Harry_Chapin_-_Verities_&_BalderdashHarry Chapin – “Cat’s in the Cradle” – (1974)

Harry Chapin died in a car crash about seven years after this song was released, so he had more time to write another #1 hit, but this would be it. It was a Grammy-nominated hit and has will forever be known as that sad song about father-son relationships.


220px-Five-A-Side_(album)#1 – Ace – “How Long” – (1974)

One of the best soft rock songs ever, “How Long” was a #3 hit in the U.S. for Ace, of Sheffield, England. It was their biggest hit. Those smooth lyrics are delivered by Paul Carrack, who would later helm Mike + The Mechanics. The song is actually about the band’s bassist, who had secretly been recording with other bands. It’s really nice.

220px-SecondHelpingLynyrdSkynyrd#2 – Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Sweet Home Alabama” – (1974)

There is a lot that can be said about this song. It’s sort of like the anthem for the Deep South. The Confederate Flag has been in the news a lot lately and this is sort of its theme song. It has a really catchy guitar riff and was written as a reply to Neil Young’s “Southern Man” and “Alabama.” Neil Young later agreed that the shots they took at him in this song were deserved. This is a song about a time – it may have been 1974 but the wounds of the 60s were still healing. This is the definitive southern rock song and one of the definitive classic rock songs. Like it or not, you must admit this is a piece of American history.

220px-Elton_John_-_Caribou#3 – Elton John – “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” – (1974)

Elton John almost pulled off an amazing feat with this song. It reached #2 on the Hot 100 in 1974. He re-recorded it as a duet with George Michael in 1991 and it hit #1. He almost had two number one hits with the same song. This is one of Elton’s most beautiful songs. Co-written with Bernie Taupin, it was one song from Caribou – an album recorded in nine days and written in about the same amount of time. The chorus of this song features vocals from Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys (and you can totally hear Beach Boys-style harmonization if you listen for it) as well as Toni Tennille of Captain and Tennille.

220px-20100503183857!John_Denver_Back_Home_Again#4 – John Denver – “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” – (1974)

There are two versions of this song, first, the one included on the 1974 album Back Home Again. Then there is the very popular live version released in 1975 (recorded in 1974). The live version went to #1 on the Hot 100. It’s immensely catchy and remains very popular to this day. It was one of six songs in 1975 to top the country and pop charts. It was actually written by one of John Denver’s band members (the guy on fiddle). John Denver was actually pretty awesome… known mostly as a folk/country singer, he was beloved across America (and genres) and was one of its best-selling artists.

The_Kids_And_Me#5 – Billy Preston – “Nothing From Nothing” – (1974)

This #1 hit from Billy Preston is a masterpiece of piano-driven soul. Billy Preston was incredibly talented (and taken too soon). He was one of only two people ever credited alongside the Beatles on one of their tracks (“Get Back”). He played with the Rolling Stones, George Harrison, and Eric Clapton. He had two #1 hits and this is his best song (of what I’ve heard). Fun fact: it was the first song ever performed live on Saturday Night Live

220px-Pilot_-_Pilot#6 – Pilot – “Magic” – (1974)

What a happy song. This was Pilot’s biggest hit in the U.S. (they were from Scotland and had another big hit in the U.K.). It still received airplay in the U.S. here and there and is perfect for commercials and movies. It hit #5 in the U.S. and comes from a fabulously titled album: From the Album of the Same Name

220px-Queen_Sheer_Heart_Attack#7 – Queen – “Killer Queen” – (1974)

This song by Queen, lyrically, is one of magnificence. Freddie Mercury wrote the lyrics before the music and you can tell that there is definite cohesion among the lyrics and the music was beautifully crafted to fill the gaps. It didn’t make the top 10 in the U.S. (#12) but it stands of one of Queen’s top tracks.

220px-Three_Dog_Night_-_Cyan#8 – Three Dog Night – “Shambala” – (1973)

“Shambala” is one of Three Dog Night’s most fun songs and it came out in 1973 (dammit!). “Shambala” refers to an El Dorado-like mythical place that can be found in Tibetan Buddhism. I guess it’s like Shangri-La. Three Dog Night’s version of this song hit #3 on the Hot 100 (B.W. Stevenson released a version at the exact same time, but it was not as successful).

220px-Light_Of_Worlds1974#9 – Kool & The Gang – “Summer Madness” – (1974)

If you ask me, this is the best Kool & The Gang song. It’s jazzy, funky, and soulful all at the same time – and it sounds like something that could’ve been released in 1983. It’s completely relaxing in a throwback kind of way and that synth is so smooth. This was the highest charting single from this album, peaking at #35.

Rock_Your_Baby#10 – George McRae – “Rock Your Baby” – (1974)

Catchy, catchy disco. This #1 hit was by far the biggest for McRae, even though it was written by K.C. & The Sunshine Band (which you can totally hear it you listen to it). This song was the inspiration for two other giant hits: ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night.” How about that, K.C. & The Sunshine Band influencing John Lennon. 

Give+It+To+The+People+giveittothepeople#11 – The Righteous Brothers – “Rock and Roll Heaven” – (1974)

This song is actually a cover. It was originally done by Climax but the Righteous Brothers took it to #3 in the U.S. The song is about deceased rock stars and how heaven must have “one hell of a band.” They mention Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Jim Croce, Otis Redding, and Bobby Darin. It’s catchy. And interesting. And creepy: “there’s a spotlight waiting no matter who you are…” implying that the grim reaper is sitting in wait so you can sing for him when he gets you.

