5 - 1
(That’s the Way of the World, 1975)
Here we take a break in the list and make way for an uplifting song. This inspiring track off of Earth, Wind and Fire’s 1975 album of the same name made the ranks of Rolling Stone‘s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list, and for good reason. Like many Earth, Wind and Fire songs, the track is ethereal, rebounding between the outstanding falsetto and tenor vocals of Maurice White and Philip Bailey. The signature lyrics “Hearts of fire, love desire / High and higher“ are a mainstay of chart-topping ‘70s music.
Interestingly, the album That’s the Way of the World was originally the soundtrack for a 1975 movie titled Super Fly, starring Harvey Keitel, in which members of Earth, Wind and Fire played a band trying to make it big. After seeing the film, the band realized it would be a flop and decided to release the album on its own before the movie premiered. Despite originally being linked with the film, the song is exemplary of Earth, Wind and Fire’s soaring harmonies backed by musical ingenuity.
(The Innocence Age, 1981)
Dan Fogelberg’s sentimental ballad about bumping into an ex on Christmas Eve was technically released in 1980, but has the same syrupy ‘70s sound a lot of the songs on this list possess. Before his death from prostate cancer in 2007, Fogelberg admitted the song was actually autobiographical. Later, the woman he wrote the song about came forward revealing she ran into her ex, Fogelberg, one Christmas Eve in 1975 at a grocery store while looking for eggnog. They ended up buying a six-pack and drinking it in her car, just like song narrates.
Due to its holiday origins, the tune can often be heard on the radio around Christmastime. Between the sad piano and Fogelberg’s saccharine vocals, “Same Old Lang Syne“ is a nostalgia-inducing, bittersweet slow jam staple. However, listeners may want to stop the song before the unnecessary, over-the-top saxophone solo that comes in at the end. (My apologies to sax player, Micheal Brecker.) Another unfortunate thing about the song is that there isn’t any decent video footage of Fogelberg singing it, apart from a couple of off performances.
(French Kiss, 1977)
Bob Welch’s sultry hit “Sentimental Lady“ was released in 1977 from his solo album French Kiss, but it had an earlier life when Welch wrote and recorded it for his former band Fleetwood Mac on their Bare Trees album in 1972. Welch’s solo version became the better-known and more polished of the two. It’s been said that he wrote the catchy tune for his first wife, but if the video that accompanies the song is any indication of his devotion to her, it looks like he was ready for a polygamist lifestyle. The clip is a hilarious illustration of the ‘70s in all its garish glory.
In 1977, this spirited breakup song was a big hit for Swedish pop stars, ABBA. It was the band’s first song about a relationship gone sour and foreshadowed the divorces between the couples in 1979 and 1981. The video for the track, which features the couples kissing and turning away from one another, also presages the demise of the band’s relationship status. Ultimately the band broke up in 1982, but before that it cranked out hit after hit. “Knowing Me, Knowing You“ represents ABBA at their height—after a string of upbeat pop hits like “Dancing Queen“ and before its brooding period that included songs like “The Winner Takes It All”.
(The Original Soundtrack, 1975)
“I’m Not in Love“ by British band 10cc is the ultimate song about romantic denial. The breathy vocals and celestial vibe of the tune is what makes it stand out from other songs of the time. The members of the band achieved the sound by laboriously recording their own vocals and dubbing them over one another. Within the airy masterpiece, there is a memorable break where a female voice repeats the words: “Big boys don’t cry.” Interestingly enough, the voice belongs to the secretary at Strawberry Studios where the band was recording the song. The tune gave the band its big break when band member, Eric Stewart, played it for a Phonogram Records representative, who immediately signed the act to a five-record deal.