Which decade do you associate with funky music and style icons? There is a good chance that it is the ‘70s. This era saw the rise of country rock, disco dance music, and films like Boogie Nights. It is an understatement to call this period the golden age of music. For one, many iconic musicians such as David Bowie, Elton John, and the Beegees got their start in those days. There were a lot of one-hit wonders from this period too. The acts that get called that only have one memorable song in their repertoire. It is natural for certain acts to see more success than others. You might not know any other songs from these ‘70s acts, but we are sure that their one hit is still stuck in your head. These acts might have been one-hit wonders, but their iconic tracks certainly left a mark on the music industry.
‘Layla’ – Derek and the Dominos
To a certain extent, this band was primed for greatness. After all, Eric Clapton was a member of this act. Even though the group had star power, they only had a single track that climbed the charts. It is none other than “Layla.” It was inspired by the relationship that Clapton had with Pattie Boyd. At the time, she was married to his friend and Beatles member George Harrison. The passionate ballad that asks the titular woman to leave her boyfriend behind still makes rounds on classic rock radio to this day.
‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’ – McFadden & Whitehead
The signature song of McFadden & Whitehead was not only a disco anthem but a motivational track as well. It inspired people to chase their dreams! The optimistic lyrics, dance-worthy beat, and catchy chorus made it a hit among music fans. It is not hard to see why it had so much staying power. People still think about it when it comes to the topic of classic disco. It told people to ditch negative people and keep having fun. There truly ain’t no stoppin’ this song no matter how long it has been!
‘Love Hurts’ – Nazareth
You must have heard this song in many commercials, TV shows, and films in the past. The lyrics are very honest, which explains its popularity. The track is passionate, raw, and jaded all at the same time. You can just tell that the singer knew what it was like to be in love. Dan McCafferty lent the rock song gritty vocals, although there are folks who think that his stage presence was not all that. Perhaps this is the reason Nazareth failed to make another hit song after “Love Hurts” reached the top of the charts.
‘Third Rate Romance’ – Amazing Rhythm Aces
Is there a more brutally honest and hilarious song from the ‘70s than “Third Rate Romance” by Amazing Rhythm Aces? It tells the story of a fling between two people who do not care about the other very much. You might want to check it out if you are not familiar with this song. It would be a good way to take a look at what hookups were like before the rise of Tinder. This is a little prescient if you ask us. With the way the modern dating scene is now, it might hit too close to home.
‘Play That Funky Music’ – Wild Cherry
This is the track that most people think of when someone brings up old-school funk. “Play that funky music, white boy!” is truly an iconic line. This is probably one of the greatest funk songs from that era. Upon its release, it immediately turned into a disco smash hit. The song was inspired by a Wild Cherry fan who told them to “play that funky music” at a concert. Even though their fans inspired them, the musical group failed to make another memorable song after this. Too bad.
‘The Hustle’ – Van McCoy
“Do the hustle!” The Hustle turned into one of the greatest disco dance songs of the ‘70s thanks to its jaunty tune and easy dance steps. This is the sort of song that you will assume came from a major disco act, but this is not the case. It was produced by Van McCoy, who most people have never even heard of. Even though the act was a rather obscure one, he brought home a Grammy award for this song.
‘Cruel To Be Kind’ – Nick Lowe
Have you ever been in a relationship where your partner did not treat you right? If so, this might be the song for you. “Cruel to be Kind” by Nick Lowe came out in 1979. It tells the tale of a man who is confused by all the mixed signals his girlfriend was giving him. When asked about her cruel behavior, she said, “You’ve got to be cruel to be kind, in the right measure.” We are sad to report that this proved to be the peak of his career, however. This is a cruel fate no matter how you look at it.
‘In The Summertime’ – Mungo Jerry
In 1970, “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry became known as a carefree song for youngsters who just wanted to have fun during the hot summer nights. The upbeat vibe made it a true banger. The sole hit by the artist has great staying power. It is even used for advertisements and commercials to this day. The carefree lyrics, plucky banjos, and happy beat make it the best thing to listen to in the hot summer months. Mungo Jerry might be a one-hit-wonder, but this song is one for the history books.
‘Ring My Bell’ – Anita Ward
You do not have to be a music lover from the ‘70s to recognize “Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward. It is a fun and flirty song that is a tinge of sexy. “You can ring my be-the-peel! Ring my bell!” goes the chorus. If you are a casual fan, you might have thought that it was sung by Debbie Harry of Blondie. The voice is similar to hers, but that is not the case. Ward is credited for paving the way for fellow dance singers back then.
‘Lovin’ You’ – Minnie Riperton
Minnie Riperton is on this list, but we are sure that her career would have flourished if her life was not cut tragically short. Her untimely passing is the only reason we added her here. “Lovin’ You” shows us just how talented a musician she was. It might not be the most popular song ever, but she blew us away with this song. It highlighted her incredible ability to get a super high whistle note. Did you know that it is one of the highest pitches in recorded history? Sadly, she lost the battle with breast cancer in 1979.
‘Rock On’ – David Essex
If you ask us, David Essex had the makings of the next rock ‘n’ roll superstar. With his cool vibe, crooning voice, and good looks, it felt like a given. Sadly, “Rock On” proved to be his only hit. He showed us what he got with this track. It is hard to figure out what it is about, but you can’t deny that it is sensual and cool in its way. He had more hits in the UK, but this is the only one that made it across the pond.
