220px-acloveAlice Cooper – “I’m Eighteen” – (1971)

This was Alice Cooper’s first top 40 hit – having been released as a single in the fall of 1970 ahead of the release of their third album, Love it to Death. Most of Alice Cooper’s early work seems like they were all written by someone in high school, including this temper-tantrum of a song about barely being an adult.

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.

 

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.

220px-Carole_King_-_Tapestry#7 – Carole King – “I Feel The Earth Move” – (1971)

From one of the greatest albums of the 1970s, Tapestry, we have one of Carole King’s best works. It was a #1 hit and has an almost jazzy upbeatness about it that set it apart. It’s, in a word, great.

220px-1971-tepts-sky#8 – The Temptations – “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” – (1971)

Imagination Week continues with a song so smooth that, with one exception, brought a halt to The Temptations string of hit records. Times were changing and that old 60s soul wasn’t selling quite the same – this was the final Temptations single to feature Eddie Kendricks. This #1 is one of their greatest songs.

51eeqai0WNL._SX300_#9 – Gene Wilder – “Pure Imagination” – (1971)

That’s right, this song sung by a brilliant comedic actor from one of his family films is one of the ten best songs of 1971. It was written for the film by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. Gene Wilder gives a solid performance on vocals to a whimsical tune. The song has the ability to just suck you out of reality and put you in a fantasy land. It’s magical.

 

James_Taylor_-_Mud_Slide_Slim_and_the_Blue_Horizon#10 – James Taylor – “You’ve Got a Friend” – (1971)

This James Taylor #1 hit was written by Carole King, who is more or less the female equivalent of James Taylor. Or is James Taylor the male equivalent of Carole King? It won two Grammy awards and remains one of James Taylor’s most popular and beloved songs. 

JethroTullAqualungalbumcover#11 – Jethro Tull – “Locomotive Breath” – (1971)

Jethro Tull is one of the strangest rock bands of all time. Their main man played the flute. Yet, this song is one of the greatest classic rock songs ever. It’s a mix of progressive rock and just plain, hard rock. They say that it is supposed to resemble a locomotive chugging along and they really nailed it.  


220px-The_Doors_-_L.A._Woman#12 – The Doors – “L.A. Woman” – (1971)

Not the biggest fan of the Doors, but this song is incredible. It’s their best album and probably their best track. Why were songs so long back in the 70s? It seems like half of the songs on this year’s list are over 7 minutes. “Mr. Mojo Risin'” would pass away a few months after this album’s release, making this song one of his final pieces of work. And what a good one. 

 

 


MI0001829389#13 – Tom Jones – “She’s a Lady” – (1971)

Tom Jones had nearly twice as many top 40 hits in the U.K. as he did in the U.S. But still, he had a few huge hits here, including this, his best work. It was actually written by Paul Anka. It has a great swinging 60s orchestral vibe and just spot on vocals. 


220px-Three_Dog_Night_-_Harmony#14 – Three Dog Night – “An Old Fashioned Love Song” – (1971)

This was a tough one. Three Dog Night was going to be on this list, but deciding between two awesome tracks on this album wasn’t easy. Ultimately, “An Old Fashioned Love Song” peaked one position higher (#4) on the Hot 100 than did “Never Been to Spain.” One thing interesting about this track is how meta it is… it describes itself as it is being sung.


220px-ImagineCover#16 – John Lennon – “Imagine” – (1971)

No, this is not our #1 song for 1971. It’s good, but like with everything John Lennon touched (and Yoko was there instead of another Beatle to bring it back to reality) it kind of reeks of pretension. It’s an amazing, beautiful song. It peaked at #3 in the U.S. and is the definitive John Lennon song – and that includes everything he did with the Beatles.


220px-Teaser_&_the_firecat#17 – Cat Stevens – “Morning Has Broken” – (1971)

You have to admit it’s a little weird that one of Cat Steven’s most fondly remembered recordings is based on a Christian hymn – especially since, you know, he changed his name to Yusuf Islam and found himself on the U.S.’s “No Fly” list. Anyway this song is nothing short of beautiful. Cat’s voice and the wonderful piano really make it come to life. It’s the perfect songs for spring being on the horizon.


Elton_John_-_Madman_Across_the_Water#18 – Elton John – “Tiny Dancer” – (1971)

You know 1971 was one helluva year for music when Led Zeppelin and Elton John check in at numbers 19 and 18 on your countdown. “Tiny Dancer” – which is not at all about Tony Danza – is the best song from Madman Across the Water – although “Levon” is pretty close (and pretty similar). This is one of those songs of Elton’s that people absolutely love and it wasn’t even a huge hit when it was released. It just gets better with time.


Led_Zeppelin_-_Led_Zeppelin_IV#19 – Led Zeppelin – “Rock and Roll” – (1971)

With one of the best, most recognizable beginnings in rock and roll, “Rock and Roll” is our choice from Led Zeppelin IV. Yes, it got chosen over “Stairway to Heaven.” It’s just awesome and has been used in what seems like a ton of advertisements over the past few years.


Paul_Revere_And_The_Raiders_-_Indian_Reservation#20 – The Raiders – “Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)” – (1971)

This awesome rock song by The Raiders (Paul Revere and the Raiders up until 1970) was a #1 hit in the U.S. It was recorded by a couple of artists prior to this band doing it, but they really did it. The lyrics are well done. The beat is kind of threatening – not often are there hit songs about a fairly sad part of American history… unless, you know, you’re Gordon Lightfoot.


the_fortunes-here_comes_that_rainy_day_feeling#21 – The Fortunes – “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” – (1971)

The Fortunes were a band from Birmingham that didn’t sound particularly British, at least not in this song, which was never actually even a hit in the U.S. (it peaked at #15 in the U.K.). The song is actually really nice and sounds like it could’ve been by a number of other bands of the period.

 

220px-Fragile#6 – Yes – “Roundabout” – (1971)

It always amazes me that this song was released as early as it was (1971 in the U.K., 1972 in the U.S.). It seems like something that would’ve come much later. But that bassline… if you’ve ever wondered “how do I make my bass the integral part of a song” – this. This is how you do that. It’s a pretty long song, but it’s one of Yes’ best-known works.

LogginsMessina-SittinInAlbumCover#11 – Loggins & Messina – “Danny’s Song” – (1971)

Ga! I was doing so well, every song up to this point had actually been from 1972. But this album came out in late 1971 and so did this single. This song was written by Kenny Loggins and recorded by another band before he and Jim Messina put it on their awesome album Sittin’ In –  which was supposed to be a Loggins solo album but producer Jim Messina kept providing backing vocals and guitar work and they teamed up and ended up rivaling Seals & Crofts for the crown of soft rock duo kings.

Stampeders_-_Against_The_Grain#14 – The Stampeders – “Sweet City Woman” – (1971)

Well, hell. I wasn’t even close on this one. Like way off. Oh well. Lead banjo is a beautiful thing and this group of Canadians use it to perfection. It was a top ten hit in the U.S. and features the lovely lyric: “She feeds me love and tenderness and macaroons.”