Music is a culture all its own. In fact, it’s like a language. If we stop using it, it will disappear and be forgotten. So here is a small attempt to keep it alive.
We’ve already given you 20 Songs From the ’60s That Your Kids Should Know By Heart; Here are twenty songs from the 1970’s that have that retro Motown, Disco feel that make you want to get it on and shake your booty. Now it’s up to you to teach them to your children and make sure they appreciate them too.
After all, Disco Never Died!
Hotel California, The Eagles (1976)
All of your kids should know this song, not because we say so but because pretty much everyone in history agrees that it’s great. It has been covered more than 20 times over the years by artists from Frank Ocean to country group Rascal Flatts. Aside from that, it’s a great track to sing along to and is also one of The Eagles‘ more family friendly efforts. Sort of.
Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen (1975)
This song is kind of creepy, very strange, but definitely incredible. It starts off slow but builds incredibly. It’s also a very elaborate song that doesn’t even have a chorus. Probably Queen‘s most famous song, partially for it’s original music video as well as it’s feature in Wayne’s World – it topped the charts at Number 1 both in 1976 and again in 1991.
December ’63, The Four Seasons (1975)
Like many of the songs from the ’70s and ’80s this song is clearly about a love affair (sex, to be a little more blunt). The faster tempo makes it a fun love song and the wide range of vocals sets it apart from many other songs that were a little less musically impressive.
American Pie, Don McLean(1971)
This one is easily Don McLean’s signature song. “American Pie” is a tribute to Rock ‘n’ Roll but more importantly, it’s about “the day the music died.” It refers to the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson Jr. in February of 1959. It pays homage to these three legends which makes it very respectable it’s also a little sad but it is mainly a celebration of life.
Joy To The World, Three Dog Night (1971)
We’re big proponents of happy, feel-good songs. This, of course, is maybe a little more “feel-good” than it is happy, after all, it was written in 1971. But even though it talks about “making sweet love to you,” the main chorus is “joy to the world/all the boys and girls/joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea/joy to you and me.” It’s impossible to listen to this song and not have a smile on your face by the end.
Horse With No Name, America (1972)
Go figure, this song was banned at many radio stations in the US for alleged drug references (horse=heroin). Despite the backlash, this song topped charts in the US, UK and the Netherlands. An interesting fact, the song was actually based on two paintings, one by Salvador Dali and the other by M.C. Escher.
Lean On Me, Bill Withers (1972)
A classic friendship song. Any song that isn’t about sex, drugs and alcohol deserves a shoutout, especially if it came from the Rock ‘n’ Roll era. This Motown, soulful classic is still around today so we would hope this isn’t one of the songs that you actually have to teach your children.
Heart of Gold, Neil Young (1972)
This is Neil Young‘s only Number 1 hit single. The opening line, “I want to live/I want to give,” just makes it seem like a do-good song and there will never be enough of those. Though not necessarily up-tempo, the song is an easy listen between Young’s acoustic guitar and harmonica. The video is a live performance with an interesting intro that really showcases Neil’s personality, humor and positive attitude.
You’re So Vain, Carly Simon (1973)
A woman-power song that brings to the light the unappealing vanity found in many people that escalates in relationships. This is Carly Simon‘s biggest hit to this day and even though she has yet to say who it is written about, she has said it was inspired by three separate men in her L.A. days. In the song she tears down the man by saying, “You’re so vain/You probably think this song is about you,” which is a funny but honest line. Warren Beatty allegedly called Simon to thank her for the song.
Superstition, Stevie Wonder (1973)
Another Motown hit from the early ’70s. It’s a pretty simple song, literally about superstitions and old fables but Stevie Wonder did everything from write and compose this song to sing and perform it. A hit here in the US and in the UK, the soul in this song is what makes it so great. R&B & Rap music are clearly derivative of Motown and when you hear songs like this you can really feel the beat and the emotion in it. Kids need to know where their music came from and this is a great place to start.
Let’s Get It On, Marvin Gaye (1973)
Marvin Gaye, one of the biggest sex icons of all time, released this sensual song in the Motown era and it was received incredibly well. An almost overnight hit, the album hit two million in sales within the first six weeks. We’d be very surprised if your kids didn’t genuinely want to know this song… I mean it’s not even subtle.
