Popular Music in the 1970s
NEW YORK, NY - CIRCA 1977: Peter Frampton in concert circa 1977 in New York City. (Photo by Images Press/IMAGES/Getty Images)
The 1970’s was a decade of music unlike any time in the past. There were dozens of genres to choose from and many of them rose to popularity at different points during the decade.
Funk, Soul, R&B, Pop, Hard Rock, Soft Rock, Punk Rock, Easy Listening and Disco, all carved out their own unique place in the music world during the 1970’s. Toward the end of the decade, hip-hop was born.
Some of the most awesome rock n roll of all time was recorded in the 70’s.
1970 marked the end of an era. The Beatles dissolved, suffering internal conflicts. Each went their separate ways appearing on solo albums. Arguably the world’s most famous group of all time had split up. The pop and rock music world, which The Beatles had forever changed, would never be the same.
1971 was a year full of musical nostalgia.
Rock n roll was changing in the 70’s.
Past groups were making a comeback. Everyone was taking advantage of the diverse genres options. The Mamas and the Papas were revived, making a new album. Sonny and Cher came back, as did Perry Como. The Beach Boys turned their music to an older audience, those who had listened to them in their earlier days.
George Harrison created his masterpiece, “All Things Must Pass.”
1972 saw the national arrival of “soul music.” At one point, the five top-selling records in the U.S. and 11 of the top 20 albums were by African American artists.
Leading the way was Isaac Hayes, with his hit, “Shaft.” Other legendary R&B artists at the top of the charts were Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield. Sammy Davis Jr.’s contribution was, “Candy Man,” from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
Neil Young, Three Dog Night and America all released easy listening singles.
The most popular song of the year, 1972, was Don McLean’s American Pie. The cryptic 8-minute long song captured the hearts and minds of the entire country for the first two months of the year. To this day, the song’s meaning is still the topic of conversation.
Rock and pop ruled “Supreme” in 1973. Soul was huge too, featuring legends like Barry White, Stevie Wonder, to name 2.
Reggae was making a breakthrough in the U.S. this year. The Wailers and Jimmy Cliff. Johnny Nash came out with, “Stir It Up” and “I Can See Clearly Now.” He was the first American to have a popular reggae release.
Elton John’s popularity soared in both the U.S. the U.K.
Paul McCartney released, “Red Rose Speedway,” and another ex-Beatle, George Harrison, released “Living in the Material World.” Australian, Helen Reddy sold millions of copies of “I Am a Woman” and “Delta Dawn, which ” both topped the charts.
The Newport Jazz Festival in New York City was 10 days of jazz music.
Bob Dylan reemerged after a nearly 10 year reappeared in concert after a near 10-year break. A motorcycle accident in 1966 prevented him from appearing, but once he was back, it was obvious that his talent was still unrivaled.
Stevie Wonder’s second album “Innervisions” was a massive success and Roberta Flack cashed in on her talents as well.
It was a golden era of music.
A 12-hour rock show in Ontario, California, made record profits, grossing over $2 million, showcased the Eagles, radio personality Don Imus, and Seals & Crofts.
Discothèques (or discos) appeared around the country, gaining more and more popularity, until even the radios had to copy the style. Discos were made for dancing; mainly soul music was played, with a strong bass and drum beat. Barry White, Gloria Gaynor, and Van McCoy were popular artists within the disco circles.
Pop rock turned out many one hit wonders in the 70’s.
Jazz was humming along nicely, with the forming of the World Jazz Association and the Las Vegas Jazz Society. Leaders of the jazz movement were such as Lonnie Liston Smith, Quincy Jones, Eddie Harris, and many more.
Aerosmith was one of the most popular groups in 1976, with lead singer Stephen Tyler drawing comparisons to Mick Jagger in more ways than one.
Paul McCartney finished a world tour with his band Wings. The tour, which had begun in Europe the previous year, ended with a tour of the United States and Canada, and was extremely successful.
Electrified funk became a new musical genre, led by Wild Cherry and their lead singer/guitarist, Robert Parissi. Their single “Play That Funky Music” sold over a million copies.
Jazz artist, George Benson had a No. 1 hit on the charts for popular, soul, and jazz music, with his album “Breezin.’” Other popular jazz artists included Nat Adderly, Milt Jackson, and Kenny Burrell.
Punk rock began to be taken seriously for the first time, with bands like the Sex Pistols and the Ramones. Their crazy stage behavior and offbeat arrangements drew both praise and discouragement.
Kiss became popular in 1977, with their over the top costumes and heavy rock style.
Fleetwood Mac came into the clear for American audiences by adding new members and changing their traditionally blues style. By the end of the year, their two ridiculously successful albums had collectively sold over 11 million copies.
The decade was an era that turned out a lot of popular music thanks to a lot of very talented artists including the ones mentioned above as well as the following and many more:
•Bachman-Turner Overdrive (BTO)
• Carly Simon
• The Commodores
• Johnny Cash
• Three Dog Night
• Burt Bacharach
• Herbie Hancock
• The Bee Gees
• Willie Nelson
• Dolly Parton
• Bruce Springsteen
• Billy Joel
• Steely Dan
• Kenny Loggins
• David Bowie
• Led Zeppelin
• Pink Floyd
• Elton John
• The Jackson 5
• Diana Ross
• Neil Diamond
• Simon & Garfunkel
• Grateful Dead
• Allman Brothers
• Bob Seger
• Paul McCartney
• Peter Frampton
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