The 1970s were a time of great music. And whether you like Europop, acoustic folk, R&B, or rock, chances are good that there’s at least one 1970s song you’ll enjoy listening to. Here are some of the best 70s songs!
The Best 70s Songs
1. “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John (1973)
It’s not exactly a disco record, but this Elton John hit certainly makes use of the funky vibes of 70s music. “Crocodile Rock” was released after a similarly unique song, “Honky Cat.”
Since the original song uses a lot of organ, “Crocodile Rock” is a great song to learn on piano. However, its lively and complex melody is best suited to intermediate to advanced pianists. This fun tutorial (video below left) will take you through how to play it with some helpful animations.
2. “Imagine” by John Lennon (1971)
“Imagine” might be John Lennon’s biggest hit after he began a solo career. Its powerful political message imagines a world without some of the dividing forces we see today.
This song’s gentle melody sounds especially nice played on an acoustic guitar. And since the chords used aren’t too difficult, it’s a suitable song for beginners and more experienced players alike. This tutorial (video above right) will show you how to play it. You’ll need C, F, Cmaj7, C/E, Dm, Dm/C, G, G7, Am, G/B, E, and E7.
3. “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees (1977)
This might be the most famous song by the Bee Gees. It did cement their reputation as a disco band, a label they rejected. Much of their other work was closer to being pop music.
This high-energy song can be a lot of fun to play. If you want to play something a little different, try learning this fingerstyle version (video below left). It’s shown as an acoustic cover, but it also sounds nice on an electric guitar.
4. “You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor (1970)
Though “You’ve Got a Friend” became a well-known James Taylor hit, it was actually written by Carole King. King said she wrote the song as a response to a line in Taylor’s “Fire and Rain”: “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.”
Like many James Taylor songs, this one features a pretty picking pattern. But if you prefer, you can also just play the chords. This great tutorial (video above right) will show you a demonstration, plus the tabs and chords. To play it, you’ll need G, C, Csus2, Gsus4, Em, B7, Em7, Am7, D7sus4, D7, F#m7, B7sus4, F#m, Gmaj7, Cmaj7, C/D, and Fmaj7.
5. “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando and Dawn (1973)
This hit song’s subject matter is a little different from that of most pop hits. It’s about a man returning home from prison, hoping to see that his lover has tied a yellow ribbon around a tree to welcome him home.
This song is a fun one to play. And though it includes a number of chords, most of them are relatively easy. This play-along video (below left) is a great tool for mastering it. As you’ll see in a moment, you will need C, Em, Dm, G, Gm, A7, Fm, Am, D7, E7, E, Dm7, and G7.
6. “Greased Lightnin'” by John Travolta (1971)
Not many rock songs from musicals become mainstream hits, but this one certainly did. It includes actor John Travolta on lead vocals. And even without the visual of a dancing cast, it’s still a highly danceable song!
There are lots of adaptations of this song out there. But if you’re fairly new to piano and want to learn a simple melody, this tutorial video (above right) is a great place to start. It also shows you the chords you need: it’s just C, F, and G7.
7. “Life on Mars?” by David Bowie (1971)
Like many David Bowie songs, “Life on Mars?” involves rich lyrical subtext. Though it’s ostensibly about a girl going to the movies after arguing with her parents, it suggests that the girl realizes there’s a much more exciting life elsewhere.
This rich and meaningful song is a good one to play on acoustic guitar, and this tutorial (video below left) will show you exactly how to play it. You will need D, D/C#, Am/C#, B7, Em, A, F, C#aug, Dm, Bb, D7, Gm, G, C, Cmaj7, Baug, Am7, Cm7, Em7, A7, Fdim, F#m, A7/G, Gm7, Gm9, F7. It’s a lot of chords, but it’s worth the effort to learn!
8. “Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley & the Wailers (1973)
Lots of Bob Marley’s music connects to living a carefree life. But some songs, like this one, are about taking a stand to fight against oppression. Notably, Mick Jagger has said this is his favorite reggae song.
You’ll probably enjoy mastering this song’s distinctive reggae rhythm if you’ve never played reggae before. This video (above right) will show you how to play it. The lead part isn’t terribly difficult, so you can follow the lead tabs if you wish!
9. “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac (1975)
This famous song is one of the most enduring Fleetwood Mac hits. It was written by Stevie Nicks, who saw the name in a novel and decided she had to write something about it.
