fever album onto here.
- On Broadway, George Benson (1978); The greatest remake of all time.
- London Calling, The Clash (1979); This classic brought British punk into the mainstream; I absolutely loved their video of them performing this smash on that boat in the rain.
I hope I induced some good memories from this article, and if I didn't list your favorite 70s tune, my apologies in advance.
My advice to Justin Bieber and the vast majority of those current so-called "Hit Makers": Buy these singles and accompanying albums, and get inspired to write and record songs like these, as I would certainly respect you more if you did.
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