Music from the 70s decade was eclectic.
While a few styles of 70s music certainly dominated the era, it was a time when you could turn on the radio and hear many different kinds of music, depending on what radio station you tuned into.
People hit the dance floor to move to the gentle sway of soft rock, the pumping beat of Disco music, or – later in the decade – the driving rhythms of the new Punk movement.
Country rock – a sort of crossover style – began to appear and Metal reared its head in the late 70s with bands like Def Leppard and AC/DC.
Jazz even crept into the picture, with popular artists like Chick Corea leaving their mark on the scene.
Whatever your preference, there was a style of music in the 70s to suit each and every whim.
Soft Rock Music
Those who grew up in the 70s probably best equate Soft Rock (also known as Light Rock or Easy Rock/Easy Listening) with the music of the decade.
Best described as toned-down rock with folk, country, or pop influences and motifs, Soft Rock was popular. In most cases, this kind of music tugged at our hearts and brought reminiscences of first loves, unrequited relationships, happy times, sad times, and everyday life in general.
The instrumentation for Soft Rock music was consistent, of course, with its name. Electric guitars weren’t prominent but were, instead, generally replaced with a mellow acoustic guitar.
Piano was heavily used in this genre of music as were other lilting instruments such as the saxophone or flute. Electronic synthesizers, which could make a variety of sounds, were an important part of the orchestration as well.
Many radio stations picked up on the popularity of Soft Rock and started playing it exclusively. Their programs included the music of such incredible artists as Elton John, Billy Joel, Air Supply, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, James Taylor, Carole King, Neil Diamond, Chicago, Rod Stewart, Bread,
The Carpenters, and many, many more. Some of these artists are now more commonly considered Pop artists. The two genres are often intertwined.
70s Disco Music
For many fans, the disco ball still turns! Disco, while not loved by everyone – especially mainstream rockers – left the most indelible mark on the fabric of the decade.
The genre actually had its start in the underground clubs of World War II Paris, but what we heard in the 70s was much, much different.
Our disco actually started as a form of black commercial pop music, later becoming something that transcended all races. It is widely considered the last musical movement prompted by the baby boomer generation.
Most disco music is characterized by a steady, bass beat in 4/4 time, sometimes called four on the floor.
Lead guitar was not a part of this genre. Instead, instrumentation included drums, strings, horns, electric piano, flute, and other orchestral instruments. The sound was full and nearly always loud.
Early disco hits include Rock the Boat by the Hues Corporation; Love’s Theme by Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra; Get Down Tonight by KC and the Sunshine Band; and Rock Your Baby by George McCrae.
Other disco artists that rocketed to the top of the charts included Donna Summer – often dubbed the Queen of Disco, The Bee Gees, The Jacksons, Gloria Gaynor, Van McCoy, and Chic.
Songs that were not originally of the disco genre were constantly being disco-ized. Artist Walter Murphy even took a favorite classical piece and turned it into a disco hit known as A Fifth of Beethoven.
But it was the release of the movie Saturday Night Fever, however, that made the style a mainstream phenomenon. Who could forget young John Travolta in his white three-piece suit striking a pose under the disco ball?
70s Rock Music
The classic rock music of the 70s was ushered in by the break up of the Beatles in the first year of the decade. From that point on, several different sub-styles of rock began to come onto the scene.
Progressive Rock was one of the leading genres of the 70s. Drawing influences from other styles like jazz, classical, and ethnic music, Progressive Rock produced some of the era's best groups including Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, Queen, and Emerson Lake and Palmer.
Expanded instrumentation was common and it wasn’t unusual for Progressive pieces to include the use of flute, violin, or synthesizer. Harmony was bluesy and concept or themed albums were commonplace.
Punk Rock got its start in the later years of the 70s. A bane to the existence of those who found rock intolerable, the punk movement included bands with such controversial names as The Sex Pistols. Other punk artists of that era included The Clash, The Ramones, Patti Smith, and Blondie.
Urban Rock, with its African-American influences, also emerged as a growing genre of the times. Groups like Sly and the Family Stone; Earth, Wind, and Fire; Kool and the Gang; The Commodores; and solo artists such as James Brown left their mark on this musical tradition.
Overall, 70s music was near and dear to the hearts of those who listened to it. Whether you were a disco fan or a lover of the newly-emerging heavy metal genre, you took your music seriously.
The transistor radio was never far from your ear, your car stereo could be heard all over town, and you and your friends could always relate to the stories that dominated the soft rock ballads of the time.
Bet you can still sing the words to your favorite Carpenters song!