A decade that revolutionized the music industry, the 1970s gave birth to unforgettable tracks and singles that still resonate with music lovers today. From soulful melodies to funky beats, ‘70s music was full of hits that defined the era, spanning disco, funk, soul, and jazz. Put on your dancing shoes and get ready to groove!
“Stayin’ Alive” by Bee Gees (1977)
Kicking off our list is the iconic disco anthem “Stayin’ Alive” by Bee Gees. This infectious hit became the epitome of disco music with its catchy hooks and John Travolta’s electrifying dance moves. Written for the film Saturday Night Fever, the song encapsulates the exuberance and free-spiritedness of the disco movement with its pulsating beats and vibrant vocal harmonies. Bonus points: the 103 beats per minute song is now widely used in CPR first-aid training as the standard rhythm for chest compressions. Talk about a song that accomplishes what it preaches.
“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder (1972)
Stevie Wonder‘s “Superstition” blended funk music, rock, and soul to create a mesmerizing hit. With its unforgettable riff and powerful vocals, this song quickly rose to the #1 spot in U.S. Billboard Top 100 list. Its infectious groove and Wonder’s soulful delivery struck a chord with audiences worldwide, making it one of the greatest funk songs of all time.
“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor (1978)
A true anthem of resilience and empowerment, Gloria Gaynor‘s “I Will Survive” topped the disco scene when it first came out. Released during the peak of the disco craze, the song’s message of inner strength and determination resonated with listeners going through challenging times. “I Will Survive” quickly became an anthem for self-empowerment and a symbol of the fight for personal freedom.
“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye (1971)
Marvin Gaye‘s masterpiece, “What’s Going On,” tackled social and environmental issues, making it more than just a ‘70s soul song — it became a powerful statement of the times. Released during a period of social unrest and activism, the song’s poignant lyrics and Gaye’s emotive vocals addressed issues of war, racism, and environmental degradation. “What’s Going On” (from the eponymous album) has since become an enduring anthem for peace and a call for understanding.
“Le Freak” by Chic (1978)
No ‘70s playlist is complete without Chic‘s “Le Freak.” This funky and energetic tune became one of the best-selling singles in Atlantic Records’ history. Written as a response to being denied entry to Studio 54 in New York City, the song’s infectious rhythm and Nile Rodgers‘ slick guitar playing had audiences dancing the night away. “Le Freak” remains an emblem of disco’s hedonistic spirit and a symbol of the power of music to unite people on the dance floor. Moreover, the Library of Congress recognized its socio-cultural and artistic significance in 2018, choosing it for preservation in the National Recording Registry.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen (1975)
A groundbreaking fusion of rock, opera, and ballad, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen defied conventions and became an iconic rock anthem. With its intricate vocal arrangements, dramatic shifts in tempo, and Freddie Mercury’s emotive vocals, the song stood out among ‘70s rock songs and pushed the boundaries of what the genre could be. “Bohemian Rhapsody” illustrated the creativity and ambition of Queen, solidifying their place as one of the greatest rock bands in history.
“Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green (1971)
Al Green‘s soulful ballad, with its smooth vocals and romantic lyrics, became an instant classic for lovebirds of the ‘70s. The song’s heartfelt plea for love and commitment (lyrics include “Whatever you want to do/ Is all right with me / ‘Cause you make me feel so brand new/ And I want to spend my life with you”) resonated deeply with audiences, becoming a favorite for weddings and romantic occasions. “Let’s Stay Together” showcases Green’s incredible vocal talent and remains an enduring testament to the power of love and soulful music.
“Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry (1976)
This infectious funk-rock song by Wild Cherry became an instant hit, appealing to funk and rock music fans. Its groovy bassline and memorable chorus (“Play that funky music, white boy / Play that funky music right”) have kept it alive on dance floors for decades. The song exemplifies the cross-genre experimentation of the ‘70s, blending funk elements with a rock attitude to create an irresistible party anthem.
“September” by Earth, Wind & Fire (1978)
“September” by Earth, Wind & Fire brought a fusion of R&B, soul, and funk to the ‘70s music scene. Released as a tribute to Allee Willis, the song’s co-writer, “September” captures the spirit of celebration and camaraderie of the ‘70s disco era. The song’s infectious energy and lively instrumentation have made it a timeless classic loved by generations.
“Jungle Boogie” by Kool & the Gang (1973)
With its wild and energetic vibe, “Jungle Boogie” by Kool & the Gang perfectly touches on the funky-free spirit of the era. The song’s bold brass section, infectious rhythm, and dynamic vocals showcase the band’s mastery of funk and jazz fusion.
Celebrating hit songs from the ‘70s
The ‘70s were undoubtedly a golden era for music — whether you’re a fan of disco, funk, soul, or jazz, ‘70s hits will undoubtedly transport you back to a time when music was an unforgettable journey of rhythm and expression. The spirit of the period lives on through these unforgettable songs, reminding us that great music knows no bounds and can continue to inspire and move us decades later.