The 1970s created a perfect musical bridge from the rebelliousness of the 1960s and the happy songs that are characteristic of the 1980s. Following the counterculture of the 60s, the and the 70s created a trend of relaxing music as well as dance music. People may have grown tired of the fighting that happened the previous decade and many of them sought a refuge in dance clubs and other places to enjoy a good time. Out of this idea emerged the Disco movement. Of course, there were still the bands and artists that continued to speak of the ills of society, typically characterized by the punk music in the latter part of the decade. Although the rebellious idea had died down shortly following Woodstock in 1969, there were still many people that disagreed with the establishment and the way the country was being run. Most people, though, were just looking for another way to vent their frustrations, which helped to give rise to the fun that disco music provided. The 1970's was not a unique decade in terms of creating innovations in musical styles and genres, but it was unique in that it was a musical bridge connecting the hippie lifestyle of the 1960s with the characteristic yuppie lifestyle that was about to occur in the 1980s.

Popular Music Genres of the 1970's
Disco/Club
Progressive Rock
Punk Rock/New Wave
Funk & Soul
The Bee Gees, Gloria Gaynor, ABBA, K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Yvonne Elliman, Thelma Houston, The Village People, Donna Summer, Chic, The Jacksons, Diana Ross Kansas, Pink Floyd, Rush, Electric Light Orchestra, Yes, Genesis, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Supertramp, Queen, Grand Funk Railroad New York Dolls, Patti Smith, The Ramones, Blondie, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Buzzcocks, Generation X, The Misfits, The Cars, Talking Heads, David Bowie Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament-Funkadelic, Rufus & Chaka Khan, Kool & the Gang, The Isley Brothers, The Commodores, The Jackson 5, The Ohio Players, Earth, Wind & Fire, Chic, James Brown

Disco and Dance Music

If ever a musical style defined a decade, Disco was the definition of the 1970s. Although its popularity was relatively short-lived, the genre hosted a great deal of songs and artists that people are still dancing to today and had a large influence on the fashions of the decade, too. Van McCoy's "The Hustle" has often been referred to as the definitive disco track and many people say it was the first disco song created. Gloria Gaynor also enjoyed disco popularity with her anthem "I Will Survive." The Bee Gees also helped to define the disco genre with their hit "Jive Talkin'" and their blockbuster "Stayin' Alive" is often synonymous with the disco musical era. The Village People’s "YMCA" and "Macho Man" also helped to add to the popularity of this style of music. This style of music became so popular that well respected artists like Rod Stewart and Diana Ross jumped on the bandwagon by adding Disco elements to their new music or creating their own disco albums. Unfortunately, it did not take long for the public to see disco's silliness and commercialization - something that they had just rebelled against a few years earlier. Its lack of attention to musical significance helped add to its downfall after only a short time of popularity. When disco fell from grace, it fell fast, and many radio stations held public events dedicated to ridding the world of disco music with symbolic album burnings. Youths rebelled against the genre as well and it was not uncommon to see a few music fans sporting "Disco Sucks" T-shirts.

The Bee Gees Saturday Night Fever Gloria Gaynor I Will Survive ABBA Album Cover Village People Macho Man



Progressive Rock

Progressive rock was another popular genre during the 1970s. This type of music was typically characterized by rock music combined with another genre, such as classical or opera, to create a hybrid genre. Songs from this genre were often longer and bands tended to be more spontaneous and experimental while they were playing live. Many progressive rock albums were also concept albums, meaning that they followed a theme throughout the entire album or series of albums. The band Pink Floyd were known for their concept albums and were considered some of the best in the genre. Their concept album – The Wall – was a psychedelic album that explored the loneliness that one feels due to the metaphorical walls that they build up around them. This 1979 album used philosophical lyrics and a variety of musical styles throughout the songs to exhibit the message that they were trying to get across to the listeners. Jethro Tull was another British rock band that also created concept albums for their audience. They had a unique vocal style combined with the dreamlike sound of a flute to help the listener immerse themselves into the songs that are being played. Their "Thick as a Brick" album was composed of essentially one track on two side of the album. This track consisted of repeating themes and movements that helped to mesmerize the listener. They also used a variety of genres to create their one-of-a-kind sound, including blues, jazz, rock, and classical music. Other bands that became popular in the progressive rock genre included Rush, Queen, Grand Funk Railroad, Kansas, and Electric Light Orchestra.