If you want to learn this soft rock gem, you’ll likely find it sounds great on acoustic or electric guitar. It’s also a great piece to use to hone your fingerstyle skills. This video (below left) will take you through a great three-chord version; you will need Am, F, and C.
10. “That’s the Way (I Like It)” by KC & the Sunshine Band (1975)
Funk and disco music were in their heyday in the 70s, and KC & the Sunshine Band was one of the top funk and disco bands out there. “That’s the Way (I Like It)” was the band’s second #1 hit. (The first was “Fly, Robin, Fly”).
This one is especially fun to learn to play. If you just want to strum it, you’ll need E, G, A, and D. However, you’ll likely have a more enjoyable time learning to play the lead part. This video lesson (above right) will show you how.
11. “Uncle John’s Band” by the Grateful Dead (1970)
This pleasant song marks one of the Grateful Dead’s attempts at writing something for the mainstream market. Its relaxed, folk-bluegrass style was modeled after Crosby Stills & Nash.
If you’re looking to expand your repertoire to include laid-back, campfire-friendly songs, “Uncle John’s Band” is a great one to learn. This tutorial (video below left) shows you how to play it on an acoustic guitar, although you can play it on an electric if you wish. You’ll need G, C, Am, Em, and D major and minor triads.
12. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross (1970)
This song famously became a hit for Diana Ross. However, it previously was a hit for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 1967. Ross’s version earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
Though the original song features powerful vocals with a powerful instrumental to match, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” also sounds surprisingly nice as a solo acoustic number. This lesson (video above right) offers a demonstration and takes you through the chords you’ll need. You must play Bm/A, Bm/Ab, Bm/G, F#m, and Em.
13. “You Don’t Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)” by Billy Davis Jr. and Marilyn McCoo (1976)
This highly successful song by husband and wife duo Billy Davis Jr. and Marilyn McCoo was an ultra-successful crossover song. It reached #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the Hot Soul Singles chart.
If you want to play this historically significant song, this lesson (video below left) will show the chords you need. It’s an especially beautiful arrangement! You’ll need F#m, Emaj7, F#m/B, C#m, E, A, Amaj7, D#m7, C#m7, and B.
14. “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell (1975)
This extremely popular song nearly became the most-performed song in America in 1975! Glen Campbell has said he connected with the song as he worked in the music industry in many different roles before becoming a star.
This is a great song to learn, especially if you’re a fan of country music. In this video lesson (above right), you’ll see the chords and strumming patterns you need. The song is somewhere between beginner and intermediate levels, and you’ll need to play C, Cmaj7, Dm, Dm7, Em, F, Gadd4, G, and G7.
15. “If You Love Me (Let Me Know)” by Olivia Newton-John (1974)
This song was one of Olivia Newton-John’s earliest hits in the United States. It also proved to be popular with other artists; Elvis Presley, Tina Turner, and Brian Collins covered it.
If you’d like to learn a classic easy-listening song on guitar, this is a great one to choose. This karaoke-style play-along video lets you practice playing it. As you’ll see in a moment, you’ll need the chords F, G, Bb, and C.
16. “Burning Love” by Elvis Presley (1972)
This Elvis hit reached #2 in the United States, but Elvis wasn’t the first person to release it. Earlier in the year, it featured on an album by Arthur Alexander, a country-soul artist.
Like many of Elvis’s hits, this song is a relatively easy one to play, especially if you just want to strum an acoustic guitar. This tutorial (video below left) takes you through an easy four-chord version. To play this one, you just need D, G, A, and Bm.
17. “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye (1973)
The writer of this song, Ed Townsend, initially wrote this song about wanting to move on with life after conquering an alcohol use disorder. Of course, Marvin Gaye changed the lyrics to create the song we know today.
This classic soul song and piece of music history is a lot of fun to play, and it involves some unusual chords you may not have seen before. As this tutorial (video above right) shows you, you will need to play Eb, Gm7, Gm, Ab, Bb, Ab7, and F7.
18. “Sad Eyes” by Robert John (1979)
This song is notable in that it was one of the very few non-disco tracks to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979. It was also both written and recorded by Robert John.
