The 70s were marked by the hippie movement, which spilled over from the USA to Europe. With bell-bottoms, headbands, and Jesus slippers were equipped every man, who thought something of himself to impress the female world. The ladies were not stingy with their charms and showed buttocks and legs with the hot pants that had become socially acceptable.
Leather jackets were all the rage, and block-heeled shoes paved the way for many generations to come.
Music from the 1970s was a mix of many different genres that battled for supremacy during the decade. Songs by AC/DC (Highway To Hell), Bruce Springsteen (Born To Run), or Led Zeppelin (Stairway To Heaven) made rock one of the biggest genres in the 70s.
In the pop field, the Swedish pop group ABBA has started an unparalleled rise and has already, during their active period, counted among the commercially most successful music artists worldwide. Almost every song reached top positions in the singles charts.
Michael Jackson started his impressive solo career in the 70s, and many other artists of color brought soul, funk, and disco rhythms to the music charts. In 1976 the punk movement began and obtained u. a. the 70s hit “God Save The Queen” by the “Sex Pistols” into the living rooms at home.
In addition to international stars, German singers such as Peter Maffay with the song (So Bist Du) or Vicky Leandros (Ich Hab’ Die Liebe Geseh’n) established themselves in the music scene.
The following list contains a colorful mix of the most popular 70s hits.
(At the end of the article, we have created a Spotify playlist for you with all the songs listed here.)
1. Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody from 1975
Queen’s first number one hit should never have existed in the eyes of the record company. EMI found the piece eight minutes too long and unsuitable for radio. Thanks to the music gods, the band prevailed and gave the world one of the best and most successful 70s hits.
Some voices claim the track is one of the songs best of all time, but we leave that to your judgment. In any case, the song broke all records and continues to break them through the film of the same name about Freddy Mercury’s life, which was awarded several Oscars in 2019. The song topped the charts worldwide for several weeks in its release year but kept making comebacks.
For example, after the singer’s death, or after “Bohemian Rhapsody” played a central role in the 90s movie “Wayne’ World” and not least now and today by the new film adaptation. Who wants to live forever? You are, Freddie, darling!
2. Led Zeppelin with Stairway to Heaven from 1971
Undoubtedly one of the best and most iconic songs of the 1970s that still holds up today. Jimmy Page’s guitar solo on the Gibson EDS-1275 “Doubleneck” (a guitar with two necks, the upper neck is strung with 12 strings) shaped generations of guitarists. The band itself attained immortality via the stairway to heaven.
Lyrics lovers get their money’s worth but should not even start more detailed investigations. Neither the always satanic hidden messages can be found (not even when playing the record backward) nor the drug-soaked testimonials of the singer have been put on paper here. Let’s take “Stairway to Heaven” for what it is – one of the very best songs of all time.
3. Bruce Springsteen with Born to Run from 1974
One of the 70s hits that you recognize after two seconds and for the next two days as an Earworm retains. The Boss himself has also kept the song over the years – as a life motto! The song from the LP of the same name marked the breakthrough in Springsteen’s career.
Since his debut album “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” could only excite the critics, but not the masses, the commercial success of the third album came as welcome as it was surprising. After that, things went steadily uphill for the man of letters from New Jersey. Springsteen is one of the most successful music stars of all time.
Who knows his lyrics and music – so well deserved!
4. David Bowie with Heroes from 1977
This piece of music history was written during Bowie’s time in Berlin. In a recording studio located less than 200 meters from the Berlin Wall. According to his account, the singer maintained intense eye contact with the stationed border guards, who were constantly on the alert to fire.
Bowie processes in this piece his impressions, which he could collect in this particular time. Both a German and a French version of the song exist and have made it onto the album “Heroes. “Heroes” is in no way inferior to its English counterpart and is worth listening to (like almost everything by Bowie). Even if the song was not a real chart success in its time, it undoubtedly belongs to the great legacy of the now-deceased artist.
