ABBA performing in Lithuania in 2018

ABBA performing in Lithuania in 2018 (Photo by Vytautas Kielaitis on Shutterstock)

Ah, the ’70s. The years of “Ziggy Stardust,” “Rumours,” The Beatles breaking up, and arguably a time when some of the best music was written and recorded. With the height of disco, funk, and rock and roll, the ’70s birthed an era of songwriters and bands that is unlike any other time in music history. When a song from the ‘decade comes on, you can almost hear in its inherent sound what era it is from. This is why coming up with the best songs of the 1970s is no easy task. However, we do love a challenge here at StudyFinds. 

When one thinks of the ’70s, it’s hard not to think about all the amazing musicians that came out of that time period and what their music made us feel. Just about everyone has a song that instantly puts a smile on their face. Some tunes strike a person’s happiness chord easier than others, and in fact, a new survey says there’s one song from the ’70s that hits that note better than any other. A poll of 1,300 adults ranging in age from 30 to 55 has crowned the Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky” the happiest song ever. Despite dozens of other classics vying for the title, the 1978 hit was selected by a fifth of all respondents.

Humans aren’t the only people bopping along to songs from that era, though. Another study actually found that dogs can be particular when it comes to the type of music they prefer. And what makes them the happiest? Well, it turns out that among the genres the pup enjoyed, one was soft rock, a prevalent genre for the ’70s decade. So, the next time you want to make your dog’s night, throw on a little Fleetwood Mac or The Eagles and see their reaction! 

Ready to take a trip down memory lane? When it comes down to the best of the best, though, let us at StudyFinds do the leg work as we research across multiple platforms to bring you today’s ranking of the top five best songs of the 1970s. Don’t see your favorite on the list? No worries! We would love to hear from you and your go-to bop in the comments below!

Queen CDs
Queen CDs (Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash)

The List: Best Songs of the 1970s, According to Music Experts

1. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen (1975)

You didn’t think any other song could be number one than Queen’s epic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” did you? Not only is it one of the best songs of the ’70s, it’s also one of the greatest of all time. “This six-minute suite, featuring several sections without a chorus: an intro, a ballad segment, an operatic passage, a hard rock part, and a reflective coda, is often voted the greatest song ever made. It enjoyed a new lease of life in the US in 1992, after its headbanging use in the movie Wayne’s World,” adds Smooth Radio.

“This operatic rock masterpiece, released in 1975, is an actual work of art. Freddie Mercury’s stunning vocals and the band’s innovative harmonies create a musical journey that takes the listener on a rollercoaster of emotions. The song’s structure, featuring multiple sections and complex vocal arrangements, was groundbreaking at the time and remained a testament to Queen’s musical genius,” raves HelloMusicTheory.

“The song has been number one twice in the United Kingdom. In 1975 it was number one, and after Freddie Mercury died in 1991. Brian May stated that the song took only three weeks to record, and before the recording, the song was all in Freddie’s mind. The hit track represents what all musical pieces should be. It embodies the capacity and determination to push limits and come up with a beautiful piece to bring people together even years later,” explains Music Grotto.

2. “Dancing Queen” by ABBA (1976)

Since 1976, audiences have been entertained by the notion that they are the “Dancing Queen. Young and sweet, only 17.” From ABBA Gold to the “Mamma Mia” soundtrack, this song hits the top spot every time. “‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA is a disco-pop masterpiece that has become one of the most beloved and recognizable songs of the 70s. The song features a catchy melody, upbeat tempo, and unforgettable chorus that will have you singing and dancing along in no time. ‘Dancing Queen’ is a testament to ABBA’s songwriting and musical prowess, and it remains a favorite of fans and critics alike,” comments Singersroom.

“Firing off with that disco-infused piano medley, this immediate hit has become a beloved dance floor anthem for generations. The Swedish group’s uplifting coming-of-age track has become a longstanding familiar favorite that extends far beyond Mamma Mia,” describes Vinyl Mapper.

“Arguably their most popular and famous song, it is also one of the greatest disco tunes of all time. Agnetha Fältskog said of the song: ‘It’s often difficult to know what will be a hit. The exception was ‘Dancing Queen.’ We all knew it was going to be massive.’ Benny Andersson agreed, calling it ‘one of those songs where you know during the sessions that it’s going to be a smash hit,’” writes Smooth Radio.