“Sad Eyes” is one of the easier songs to play on the list. This video (below left) scrolls through the chords you’ll need and lets you play along to the song. You’ll need to play C, Dm, F, G, Dm7, Gm7, Gm, D, Em7, A, and E7.
19. “Dancing Queen” by ABBA (1976)
This song was likely the world’s first disco-Europop hybrid song that became a hit. When ABBA was working on the song, they gave it the (much less catchy) working title, “Boogaloo.”
Though “Dancing Queen” is an electronica song, it also sounds great as an upbeat, strummy acoustic tune. It also uses a number of chords you’re probably already familiar with. As you can see in this lesson (video above right), you will need to play A, E/A, Dadd9, E, D, F#m7, C#7, F#m, B7sus2, Bsus2, B7, B7sus4, Bm7, E7sus4, and E7.
20. “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight & the Pips (1973)
Jim Weatherly, the writer of this song, got the idea after Farrah Fawcett mentioned taking a “midnight plane to Houston” in a phone conversation. The name was changed when Cissy Houston recorded it, as she didn’t want “Houston” to appear in both the song title and the artist’s name.
This distinctive, R&B-influenced hit can help you really get into a groove with your playing. This play-along lesson (video below left) can show you which chords to play and when. You’ll need a capo on the first fret. From there, you just need to play C, Em, F, G, D, G7, and Am.
21. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen (1975)
Queen is arguably one of the most influential bands in modern music history, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” is probably their most famous song. Freddie Mercury wrote it in pieces over the years; he initially thought he would write three songs, but he ended up combining the ideas into a single long song.
This song has many parts, so it’s difficult to play through all of them on a single instrument. But since “Bohemian Rhapsody” is so piano-heavy, learning the piano parts is a great place to start. This tutorial (video above right) will help you start playing this unique and dynamic classic!
22. “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones (1976)
Some of the best 70s songs moved into punk rock territory, and “Blitzkrieg Bop” certainly does. This high-energy song is built around a chant and is about young people going to a concert.
This song only includes three chords: A, D, and E. And if you want to really get into the punk-rock spirit, make sure you play it through plenty of overdrive, distortion, or both. This video lesson (below left) will help you get started!
23. “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers (1972)
It’s somewhat unusual for a soul or gospel song to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, but this Staple Singers hit did! It was recorded at the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and exemplifies the sound the studio became known for.
This song is a fun one to play on the guitar. There are plenty of different arrangements out there, but this artist’s interpretation is a great one. This demonstration (video above right) shows you how to play the song and lists the chords you’ll need. You’ll primarily need to play C and Dm7.
24. “Ben” by Michael Jackson (1972)
Though this Michael Jackson song was written for a movie about a murderous rat, the song itself doesn’t let on that the “Ben” mentioned is not human. Rather, it’s a song that’s essentially about friendship.
If you want to master one of Michael Jackson’s very first solo hits, give this song a shot! As you can see in this play-along visualization (video below left), you will need some interesting chords: F, Bb/F, C7/F, C7/E, Fmaj7, E7sus4, A/C#, Eb7(5b), D7, Db7(5b), Fm, Gm7, Eb7, Db(11#, 13b), and C7.
25. “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder (1972)
Last on our list is one of Stevie Wonder’s best songs. “Superstition” describes several well-known superstitious beliefs (like the fear of the number 13). However, it primarily comments on the harm that believing in a superstition can bring.
This song’s funk-style groove can be played on piano or guitar. But if you want to play like Stevie himself, you might want to try out the piano version. This tutorial (video above right) shows you a relatively easy way to master a true classic.
Even More Great 70s Songs
- “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John (1971)
- “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison (1970)
- “Take Me to the River” by Al Green (1974)
- “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin (1971)
- “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen (1975)
- “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night (1971)
- “Tangled Up in Blue” by Bob Dylan (1974)
- “What a Fool Believes” by the Doobie Brothers (1978)
- “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon (1972)
- “That’s the Way I Feel About Cha” by Bobby Womack (1972)
- “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple (1972)
- “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel (1970)
- “A Horse With No Name” by America (1972)
- “It’s Too Late”/”I Feel the Earth Move” by Carole King (1971)
- “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart (1971)
While we couldn’t include every great song from the 1970s here, we hope this list has brought you a pleasant feeling of nostalgia. What’s your favorite song from the 70s? Let us know in the comments, and please like and share if you enjoyed the list!
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