Elton_John_-_Elton_John#6– Elton John – “Your Song” – (1970)

Isn’t it amazing that Elton John has been pumping out hits since 1970? This was actually from his second album and was a top ten hit in the U.S. It may not be his biggest chart success, but it remains one of his most loved songs and would make the cut of “signature songs” (because he doesn’t have just one). What I really love about it is the conversational tone that the lyrics take.

220px-LetItBe#7– The Beatles – “Get Back” – (1970)

Trying to pick a song off of Let It Be isn’t easy but this is my favorite track from the album. This album wasn’t exactly a happy one, and this upbeat rock song features the amazing Billy Preston – the only Beatles song to share credit with another performer. It was also a #1 hit.

VanMorrisonMoondance#8– Van Morrison – “Moondance” – (1970)

This song is absolutely marvelous (as is the night, apparently, for a moondance). The song is beautiful and among Van Morrison’s best. It’s jazzy and light and actually about the fall. It also happens to be one of the finest driving songs ever written: the perfect tune to drop the top on a cool, clear night and race under the stars. And no, the lyrics do not say that anything “whispers: Anne Heche.”

220px-Love_Grows#9– Edison Lighthouse – “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) ” – (1970)

A #1 in the U.K. (and #5 in the U.S.), “Love Grows” is a staple of Oldies radio. The song was originally recorded by some studio musicians but when it became a hit, they had to actually assemble a band. Strangely, two bands with the name Edison Lighthouse exist today. One guy has the rights to use the name in the U.K., another in the U.S.

James_Taylor_-_Sweet_Baby_James#10– James Taylor – “Sweet Baby James” – (1970)

One of James Taylor’s best songs, this was also the name of his second studio album. It was the album’s first single but it never charted – yet it is still one of his most loved songs. It was not written about himself, though, but rather his nephew and it’s pretty much just straight lullaby.

220px-MungoJerryElectronicallyTestedAlbumCover#11– Mungo Jerry – “In the Summertime” – (1971)

This album actually came out in 1971, but the single was released in 1970 – the same year it peaked on the charts. It hit #3 in the U.S. and #1 all over the world. This was easily the band’s biggest hit and was supposedly written in 10 minutes.

 

Simon_and_Garfunkel,_Bridge_over_Troubled_Water_(1970)#12– Simon & Garfunkel – “Cecilia” – (1970)

Bridge Over Troubled Water is a legendary album, so to be the chosen song off of that album is pretty big. This top five hit actually features a relatively strange instrument: a piano bench that Paul Simon’s brother was banging on during a party. They recorded it and then played it back and recorded the banging over the recording making a cool sound and, once in the studio, Simon looped a section of it for the backing sound in this song.

220px-Neilalbum#13 – Neil Diamond – “Cracklin’ Rosie” – (1970)

“Cracklin’ Rosie” was Neil Diamond’s first #1 hit in the U.S. and should be the de facto anthem of winos everywhere. It’s about wine and if you listen to the lyrics it’s wonderfully done. Proof Neil Diamond was a great songwriter in his prime.

Idesvehicle#14 – The Ides of March – “Vehicle” – (1970)

The Ides of March were an Illinois-based rock band that turned out this ridiculously funky horn-infused track in 1970. It only peaked at #2 on the Hot 100 but it is said to be the fastest-selling single in Warner Bros. history. 

220px-After_the_Gold_Rush#15 – Neil Young – “Southern Man” – (1970)

Is this Neil Young’s best solo work? Maybe. The song is a strong-worded tale of racism in the American South. It’s interesting how Canadians have such strong opinions on how America does everything incorrectly. Despite this, Neil Young is responsible for some of the greatest “American” songs of the era. This is also the song that inspired Lynyrd Skynyrd to write “Sweet Home Alabama.”

The_kinks_lola_versus_powerman_album#16 – The Kinks – “Lola” – (1970)

The Kinks are one of the most underrated bands of all time and this is one of their best songs. The song is actually about a man dancing with a man disguised as a woman. It was an unexpected hit (due to its strange subject matter). There was actually some backlash about it – which sounds ridiculous today, but whatever. Strangely, because it mentions “Coca-Cola” the song was banned by the BBC (so Ray Davies had to record alternate lyrics for the official single release). Good thing he did because it ended up as a #2 song in the U.K. and a top ten hit in the U.S.

UncleCharlieNittyGritty#17 – The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – “Mr. Bojangles” – (1970)

This country folk song is about a tap dancer. It was written by Jerry Jeff Walker and most successfully recorded by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, who took the song into the top 10 on the Hot 100. I would even go so far as to describe this song as “borderline pretty.”

James_Gang_-_James_Gang_Rides_Again#18 – James Gang – “Funk #49” – (1970)

Before Joe Walsh joined the Eagles, he was a member of James Gang, a band he joined in 1968. This is probably their biggest hit and Walsh left the band in 1971. It’s a classic rock staple and it peaked at #59 on the Hot 100 (so technically it was their third-biggest hit… but their most remembered).