5. John Lennon with Imagine from 1971
Rolling Stone Magazine wrote about Lennon’s solo work: “It is the greatest musical gift to the world”. The song is one of the most covered and most played songs of all time.
The song has long since been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall. The real accolades, however, are probably that “Imagine” became the anthem of the peace movement worldwide and still touches people deeply today, almost 50 years after it reached number one in England and the U.S. Sung together, the song transcends boundaries, both physical and psychological, fulfilling exactly the vision of its creator – the great pacifist and genius John Lennon.
You may say he’s a dreamer, but he’s not the only one, I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.
6. Pink Floyd with Shine On You Crazy Diamond from 1978
The song from the world-famous “Wish you were here” record is a tribute to the band’s former founding member Syd Barrett. The latter left Pink Floyd already in 1968 because of mental disorders, but not least because of his enormous drug excesses. Lines like “Remember when you were young?/You shone like the sun” followed by lyrics like “Now there’s a look in your eyes/Like black holes in the sky” describe the mental collapse of the former creative head of this virtuoso troupe.
The song consists of nine parts; only the singing starts in the fourth part. A composition like a modern opera.
7. Neil Young with Heart of Gold from 1971
Young’s only number one hit in America, but only one of many great hits, made music history. Bob Dylan, a confessed Neil Young fan, criticized the song for sounding too much like Dylan.
Years later, he admitted that he was a little jealous that Young had written this Dylan-style masterpiece and that the old master hadn’t come up with the idea himself.
8. Bob Marley & The Wailers with No Woman, No Cry from 1975
To finally clear up a big misunderstanding: The title does not mean – No woman, no whining, but: No Woman. Don’t cry (please).
Marley and his childhood friend Vincent Ford, with whom he often composed together, have been sitting in the courtyard of a soup kitchen in Kingston, Jamaica, in the evening and overheard an argument. The quarreling and crying woman to the consolation, the song was written without further ado, which could never really win the charts for itself, but the fans for it all the more.
9. Abba with Dancing Queen from 1976
The four Swedes rarely lacked success, but they achieved, astonished even the cool Scandinavians with this hit. With over six million copies sold worldwide and number one placements in 16 countries around the world, this song ushered in a new era: Disko! There was dancing and singing, hair swinging.
Lots of makeup, even more polyester, but most of all: a perfect time. To this day, Queens dance to Dancing Queen and know: You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life.
10. Rolling Stones with Angie from 1973
The most successful single of the Stones in Europe is and remains Angie. Myths and conspiracy theories entwine among fans about the true identity of Angie.
Was it Anita Pallenberg, girlfriend of Keith Richards at that time? Was it Angela Bowie, first wife of David Bowie? Or was it Marianne Faithfull, with whom Jagger had been involved a few years earlier? The truth is probably a mixture of all the above, including Richard’s daughter named Angela.
Number one in ten countries of the world, including the USA, England, and Australia. Angie was another milestone on the way band in the music Olympus.
11. Jackson Five with I’ll Be There from 1970
Michael Jackson himself, who was 12 years old when the single was released, said of this song that it finally showed the public that the Jackson Five could do more than just shallow bubblegum pop. He was to be proved right. “I’ll be there” replaced Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” as the most successful single ever released on Motown Records, and held the record until Lionel Richie and Diana Ross’ 81 duets “Endless Love.”
12. George Harrison with My Sweet Lord from 1970
With this first post-Beatles song, Harrisons delivers a hymn to the Hare Krishna religion, full of sunny spirituality that reflected hope not only for a post-Fab Four world but also for the new decade, even though the hippie dream was over. In eight verses, in this musical prayer, none other than Eric Clapton takes over on guitar and Harrison’s old Beatles buddy Ringo Starr on drums.
No wonder the song became a worldwide hit.