‘Kung Fu Fighting’ – Carl Douglas
“Everybody was kung fu fighting! Those kicks were fast as lightning!” There is no way that you do not know this late ‘70s hit by Carl Douglas. It served as a homage of sorts to martial arts movies from back in the day. We can’t help but nod our heads to it! This track is so likable due to how retro and kitschy it is.
‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ – Thin Lizzy
Have you ever met up with your childhood friends after not seeing each other for a long time? There is a song that describes that perfectly: “The Boys are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzy. It is an upbeat and exciting song that features a lot of great guitars. This one-hit wonder is also regularly featured in TV shows and movies because it is just so darn likable. On top of that, it tells a very relatable story as well.
‘Magic’ – Pilot
Were you already alive back in the early ‘90s and ‘00s? If so, you might recall the AT&T commercials that featured this song. “Oh, oh, it’s magic, ya know!” is a line that many people remember. This was a hit among folks who dial #0 when they had to connect. In the ‘70s, the song was popular because it was a lot of fun to sing to it! Even though it is hard to make sense of the lyrics, it proved to be a hit back then.
‘Street Singin’ – Lady Flash
This is a pretty obscure hit that came with some Motown soul, a danceable beat, and a tinge of disco gaudiness. Lady Flash was a promising girl group, which makes sense since Barry Manilow himself put this together. A lot of folks might no longer recognize the song, but you do not have to be a genius to see how good it is. There are a lot of present-day artists who were inspired by the sound of the group!
‘Happy Days’ – Pratt & McClain
Did you watch Happy Days? If you just said yes, you probably already know the theme song by heart. When Pratt & McClain first released the track, it immediately made listeners think of simpler and happier times. Fans of the show might be surprised to learn that this song was not made during the time of greasers and Elvis. It was specially made to make people nostalgic. Yes, it was all done by design.
‘Afternoon Delight’ – Starland Vocal Band
There was no shortage of songs of debauchery back in the ‘70s. Still, there are not many hits that are as infamous as “Afternoon Delight.” The title itself immediately turned into a euphemism for quickies in the middle of the day and a specific sex position. It was an instant hit among the general public, but it received a lot of critical acclaims. Starland won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist with this.
‘Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band’ – Meco
Even though a lot of one-hit wonders earned the top spot on the charts, this song is a little different. “Star Wars Theme” by Meco was a hit since it was the disco version of a piece that we all know and love. The musical act became a hit for turning movie theme songs into disco dance bops, although this was the only one with great staying power. Do not be surprised to still hear this when May 4th rolls in. If you are having a Star Wars-themed party, this deserves a spot in your playlist.
‘Undercover Angel’ – Alan O’Day
The chorus of this song goes, “Undercover angel, midnight fantasy.” This song was played on the airwaves for a good chunk of 1976. This song talked about a guy spending a night with the girl he has a crush on. The groovy beat made it even better. The upbeat synth-infused track by Alan O’Day was a rather early trip into the electronic dance music scene. In the ‘80s, mainstream pop music started to employ plenty of the effects that sound like the ones used in this track.
‘Black Betty’ – Ram Jam
This song has a little hard rock, a little country, and a great deal of attitude. It was a hit among rockers from the era and those who attend sporting events at the present. “Black Betty” is a Southern rock track that has roots in an old African-American work song. It brings a historic twist to the world of rock, which is quite unusual. If it had not been for the Ram Jam cover of this song, it would have been lost. Once radio stations started playing the track, many other artists were inspired to make their renditions.
‘Ride Captain Ride’ – Blues Image
At the onset of the decade, “Ride Captain Ride” came out. Blues Image was a small folk band that made this song about the story of 73 men who went sailing around the San Francisco Bay. It told an old-world story that uniquely resonated with the public. What made it so special was its modern but classic vibe. It was a one-hit-wonder, but it certainly paved the way for many rock songs made in the decade.
‘House Of The Rising Sun’ – Frijid Pink
You may be well-acquainted with the original version of “House of the Rising Sun” by Animals. Without a doubt, it is a true classic. However, you might not have known that the smash hit came with a follow-up in the form of a psychedelic cover during the early ‘70s. Frijid Pink released the mind-bending version that was a serious statement in and of itself. This served as a final hurrah for the ‘60s and showed everyone just how different the ‘70s would be when it came to music.
‘Venus’ – Shocking Blue
“I’m your Venus, I’m your fire! Your desire!” The chorus is not obscure since the song has been used in various TV shows and commercials since it first came out. Did you know that Bananarama was not the first musical act to sing these radical phrases? You see, the original track was sung by a band known as Shocking Blue. They released it around a decade before Bananarama did. The lead singer had vocals comparable to that of Cher. This is enough reason to fall head over heels in love with it.
‘Sunshine’ – Jonathan Edwards
Are you on the hunt for an upbeat and generic song from the ‘70s? If this is the case, you should check out this Jonathan Edwards track. “Sunshine” used to be the go-to song of people who wanted something happy and mellow. It is a little challenging to figure out what makes this track so catchy, but it is. Ever since it topped the charts, the song has been used in a lot of screen projects such as Friends and Anchorman.
‘Pop Muzik’ – M
The majority of ‘70s music focused on disco, but 1979 ushered in changes in mainstream preference. “Pop Muzik” was a song that can be described as prescient in terms of defining what was going to come in the upcoming decade. It sounded like the song had German roots, but the truth is that it was very much British bubblegum pop. Combined with electronic dance music, it truly stood out from the crowd. People adored just how different it sounded from everything else at the time. The unique sound was what made it such a huge success!