Bennie and the Jets, Elton John (1974)
Elton John‘s biggest single up to that point in ’74. He reluctantly released it thinking it would fail but it immediately got picked up in Ontario then Detroit then across the entire US. A little bit different than other songs of the time, this one is played on a piano instead of guitar which gives it a cooler, body-sway, toe-tapping kind of feel instead of the head bop or booty shake thing.
Kung Ku Fighting, Carl Douglas (1974)
Your kids better know any song that is classified as a best selling single of all time. Plus it’s disco. Ok, that part is a little more important because disco never died! This single sold more than eleven million copies worldwide and won a GRAMMY in ’74. The Asian-style riff in the song is what makes it interesting but the fact that it’s about kung fu fighting and acting that out while you sing is what makes this song really fun.
Lady Marmalade, LaBelle (1975)
This one is sexual and fun but what songs weren’t in the ’70s? And if your kids don’t know the original, I can bet they already know this version by PiNK, Mya, Lil Kim and Missy Elliot. It’s a fun song that is about life in New Orleans (thus the french chorus “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?, which means “Do you want to sleep with me tonight?). But your kids don’t need to know that part!
That’s The Way, KC and The Sunshine Band (1975)
Topping charts in nine different countries, this song grabbed the attention of many for it’s sexual content most clearly found in the chorus: “That’s the way, uh huh, uh huh, I like it. Uh huh, uh huh.” It’s an easy song to sing along to – it’s got a little bit of disco and a little bit of Motown in it. This song is so much fun to dance to, or groove to rather. Sorry.
Shake Shake Shake, KC Again! (1976)
We debated this one because now we have 21 songs instead of 20, but we couldn’t mention KC and The Sunshine Band without both of these songs. This was the group’s third number 1 hit and an international hit at that, again, topping charts in more than eight countries. Maybe it’s a little sexual but mostly it’s just a funky song that makes you want to dance and do the disco. The main line is, “Shake, shake, shake, shake your booty.” There’s nothing un-fun about that.
Play That Funky Music, Wild Cherry (1976)
Finally! We get to a more funk-rock era. The song came from request for more dance music at a gig when the drummer of the band, Ron Beitle, said the words, “Play that funky music, white boy.” The group decided to make it a song later and it made the list of Top 10 songs in eight countries. The late ’70s had some great dance music and this is just one of the best party songs from the time.
Blinded by The Light, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (1977)
Probably most famous for its misinterpreted lyrics (which are actually, “Blinded by the light/revved up like a deuce another runner in the night.”) But still, none the less, a great song. The song was originally written and recorded by Bruce Springsteen but was made famous by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Aside from the lyrics, the song has an incredible guitar part in the middle that is succeeded by a slower ballad and piano which makes it one of the best songs to dance in the car to.
Stayin’ Alive, The Bee Gees (1978)
The song was originally written for the Saturday Night Fever film but it quickly became one of the Bee Gees most famous singles. It wasn’t even supposed to be a single but the fans made it happen when they called radio stations to request it after seeing the movie. It is easily one of the best disco songs of all time. I can just see people dancing to it on a dark dance floor lit up with flashy lights every time I hear it!
Le Freak, Chic (1978)
I think this song kind of came after its time but it’s still rather memorable. It has a lot of soul and more retro Motown feel than the disco songs of the late ’70s but somehow it still captures attention with the chorus, “Freak out, le freak.” I can see how it made people want to dance back then. When they mention, “come on down to the 54,” in reference to the night club Studio 54, I want to go “freak out.”
I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor (1979)
There’s nothing better than a woman-power song. Post breakup, Gloria Gaynor sings about her life going on without her man. It’s empowering and inspirational for everyone, not just women. She voices it so well from, “At first I was afraid, I was petrified,” to “I should have changed that stupid lock, I should’ve made you leave your key.” It’s the perfect breakup song and is still fun to listen to and yell in the car while you’re alone even if you’re not going through a breakup.
So, yes, technically there are 21 songs instead of 20 but I couldn’t bear to leave any of these off the list. Be sure to forward this to your music snob kids and feel free to poke them and make fun when they say, “wow, you actually like good music?!”
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