Creedence_Clearwater_Revival_-_Pendulum#19 – Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Hey Tonight” – (1970)

CCR put out a ton of awesome hit songs in only three short years. 1970 was chock full of them but this is my favorite, even though it might not be the best (1969 was a better year for them anyway). This was the last album with the full CCR crew and the only single was a dual single: “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?/Hey Tonight.” Together, they peaked at #8. It’s a fun song.

Bluesimageopen#20 – Blues Image – “Ride Captain Ride” – (1970)

This song is kind of reminiscent of The Looking Glass’s “Brandy”. Maybe nautical-themed songs were just popular in the early 1970s, who knows. Blues Image was kind of a one-hit wonder with this #4 hit.

Ray_Stevens_-_Everything_Is_Beautiful#21 – Ray Stevens – “Everything Is Beautiful” – (1970)

Here we are with our final Top 21 countdown for the 1970s before we take a break for the summer and return with the 1960s. Ray Stevens is best remembered for comedic songs that border on novelty status like “The Streak.” But he actually had two #1 hits, “The Streak,” and this beautiful tune. Story time: I was once sitting in France eating dinner outside and I heard a bunch of kids singing something in French (that I couldn’t understand) to a strangely familiar tune. It was this. And it was a strange experience.

220px-ScorpionsCrazyWorldScorpions – “Wind of Change” – (1990)

It’s the whistling that gets you here and sucks you in. I always forget that the Scorpions are German and I usually forgot about this song. This is from that awful era of the late 1980s and the first few years of the 1990s where hair band ballads were still relevant and black and white music videos were all the rage. Here’s a famous one.

The_Cars_-_The_CarsThe Cars – “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” – (1978)

From the opening chords and lyrics you might think (see what I did there?) that this isn’t anything special – but the chorus is really what sells this song. It wasn’t a major hit (it wasn’t even technically released as a single) but it still receives airplay here and there.

220px-BeatlesforsaleThe Beatles – “No Reply” – (1964)

Okay, it’s apparently hard to find Beatles songs on YouTube. The video below sort of has the song, broken up by a bunch of weird, racist 60s cartoons. It’s not The Beatles’ best work, but it’s not terrible and is kind of underrated. 

220px-MarvinGayeWhat'sGoingOnalbumcover#1 – Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On” – (1971)

Listen to this and tell me Marvin Gaye wasn’t an incredible singer and songwriter (he co-wrote this one). The song was written about police brutality originally, but given the timely nature of its release it was the perfect song to sum up a lot of people’s feelings on Vietnam. Disappointingly, it only made it to #2 on the Hot 100, but it doesn’t matter because it remains of the greatest songs ever recorded.

 

RamMcCartneyalbumcover#2 – Paul & Linda McCartney – “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” – (1971)

The band Wings would not form until after this album was released, so it was technically a Paul McCartney solo album, though he did share credit with his wife, Linda. Not everyone loves this song, but I think it’s marvelous. From the sound effects to the split A/B layout of the track. Apparently, this song was multiple McCartney half-written tracks stitched together. Strange process, but it worked, propelling it to #1.

 

Whosnext#3 – The Who – “Wont Get Fooled Again” – (1971)

Who’s Next is one of the best albums of the 1970s and the best thing The Who ever did. It has some of their best songs on it, including this eight and a half minute epic of a rock song with a brilliant opening that makes a good number of people want to dramatically take off their sunglasses and peer into the distance like David Caruso on CSI: Miami, the show for which this was the theme song.

 


220px-Hollies_Distant_Light_LP#4 – The Hollies – “Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress)” – (1971)

The Hollies album Distant Light was released in the U.S. in 1972 but it came out in the U.K. in 1971. Additionally, the U.K. version of the song does not have the parenthetical title like the U.S. version does. This. Song. Rocks. Peaking at #2 on the Hot 100, it has a very recognizable guitar twang that is purposefully reminiscent of the style of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

 


220px-Poems,_Prayers_and_Promises#5 – John Denver – “Take Me Home, Country Roads” – (1971)

Well this spot was originally reserved for Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”… but that came out in 1969 (not sure what I was thinking). So I needed a replacement. It came down to “Me and Bobby McGee” or this. I made the right decision because the more you listen to John Denver (and the more you really listen to the songwriting) the better it gets. It was a #2 song on the Hot 100.


Don_McLean_-_American_Pie_(album)_Coverart#6 – Don McLean – “American Pie” – (1971)

Many people consider this among the greatest songs ever written. It’s Don McLean’s biggest (but not only) hit. Most know that the song has strong allusions to the death of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper on their plane or “The Day The Music Died.” Aside from that, the song has a lot of references to other pop culture events in the 1960s. It’s timeless.

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