3. “Hotel California” by The Eagles (1976)

Ah, the “Hotel California.” I hear, “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” “This hauntingly beautiful song tells the story of a weary traveler’s experience at the mysterious ‘Hotel California.’ With its memorable guitar riff and intricate vocal harmonies, the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ is a masterpiece of 1970s rock. The song’s lyrics have been the subject of much speculation and interpretation, with many theories about its meaning. But there’s no denying the impact of the song’s imagery and atmosphere,” raves HelloMusicTheory.

“The 1970s top rock songs also have to include ‘Hotel California’ by the Eagles. The song is a title track from the iconic album of the same name released in 1977, and it was awarded the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1978,” explains MidderMusic.

“One of the most powerful and intense songs of this lifetime or any other! It makes me cry and sends incredible energy to my brain. This masterpiece will never be duplicated! Don Felder was the guitar genius in this song… the ending solo with Don Felder and Joe Walsh is one of the best moments of 70’s rock that’s gone timeless,” adds Return Of Rock.

4. “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin (1971)

Released right at the start of the ’70s, “Stairway to Heaven” has a long and illustrious history of popularity. So much so it’s hard to believe the song was never actually released as a single in the U.S. “FM radio in the 1970s praised music with enormous length, breadth, and depth – even if the listener had to be a little stoned to appreciate it. And no band had more control over the airwaves than Led Zeppelin,” raves SiachenStudios.

Jimmy Page (right) on stage with Robert Plant (left)
Jimmy Page (right) on stage with Robert Plant (left) (“Jimmy Page with Robert Plant 2 – Led Zeppelin – 1977” by Jim Summaria, is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.)

“Led Zeppelin is another group that produced numerous hits throughout their career, but ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is easily one of the best ’70s rock songs by far. It provides an impactful message with dynamic instrumentals to match. Even fifty years later, the song is still respected by multiple generations and is a very nostalgic jam for those who lived through its initial release,” notes Tone Start.

“If a classic rock radio station ever polls its listeners, this bananas blend of bustling hedgerows and head-caving guitar tends to tussle it out with ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ near the top. We all love a grand folly, and if you can get through Robert Plant’s hey-nonnying about pipers and May Queens, Jimmy Page has reserved a screaming balls-out axe fest just for you,” adds Return Of Rock.

5. “Heroes” by David Bowie (1977)

It would actually be a crime to have a best songs of the 70s list and not include David Bowie. The man was a visionary of his time who was always experimenting with his music, and “Heroes” is no different. “Written by Bowie with Brian Eno, ‘Heroes’ is a gorgeous, howling tribute to love in all its proud defiance – and specifically to the snog between producer Tony Visconti and his new, secret girlfriend. Bowie reportedly stood at the back of the room to get that distant shout just right in the song’s final third as he battles for space with Robert Fripp’s wonderful distorted guitar,” describes NME.

David Bowie at the Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, May 6, 1978
David Bowie at the Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, May 6, 1978 (Photo by Arthur D’Amario III on Shutterstock)

“‘Heroes’ is an anomaly of Bowie’s Berlin era, really the only song to even resemble a traditional single. Yet remarkably, it still plays by the rules of his German exile, pulsing with a steady, hypnotic motorik beat and scrapping early plans for brass and string embellishments in favor of Robert Fripp’s majestic feedback drone and Brian Eno’s chugging oscillators. The only exception is Bowie’s lead vocal, which builds like a Broadway show-stopper from conversational to unhinged at a time when the singer was so uncomfortable with his voice, he barely put vocals on most of his tracks. By the point when Bowie’s vocal cords gloriously give way on “Nothing will drive them away!” the track has become so nakedly emotional, it’s no wonder he chose to hide behind those ironic quotations,” adds Pitchfork.

“Bowie had so many iterations in the 1970s, from the glam rock Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke, that it makes it especially difficult to choose just one of his songs. We’re going with where he branched out into a more experimental direction with famous collaborator Brian Eno. ‘Heroes’ is one of the most beautiful rock songs ever recorded. ‘We can be heroes/just for one day,’ indeed,” concludes Music In Minnesota.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Jilly Hite

Janelle is a freelance writer from New York. Her writing focuses on parenting, tech, business, interior design, education, and telling people’s inspiring stories. Janelle has written for Mustela and Newton Baby and has bylines in Pregnant Chicken, Syracuse Woman Magazine, the Baldwinsville Messenger, and Family Times Magazine. She holds a master’s degree in literacy from the State University of New York at Oswego.

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