Treble’s Top 200 Songs of the ’70s

110. Herbie Hancock
Chameleon
(1974; Columbia)
Available on Head Hunters

WARNING: This writer quite literally wrote a thesis based primarily around Herbie Hancock’s first Headhunters album. But I’ll keep it short. This endlessly grooving, 15-minute song is funky. It’s jazzy. It features as many references to popular American music as it does to authentic African music, and the result is a track that hits the right spot in any and all scenarios. That’s all you need to know for now. – A.T. Bossenger


109. Grateful Dead
Uncle John’s Band
(1970; Warner Bros.)
Available on Workingman’s Dead

For a group that spanned and spawned so many subgenres in rock, 1970’s Workingman’s Dead is the Dead’s most definitive Southern/country rock LP. After some legendary experimental and psychedelic recording sessions in the late 1960s the group felt that it was time to let the pendulum swing back to the other side and explore some of their acoustic sounds. The bluegrass guitar riffs help shine the focus on the lyrics co-written by Jerry Garcia, and one of The Dead’s most important members, lyricist Robert Hunter. Classic lines like “what I want to know is, are you kind” and “like the morning sun you come/ and like the wind you go” encapsulate the love and natural tranquility that’s such a pivotal element of the entire Grateful Dead catalogue. – Donny Giovannini


108. The Police
Roxanne
(1978; A&M)
Available on Outlandos D’Amour

Revisionist cynicism has made it inexplicably cool to hate The Police, but their best material has stood the test of time. On “Roxanne,” Sting sings with the brashness of youth, a burgeoning vitality in his vocal delivery lighting up the simplistic reggae-rock song. The whole thing has a feeling of accidental magic to it, from the dissonant piano that begins the track to the offbeat lyrics taking their title from the love interest in Cyrano de Bergerac, albeit applied to much seedier fare. You’ll be belting out the chorus before you have a chance to be embarrassed. Songs this good are liberating that way. – Jimmy Falcon


107. Steely Dan
Show Biz Kids
(1973; ABC)
Available on Countdown to Ecstasy

A song about celebrities, delivered in typically sneering fashion, “Show Biz Kids” was a minor hit for Steely Dan in 1973. Contrasting the lives of “poor” people who go to bed early (because they work a real job) and celebrities who live lavish hedonistic lifestyles, as well as the Guernsey County Fair in Ohio and Las Vegas (“Lost Wages”), the song is practically populist, in its jazz-inflected way. They also poke fun at the hipster culture apparent in celebrity, with a reference to Steely Dan t-shirts (as they were the toast of the town at the time). The song consists of a three-chord vamp, with overlapping vocal rhythms, as well as an excellent slide-guitar solo from “Rock `n’ Roll, Hootchie Koo” songwriter Rick Derringer. – Nick Ulbrickson


106. Serge Gainsbourg
Cargo Culte
(1971; Philips)
Available on Histoire de Melody Nelson

Many of the finest albums of the ’70s are essentially long suites, where pulling one individual track out to represent the whole is not only silly but often futile. Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire De Melody Nelson narrowly escapes being excluded from the list under these circumstances under what could be considered a technicality; this seven and a half minute track represents the last quarter of the record. The song is the grand closer to the most distinguished album of his storied career. Essentially a reprise of the first track “Melody,” the song’s center — an unstoppable bass groove and a guitarist who never runs out of ideas — is locked in, creating the perfect backdrop for Gainsbourg’s seduction. As opposed to “Melody,” this time around the orchestra has been replaced by an organ and choir taking the song to an ethereal climax just before the timpani rolls take us out. – Chris Karman


105. David Bowie
Rebel Rebel
(1974; RCA)
Available on Diamond Dogs

Punk wouldn’t arrive to gob in the face of classic rock until a few years after David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel,” but this song’s blistering, repetitive guitar riff and lyrical celebration of gender bending promiscuity was arguably the strongest harbinger that Bowie would survive the movement unscathed, even hailed as an influence. Often called his “farewell to glam,” the song has a rougher, more in-your-face style than much of Bowie’s previous work, and shows a willingness to adapt that would become a hallmark of his career, which is now coming up on its sixth decade. It’s that rare thing — a celebration of youthful rebellion that still sounds fresh more than 30 years later. – Liz Malloy


no woman no cry best songs of the 70s104. Bob Marley and the Wailers
No Woman No Cry
(1974; Island)
Available on Natty Dread

Bob Marley has spent so much time on the walls of frat houses and soundtracking ads for Sandals resorts that it can be easy to forget the man was once considered so revolutionary there are some corners of the Internet still convinced the CIA attempted to have him killed. “No Woman No Cry” is not one of his more overtly political songs, and contains some of Marley’s most affecting lyrics for that. An album’s worth of railing against poverty is hardly as evocative as the simple lyric, “I remember when we used to sit / In a government yard in Trenchtown.” The song brought the inhumanity of Marley’s third world slum to a human level. A double-edged sword, it also brought his message to a mass audience who didn’t always fully understand it. – Liz Malloy


103. The Who
Won’t Get Fooled Again
(1971; Polydor)
Available on Who’s Next

Aside from its political undertones, The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is an important song in their catalog, mostly for being the last song, drummer Keith Moon played live with the band in 1978. The pulsating synths that begin the song, along with the explosions of guitar, a ridiculous bassline and Moon’s signature drumming, form the elements of a monumental rock song that leans more toward the band’s progressive side. It’s eight minutes of bliss with nothing but pure rock energy and Roger Daltrey’s feral howl. – Giovanni Martinez


102. Kraftwerk
Autobahn
(1975; Philips)
Available on Autobahn

That “Autobahn” comes a century after the German Empire’s founding seems fitting. Though by that point it was split in two with one side likely never having heard the group until the Wall came down, Deutschland’s menschliches Geist remained ever indomitable. Industrialization? Piece of cake. War? Over it. A jaunty electro-pop tune about Hitler’s infrastructural masterpiece? Even Bismarck would have to yell, “Sieg!” – Chris Morgan


George Harrison Best songs of the 70s101. George Harrison
What Is Life
(1970; Apple)
Available on All Things Must Pass

Few songs have more celebratory joy than “What is Life.” Whether it’s about God, Pattie Boyd, or the possibilities of a world after the Beatles, is irrelevant to its burst of revelatory fanfare. The song can mark any great beginning or happy ending, but most of all it begs you to appreciate the moment you’re in. Harrison didn’t punctuate the song title with a question mark, meaning it can be interpreted as much as an awe-filled exclamation as a soul searching query. Written as the Beatles were falling apart and purposefully kept for himself, you can feel Harrison throwing off the yoke and coming into his own on every note. – Liz Malloy

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