13. Fleetwood Mac with Go Your Own Way from 1977
The singer Lindsey Buckingham processes through the music the Separation from his bandmate Stevie Nicks. “If I could, maybe I’d give you my world”. That lovely message aside, Buckingham also hid a dig or two at his ex-girlfriend in the composition.
Nicks, the singer of Fleetwood Mac, had to perform these “niceties” on stage night after night. The blonde beauty was not impressed, but the fans rewarded the song’s honesty with gigantic sales figures.
14. The Police with Roxanne from 1978
There are countless 70s songs about love, but probably only this one about love for a prostitute. If you wear headphones, you can hear singer Sting laughing at the song’s beginning.
During the studio recording, Gordon Sumner, his birth name, accidentally sat down on the pia№ Both the piano sound and the laughter were left in the recording for the album. The original release year is 1978; since Roxanne didn’t even make the charts that year, the following is considered the release date.
Persistence pays off, the track is featured on every greatest hits CD by the band to date. At the Police reunion after more than 30 years, “Roxanne” was the first song played.
15. Rod Stewart with Maggie May from 1971
The music for Stewart’s first time. Yes, exactly. To that first time.
According to Scotsman, it took place in 1961 at the Beaulieu Jazz Festival. While the lady’s name is fictitious, the content is accurate. The rock star’s relationship with a significantly older woman is described in this first of Rod Stewart’s many ’70s hits. The singer himself did not trust his composition and did not expect much from it.
For once, however, he listened to his record company, which had correctly recognized the potential. “Maggie May” went to number one in the USA, England, Australia, Canada. In many other countries, the song made it into the Top Ten.
16. Billy Joel with Piano Man from 1973
Joel’s first big hit was to accompany him for the rest of his great career. The nickname Piano Man has caught on and pays tribute to one of the best and most successful 70’s songs and to Billy Joel’s outstanding piano skills.
Hardly any other song is played so often in bars, no amateur pianist who can’t at least play the chorus.
17. Lynyrd Skynyrd with Sweet Home Alabama from 1974
Without Neil Young’s somewhat too sweeping attack on the southern states, this great hit wouldn’t exist at all. In response to Young’s comments, Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote in their Southern anthem:
“Well, I heard Mister Young sing about her
Well, I heard ol’ Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow”
But there were never any real disputes between the artists. Young congratulated on the successful comeback and the band’s biggest hit.
18. The Bee Gees with Stayin Alive from 1978
Unlikely you can listen to the song without seeing the Gibb brothers dancing with John Travolta in your mind’s eye. A generation of young men squeezed into too-tight pants, which may have caused the performers to reach the extremely high notes as well.
You might even giggle a little when you hear the hit today, but don’t forget, it shot straight to number one on the Billboard charts back in the day, and they never lie, as we all know.
19. AC/DC with Highway to Hell from 1979
This hit is indelibly linked to the band, has entered the vernacular, and is known to every. The song hit like a bomb back then…you would think so.
Far from it: #30 in Germany and an even more modest #47 in the U.S. Charts do lie sometimes.
20. The Sex Pistols with Anarchy in the UK from 1976
The Sex Pistols’ first single brought unrest to British phlegmatism. This 1970 protest song is incendiary noise, defiance, and rage, an apt overture and a sneering threat to an oppressive institution like the monarchy embodied at the time.
With companions like the Ramones and The Clash, the Sex Pistols got punk heard and made the music genre accessible to a larger group.
Places 21-108 of the best 70s hits:
Each song is linked to the corresponding music video via its title.
70s Hits Spotify Playlist:
In its heterogeneity, this list is emblematic of its decade. In the 1970s, disco, punk, rock and pop, metal and funk mingled. The diversity of this decade was the cornerstone for the mixing of styles, opening hearts, eyes, and ears.
In addition, the 70s brought us beautiful music and hits that even half a century later has not lost a bit of their luster. If you now have an insatiable desire to listen to every single song you’ve read about, then…we’re happy and wish you lots of fun!