How It Was In The '70s: Song Lyrics That Captured The Decade

By | September 20, 2018

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Left: Bjorn Ulvaeus, Agnetha Faltskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson of Abba on stage at Wembley Arena in November 1979 (Photo by David Redfern/Redferns). Right: cover art for a 2016 reissue of Joni Mitchell's single 'Big Yellow Taxi.' Source: di

Some things are just so '70s -- song lyrics included. Certain ones take us back to the decade of post-Woodstock disillusionment and the escapism of disco. Consider Helen Reddy singing female empowerment in "I Am Woman," Edwin Starr asking "War, what is it good for?," or Joni Mitchell lamenting that "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot." These are refrains you might hear on the radio any given Friday night -- and that are still worth a spin on your Spotify or Pandora. Like the decade itself, music in the '70s was schizophrenic; one minute it was about sincerity and concern; the next we were blissfully boogie-oogie-oogie-ing all night long.

Artists, musicians, and songwriters often use their music as a means to express their thoughts on the world in which they live. For musicians in the 1970s, there were certainly enough controversial events, social issues, political strife and lifestyle changes to give them plenty of material to write about. Sometimes, just one memorable line from a song is enough to encapsulate the zeitgeist -- the spirit of the day. Let us take a look at a few of the song lyrics that totally exemplify the 1970s. 

'War, What is it Good For? Absolutely Nothing!'

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Edwin Starr

Many anti-war songs were penned in the early seventies, but Edwin Starr’s Vietnam War protest song, “War” stands above the rest. Released in 1970, it spent three weeks in the number one position on the Billboard chart. Starr’s intense vocals and the aggressive sound of the music combined with the message to make this song an anthem of the anti-war movement. The whole message of the song can be summed up in the line: “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”