Songwriter Songs 1970s: 11 Timeless Masterpieces You Should Have in Your Playlist

The 1970s marked a transformative era in popular music. Departing from the dominance of rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and R&B, this decade witnessed a captivating shift toward diverse styles. Disco, funk, and soul emerged as the frontrunners, but captivating audiences worldwide. 

Attempting to pinpoint the definitive songs of the ’70s seems like an impossible challenge. I mean, who can possibly choose between the timeless creations of Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Bob Dylan, or John Lenon? 

Still, in this exploration of a golden era, we’ll aim to capture the best masterpieces that left an indelible mark on the 1970s musical tapestry. Here are songwriter songs 1970s that you won’t regret having on repeat on your playlist!

1. Imagine – John Lenon (1971)

“Imagine” is a cornerstone of John Lennon’s musical legacy, holding a distinguished place as one of his most renowned and impactful creations. 

Released in 1971 as the title track of the album bearing the same name, this song became the global anthem for peace and unity.

The lyrics became a powerful force for peace movements and social justice causes. Serving as an inspiration, Lenon invites listeners of all generations to dream of a world devoid of barriers.

The song’s impact extends far beyond its time, solidifying its place as one of the most iconic masterpieces of the 1970s.

2. Rocket Man – Sir Elton John (1972)

Among the hits of the 70s, Elton John’s timeless anthem, “Rocket Man,” continues to orbit in popular culture, maintaining its triple-platinum allure even five decades after its debut.

The song’s enduring resonance lies in its ability to articulate the universally dreaded feeling of isolation. “I’m a rocket man / Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone,” as the famous line goes.

Interestingly, while sad songs with melancholic themes weren’t new in the 70s, space exploration was at the forefront of cultural consciousness. By a stroke of fate, the Apollo 16 mission launched astronauts to the moon around the time of “Rocket Man’s” debut. How cool is that?

Now, the out-of-this-world anthem stands as an enduring symbol of Elton John’s musical prowess and cultural influence.

3. Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver (1971)

Released nearly fifty years ago as a single from the 1971 album “Poems, Prayers & Promises,” John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” has stood the test of time. 

Achieving Gold certification by the RIAA in 1971 and later earning Platinum status in 2017, the song’s enduring success attests to its timeless appeal.

“Take Me Home, Country Roads” came out during a period of cultural turbulence in the United States, marked by the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. In this context, Denver’s celebration of the beauty of rural life became a soothing balm for a generation questioning the values of their predecessors. 

Despite its specific homage to West Virginia, the song’s universal message of love and yearning for a simpler life resonates globally.

4. Superstition – Stevie Wonder (1972)

Dropping on October 24, 1972, as the lead single from the fifteenth studio album “Talking Book“, Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” tackles the idea of baseless beliefs.

The lyrics intricately weave through popular superstitious fables, like accidentally breaking glass or the number 13, spotlighting the detrimental outcomes of such ideas.

“Superstition” was originally crafted for Jeff Beck as part of a collaborative agreement for the album “Talking Book.” However, despite the initial plan for Beck to record his version, Berry Gordy’s foresight led to the release of Stevie Wonder’s rendition, marking one of his best-selling singles.

Stevie Wonder performing on stage

The song became a milestone for Wonder, claiming the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 on January 27, 1973.

5. Layla – Eric Clapton (1970)

In the sultry Florida heat of midsummer 1970, Eric Clapton found himself at a pivotal crossroads in his life—both musically and emotionally. 

Disenchanted with stardom, he had disbanded Blind Faith, fled Britain with a drug habit, and harbored a daring plan to craft an album that could mend a fractured heart.

Little did the world know that this seemingly tragic juncture would birth one of Eric Clapton’s finest pieces—“Layla.”

Released in the same year, the iconic song endures as one of Clapton’s most celebrated compositions. Co-written with Jim Gordon, the lyrics encapsulate raw emotions, heartbreak, and the agony of unrequited love.

To this day, “Layla” remains a musical masterpiece that continues to captivate audiences for decades.

6. For a Dancer – Jackson Browne (1974)

Jackson Browne is a legendary figure in American music boasting a packing resume. 

Showcasing over 100 songs and 15 albums, his place in the esteemed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is nothing but solid rock.

