mi0000488311#3 – Louis Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World” – (1968)

Not sure I really need to say much about this song. It’s one of the prettiest songs ever recorded. Although originally released as a single in October of 1967, it didn’t appear on an album until 1970. Don’t ask why we’re included it in 1968. Armstrong rose to fame in the 1920s and to release this sort of landmark song in your late 60s is unbelievable. It doesn’t matter what genres you prefer, it’s hard to dislike this song.

220px-odessey_and_oracle#4 – The Zombies – “Time of the Season” – (1968)

This is one of the best examples of 1960s flower power psychedelic rock. I mean, just look at that album cover. This song almost never become a hit – the record company only released it after other singles from Odyssey and Oracle flopped and it went to #3 in the U.S. It’s simply one of the most “1960s” songs you can listen to.

1525119#13– Pacific Gas & Electric – “Staggolee” – (1970)

“Staggolee” can trace its roots back to 1911 when it was a song about a real life man’s murder. It was first recorded in 1923 as “Stack O’ Lee Blues” by Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians. The most well-known version is that of Lloyd Price (“Stagger Lee”) from 1958. It was a #1 in 1959. This altogether differently-titled version is my personal favorite. Blues rock at its best.

220px-LittleGreenBag#16– George Baker Selection – “Little Green Bag” – (1970)

This song was written and recorded in 1969 (and may have been released as a single that year?) but the album came out in 1970. The very beginning of this song is absolute gold. It was used in Reservoir Dogs, which really helped its popularity 20+ years after its initial release. But it did hit #21 in 1970.

All_Things_Must_Pass_1970_cover#1– George Harrison – “My Sweet Lord” – (1970)

Paul McCartney may have been the most talented, but George Harrison was my favorite Beatle. And stuff like this is the reason why. “My Sweet Lord” was a #1 hit in the U.S. The song is actually written in praise of the Hindu god Krishna and the Hare Krishna chant is featured prominently. The people who are thought to have played on the studio recording of this song include Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, and Eric Clapton. It’s like the original Wilbury song. It’s one of the most beautiful popular songs of all time, and thus why it tops our list of songs from 1970.

LaylaCover#2– Derek & The Dominos – “Layla” – (1970)

I can’t stress it enough: Just remember, no matter how good you are at what you do, you’ll never be as good as Eric Clapton at what he does. Here are the major bands Clapton has been a part of: The Yardbirds, Cream, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, Derek & The Dominos, Blind Faith, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. Not to mention his illustrious solo career.

This band was short-lived, they were only around in 1970 and 1971 and kind of seemed like a vehicle to release this epic track. They only release one album and were made up of a lot of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. This was a top ten hit upon release and Clapton would take it to #12 in 1992/1993 after doing it on MTV’s Unplugged.

220px-Instantk#3– John Lennon – “Instant Karma!” – (1970)

Pretentious alert! This is John Lennon’s best solo work, but it’s still reeks of that whole “artistry” thing that irritates me about him so much. Here’s why: in the U.K. the song was titled “Instant Karma” and was credited to Lennon/Ono with the Plastic Ono Band. In the U.S., the song was called “Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)” (because U.S. audiences apparently need their titles dumbed down, and it was credited to John Ono Lennon. I can see why people hate Yoko so much. Despite all of this, this remains an incredible song.

Crosby,_Stills,_Nash_&_Young_-_Deja_Vu#4– Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – “Woodstock” – (1970)

Okay, there’s a lot to say about this one. First off, choosing a song from any CSN or CSNY album is a toughie – even if it is a cover. And this one is: it was originally done by Joni Mitchell but because Joni Mitchell’s voice is ear-grating at best and CSNY perfected vocal harmony better than just about anyone this side of the Beach Boys, we are going with their version.

Then you have what this song means – what it represents. Graham Nash was dating Joni Mitchell and CSNY had just performed at the Woodstock festival (which is an incredible story for another day, but hint: it was their second ever performance as a quartet, which is incredible, even if Neil Young was a complete douche about the whole thing). So Mitchell wrote the song and CSNY took it to #11 in the U.S. The song was used in the credits for the film Woodstock (which, fun fact, Martin Scorsese actually worked on).

So what does it mean? This song is the sum of the 1960s. If you look at Woodstock as the culmination of everything that had been building in a decade, this sums it up. But it does so solemnly: the 1960s were over. This was the 70s. It’s the perfect transition song between two times – even if the spirit of the 60s was alive well into the 70s, the 60s themselves were complete. Not to oversell it, but t’s a huge song. 

 

 

220px-Three_Dog_Night_-_It_Ain't_Easy#5– Three Dog Night – “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” – (1970)

This song was originally recorded by Eric Burdon & The Animals but the vocals in this version are superior to almost anything Eric Burdon ever set eyes on (no offense to Eric). In fact, the song was written by Randy Newman and you can almost hear Cory Wells mocking Newman’s singing style in his delivery. It is funky, groovy and just spot on awesome. 

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.

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.


paranoid#15 – Black Sabbath – “War Pigs” – (1970)

Crap. This album came out in late 1970 and this song was never released as a single… not sure why it ended up on our 1971 list. At any rate, this is the best song from Paranoid. It’s an anti-war song – an obvious one, which isn’t something that was always readily apparent around the time it was released when seemingly every other song (regardless of what it sounded like) was labeled an “anti-war” song by its performer. Oh, and the air raid siren in thi song is at once creepy and awesome.

B.B. King – “Chains and Things” – (1970)

Let’s start by all agreeing that a guitar made out of a watermelon would be delicious. Indianola Mississippi Seeds was B.B. King’s 18th (!) studio album and it’s some of his finest work. The album only had eight tracks, and this was one of three charting singles. It reached #45 on the Pop Singles chart and #6 on the even-racist-for-1970 Black Singles chart (the highest position of any song on the album). Another reason this album is amazing? The people who played on it: B.B. King, Leon Russell, Carole King, and Joe Walsh, among others.