Electric Light Orchestra Face the Music Jethro Tull Thick as a Brick Rush Fly By Night Supertramp Breakfast in America

Punk Rock and New Wave

The punk rock genre also emerged in the 1970s. This was a style that continued on the legacy of the 1960s but with a more upbeat and harder style. Heavy guitar riffs and more decibels helped to motivate those who were still upset about the status quo in the country. The Ramones are often referred to as the original punk band. This band consisted of a group of family members that based their image on The Beatles but their music was much harder. On the lists that rate the greatest rock bands of all-time, The Ramones are often listed as #2, behind only The Beatles at #1. Their song "I Wanna Be Sedated" became a generational anthem depicting the feeling that society is so screwed up that the only way to get through life with your sanity is to be sedated for the entire experience. The Sex Pistols also enjoyed a short-lived success as a punk rock band of the 1970s. Band members heavily used drugs and alcohol which eventually led to their dissolution shortly after forming, but not before releasing two hit albums, "God Save the Queen" and "Never Mind the Bullocks", that created a wave of rebellion throughout the United States and the UK. New Wave, similar to punk music but more radio friendly and with an electronic flair, also emerged in the late seventies and went on to become a predominant genre in the next decade. Bands like The Cars and Blondie straddled the line between punk rock and new wave music and started producing hits in the late 1970s. Some popular punk and new wave bands from the seventies included the New York Dolls, The Clash, Generation X, Talking Heads, David Bowie, and Patti Smith.

The Cars Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks The Ramones Blondie Parallel Lines

Funk and Soul Music

Funk music came out of the R&B, Jazz and Soul music of the late 1960s after artists added more beats and psychedelic tones to their songs. This genre saw the height of its popularity encompass the 1970s with artists like James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, Sly and the Family Stone and Kool and the Gang dominating the music charts. Funk was known for its danceable beats, strange costumes, outrageous personalities and often socially conscious lyrics. James Brown, "the hardest working man in show business", is often thought of as the creator of funk music and his 1967 album Cold Sweat is thought to feature some of the first main stream funk songs. Brown developed the funk sound into the 1970s and paved the way for many of the other popular funk groups like Sly and the Family Stone to make it big in the decade. Funk music was known to have no boundaries with psychedelic sounds coming from the likes of George Clinton and his ragtag gang of freaky musicians in Parliament to a more soulful and smooth yet funky sound coming from Rufus and Chaka Khan. In the middle of the seventies many artists, including James Brown and the group Earth, Wind and Fire, added some elements of the popular disco genre to their funk albums and saw even greater mass appeal.

Earth, Wind and Fire Kool and the Gang Ladies Night Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan Parliament Mothership Connection


**It is important to note that these were not the only popular genres during the decade. For example, Singers and Songwriters were quite popular in the 1970s as well, with artists like Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, Elton John, Carole King and Billy Joel, sharing time in the spotlight too. Their music reflected deep themes with simpler musical arrangements and many of these artists had been prominant in the songwriting scene but relatively unknown as they were not often the face of their own music. The seventies more than any other decade gave them a chance to go solo and gain recognition.**

Top Songs of the 1970s

Popular songs from the Seventies Decade, arranged by year but in no particular order. Do you remember listening to these songs on the radio?

1970 1971
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon and Garfunkel
  • (They Long to Be) Close to You - The Carpenters
  • American Woman - The Guess Who
  • I'll Be There - The Jackson 5
  • War - Edwin Starr
  • Joy to the World - Three Dog Night
  • Take Me Home, Country Roads - John Denver
  • Maggie May - Rod Stewart
  • Me and Bobby McGee - Janis Joplin
  • It's Too Late/I Feel the Earth Move - Carole King
1972 1973
  • Lean On Me - Bill Withers
  • The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face - Roberta Flack
  • Heart of Gold - Neil Young
  • American Pie - Don McLean
  • Brandy (You're A Fine Girl) - Looking Glass
  • Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree - Tony Orlando and Dawn
  • Bad, Bad Leroy Brown - Jim Croce
  • You're So Vain - Carly Simon
  • Let's Get It On - Marvin Gaye
  • Crocodile Rock - Elton John
1974 1975
  • The Way We Were - Barbra Streisand
  • Band On the Run - Paul McCartney and Wings
  • The Loco-Motion - Grand Funk Railroad
  • Come and Get Your Love - Redbone
  • Jungle Boogie - Kool and The Gang
  • Love Will Keep Us Together - The Captain and Tennille
  • Shining Star - Earth, Wind and Fire
  • Rhinestone Cowboy - Glen Campbell
  • Black Water - Doobie Brothers
  • Fame - David Bowie
1976 1977
  • December, 1963 (Oh What A Night) - The Four Seasons
  • A Fifth of Beethoven - Walter Murphy and The Big Apple Band
  • Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen
  • Afternoon Delight - Starland Vocal Band
  • Don't Go Breaking My Heart - Elton John and Kiki Dee
  • Dancing Queen - ABBA
  • Hotel California - Eagles
  • Don't Leave Me This Way - Thelma Houston
  • Best of My Love - The Emotions
  • I'm Your Boogie Man - K.C. and the Sunshine Band
1978 1979
  • Stayin' Alive - The Bee Gees
  • Three Times a Lady - The Commodores
  • If I Can't Have You - Yvonne Elliman
  • Just the Way You Are - Billy Joel
  • Grease - Frankie Valli
  • My Sharona - The Knack
  • Y.M.C.A. - The Village People
  • Le Freak - Chic
  • Hot Stuff - Donna Summer
  • Reunited - Peaches and Herb