It’s time to get your dancing shoes on, because once you start looking through this list, you won’t be able to stop yourself from bopping to the songs playing on loop in your head. Some of the best songs from the 1970s have a knack for staying with you. Sure, they are officially “classics” and therefore play on the oldies stations. But they are classics most importantly because they are all superior—in melody, in instrumentation, and in lyrics. (Let’s gently ignore that a lot of these songs were released nearly 50 years ago…!)
There are clearly many to choose from over the course of the entire decade, but the 10 below are my picks for “Best of the 70’s that you just want to listen to over and over again.” What are your thoughts on what should totally be on this list, and what should go?
10. Layla, Eric Clapton (1970)
I would argue that the slow version of Layla that Clapton released in 1990 to mark the 20th anniversary of the “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” album was even better. But the original was certainly iconic enough to make this list, featuring none other than Clapton’s masterwork on the guitar.
9. Imagine, John Lennon (1971)
Lennon’s message in this song is still chillingly relevant today, nearly 50 years later. It’s sad that we’re all still striving to live in a more peaceful world, but isn’t it wonderful that we get to turn to this beautiful song to remind us?
8. Midnight Train to Georgia, Gladys Knight & The Pips (1973)
This is the kind of song that you just want to belt at the top of your lungs while driving home from work. The kind of song that convinces you that you have a good voice. Whether you do or not, the song is so good that you want to sing it four decades after it was originally released. And that says a lot.
7. Heart of Gold, Neil Young (1972)
Neil Young isn’t for everybody, so if you’re not really a fan, then you might just want to move on to the next selection. But if you do like Young, then you probably agree that this particular song is right where it belongs. The catchy guitar and unmistakable harmonica in the begin draw you in and then you’re on the ride with unbeatable lyrics.
6. Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen (1975)
Speaking of rides, there is nothing quite like this one. We start with the slow, smooth a capella opening, and then the pretty piano comes in. We hear about mama killing a man in the sweetest melody possible. And then Mercury starts to get more raw and real as the song progresses until we’re all banging our heads to the hard rock toward the end. Unbeatable.
5. Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd (1973)
The term “Play Free Bird!” exists for a reason—it’s because this song ROCKS. There’s the slow buildup, and there’s that solo. Ugh. Question is, can you listen without playing your very own air guitar?
4. Superstition, Stevie Wonder (1972)
If there’s a song that makes you want to move, then this is it. The unmistakable bass playing throughout just hits you at the core, and you can’t help but get in a good mood and in the groove.
3. Dream On, Aerosmith (1973)
While I would consider myself a lukewarm fan of Aerosmith’s other works, I just can’t get enough of this one—perhaps because it sounds so unlike their other stuff. But Dream On is the kind of song that you can just close your eyes and get lost in. This is long before Steven Tyler’s voice got damaged, and you can appreciate what kind of pipes he had on him at one point.
2. American Pie, Don McLean (1971)
I’m not sure that a road trip is complete unless this song is played somewhere along the way. Very few songs can take you on a journey with the lyrics like this one can. And I bet that you still remember every single word despite not hearing the song in years. And don’t forget the harmony. Amiright?
1. Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin (1971)
Did you really think any other song would be number one here? There’s the guitar—oh that guitar—throughout. And Stairway is lusciously long in a way that allows you to wade and float in its melody without getting bored. There aren’t many eight-minute songs that you actually want to sit through from beginning to end…