However, among his masterpieces, “For a Dancer” stands as a poignant testament to Browne’s songwriting depth. Inspired by the tragic passing of a friend in a house fire, the lyrics serve as a meditation on the inevitability of death.

His point? Amidst social, professional, and romantic performances, Browne thinks that there’s ultimately “one dance you do alone.”

“For a Dancer” remains a profoundly thought-provoking experience, a testament to Browne’s ability to craft emotive narratives that resonate deeply with listeners.

7. What is Life – George Harrison (1971)

While not as widely known as his praised “All Things Must Pass,” George Harrison’s “What Is Life” made a significant impact in the 70s.

Peaking at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, the song has woven its way into various film and TV projects, consistently offering poignant moments of human connection.

Despite its seemingly straightforward construction, “What Is Life” is a masterfully layered composition. Intricately woven to create a seamless and expansive sound—it’s a testament to Harrison’s style and panache.

8. Life on Mars? – David Bowie (1971)

In 1971, David Bowie jumped into the wagon of a weary and jaded era, the aftermath of the optimism and upheaval of the ’60s.

While many of his contemporaries hunkered down, Bowie saw an opportunity to connect with disenchanted teenagers, channeling his impatience for fame into a generational hunger for grand transformation.

David bowie

“Life on Mars?” is a no-further-questions masterpiece. Enriched by Ronson’s fantastic arrangement, the song’s perplexing array of images represents Bowies’s clarion call to suburban misfits.

The sheer power of David Bowie’s melody is evident in the song’s widespread love, demonstrating that a lyrically enigmatic piece can become a universal anthem.

9. If Not for You – Bob Dylan (1970)

If you enjoy 70’s love songs, Bob Dylan is a great way to go.

In the 1970s, Bob Dylan took a reflective turn, seeking simplicity after leaving an indelible mark on the 1960s music scene. “If Not for You” from the album New Morning epitomizes this desire for a more straightforward approach.

The album, thought of as a reset after a tumultuous period in Dylan’s career, threads a warm fusion of folk, country, and gospel—a soothing departure from the complex narratives of his past works.

“If Not for You” serves as a romantic ode, a direct and heartfelt love letter to his then-wife Sarah. The song’s straightforward lyrics, relying on common metaphors and descriptors, capture the joy and ecstasy of love, enhanced by the mellow arrangement.

10. You’re So Vain – Carly Simon (1972)

Carly Simon’s enduring fame can be attributed significantly to her iconic 1972 hit, “You’re So Vain.” The song, now a classic, has fueled nearly five decades of speculation about its subject.

The composition is a star-studded affair, featuring the talented Klaus Voorman’s atmospheric intro and the backing vocals of legendary rocker Mick Jagger.

Still, what makes “You’re So Vain” a timeless masterpiece is its perfection on multiple fronts.

The captivating intro, the blend of wordy intelligence and pop smarts, Paul Buckmaster’s superb string arrangement, and the brilliant chorus. The concoction of waspishness and affection in the lyrics simultaneously horrifies and impresses.

Unsurprisingly, the song crashed onto the charts like a powerful wave, topping the Billboard Hot 100, and reaching number 3 on the UK Singles Chart. Across the globe, it charted in 10 nations, consistently cracking their top 10.

11. Cracklin’ Rosie – Niel Diamond (1970)

“Cracklin’ Rosie,” a 1970 hit by American singer-songwriter Neil Diamond. Following his 1969 hit song “Sweet Caroline,” the song swiftly ascended to the top of the charts, claiming the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

This catchy and upbeat anthem serves as an ode to a woman who embodies both beauty and down-to-earth charm. 

The lyrics joyfully celebrate life’s simple pleasures, from cherished moments with loved ones to the enjoyment of a glass of wine.

Critically acclaimed and embraced by fans, “Cracklin’ Rosie” has transcended its era, with many artists covering the song over the years. 

I mean, who doesn’t love songs you can dance to joyfully?

Final Thoughts

The 1970s emerged as a transformative decade, witnessing profound changes in culture, society, and politics.

Amidst this dynamic backdrop, the music scene thrived, birthing rock legends from Freddie Mercury and Jimmy Page to country music icons such as Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.

Now you know the best songwriter songs in the ’70s, it’s time to plug in your headphones and enjoy the music that shaped generations!