220px-The_Eagles_-_On_the_Border#12 – Eagles – “Best Of My Love” – (1974)

Here’s a Hot 100 #1 single from the Eagles. It has a very soft country rock sound and is a slow dance classic. It was actually the group’s first #1 single and the biggest hit from On the Border

220px-Barry_White_Cant_Get_Enough#13 – Barry White – “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” – (1974)

Barry White had the most soulful voice in the 1970s. It sort of defines that era of soul and disco. Especially when paired with such a funky beat like this. When you hear this song you can just picture people spinning on roller skates below a disco ball. It was a #1 for White and one of his biggest hits – not to mention it’s pretty much his signature song. The other thing about it is the title, which is very long. A lot of Barry White song titles are this way… sort of a near-sentence. In fact, take any sentence and add “, babe” to the end of it and you’ve just generated a Barry White single!

Holiday_album_cover#14 – America – “Lonely People” – (1974)

Even though the song is called “Lonely People”, which sounds depressing, the song is kind of an upper if you listen to the lyrics. It’s about not giving up. In fact, the song was written as a counter to the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” – which is not a happy song. It peaked at #5 on the Hot 100.

220px-I_Can_Stand_a_Little_Rain#15 – Joe Cocker – “You Are So Beautiful” – (1974)

Co-written by Billy Preston, this song was a big hit for Joe Cocker (even though he didn’t write it). It peaked at #5 on the Hot 100. There’s just something great about a love song sung by someone with such a gruff voice, especially when backed with such a nice, soft piano.

Rags_to_Rufus#16 – Rufus & Chaka Khan – “Tell Me Something Good” – (1974)

This song is funky as hell. It was written by Stevie Wonder and excellently recorded by Chicago-based mixed-race funk band Rufus and released on the somewhat-funnily named Rags to Rufus in 1974. Like Diana Ross and Frankie Valli, Chaka Khan was sometimes credited apart from the band in which she was a member. The single for this song was released as by ‘Rufus and Chaka Khan.’ It reached #3 on the Hot 100.

220px-SweetDesolationBoulevardOriginal#17 – The Sweet – “The Ballroom Blitz” – (1974)

There’s some weirdness around the dates on this song, for sure. First just listen to it and think that this song was popular in 1973 and how much of a punk sound it has – years before punk became huge. The Sweet was from the U.K. and this single was released in late ’73 in Europe and the album came out in ’74. But in the U.S., neither was released until 1975. This was a top five hit in the U.S. and was featured prominently in Wayne’s World and whenever I hear it I do the head bob that Wayne and Garth do during the song.

220px-Wovoka_(album)_cover#18 – Redbone – “Come and Get Your Love” – (1973)

“Come and Get Your Love” was the biggest hit and signature song of Redbone, a band from L.A. whose members were of either Native American or Mexican descent. This song peaked at #5 on the Hot 100 in 1974 (even though the album came out at the end of 1973). My favorite story about this band is that there was a group touring under the name “Redbone” actually booking shows and performing at small venues that wasn’t this band at all. But because no one really knew what they looked like, they were able to get away with it.

220px-The_Tree_Degrees_-_The_Three_Degrees#19 – The Three Degrees – “When Will I See You Again” – (1973)

This song was released as a single in the later second half of 1974 but the album it appeared on came out 1973. The Three Degrees were formed in 1963 in Philadelphia and this was their biggest hit (it hit #1 in ’74). Strangely, they had more success in the U.K. than in the U.S. It’s great, early-70s soul.

Bachman-Turner_Overdrive_-_Not_Fragile#20 – Bachman-Turner Overdrive – “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” – (1974)

Here’s a #1 hit from Canada’s Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Randy Bachman, who wrote the song, said he wrote it for his brother as a joke because his brother had a stutter – and stuttering is a big part of the lyrics here. They recorded the song with only one take of the lyrics and used it to warm up in the studio, never intending to release it. The song got tacked on to Not Fragile and became a huge hit.

download#21 – Carl Douglas – “Kung Fu Fighting” – (1974)

This is classic. One hit wonder Carl Douglas is actually from Jamaica and his song about Kung Fu has appeared in about every movie, commercial, and TV show ever made. It was a #1 hit in the U.S. and all over the world and is a great blend of funk and disco… and Chinese traditional music? Just kidding, but it does have that one little bit of music associated with Chinese music. You know what I’m talking about. My favorite thing about this song is that is from an album ridiculously titled Kung Fu Fighting and Other Love Songs.

220px-OMDs_1974#16 – Ozark Mountain Daredevils – “Jackie Blue” – (1974)

Boooo! Some idiot messed up his years. This album was actually released in October of 1974 and the single was from ’74 as well, even though it didn’t peak on the Hot 100 (at #10) until 1975. This is one of those good, mid-70s country rock/southern rock hits. The guitars are twangy and the vocals soft. It’s a great song, but unfortunately for me, from the wrong year. But it’s staying right here.

#25 – Lulu – “The Man with the Golden Gun” – (1974)

I always wonder how they pick the artists to record the Bond theme songs. This one appears to be selected from a hat. Lulu had a #1 hit in the U.S…. but that was about it. This song feels ridiculously dated and the thing with whatever that repetitive noise is (you’ll notice it). It’s just not that good, which is why it is #25 out of 25 on our list of the Best Bond Songs.

Bob Marley & The Wailers – “No Woman, No Cry” – (1974)

The live version of this song is pretty famous – as it’s the version included on the Legend compilation album. I prefer the studio version (as is almost always the case with every song). This is another fairly popular Marley song and one known by the walking human Bob Marley jukebox. Good song – especially when they break down at the “everything’s gonna be all right” part.