The era of the changing generation. Though it may have been a time of war, political and racial anxieties, civil unrest, and many more important social issues, it was also when the emergence of classic rock music came to be. The core of the previous decade was about fighting in a revolution on many things, including music. Transitioning into the 70’s brought about about a bridge into a kind of music that is reminiscent of the revolutionary 60’s and establishing new roots into a changing society. The 70’s is a very memorable era in music, thus lyrics to some iconic songs of the decade are pretty hard to forget. Considering that the first karaoke machine was invented a year before 1970, classic rock songs have also become relatively easier to sing-along to.
Check out some unforgettable song lyrics to some of the most memorable songs of the 70’s below. Don’t be surprised if you find your self singing along!
Declared by scientific research as the most “sing-along-able” song there is, it’s no wonder why it seems everybody knows the lyrics to Queen’s 70’s rock anthem “We Are The Champions”. Scientists have proven that this Queen classic hit is the catchiest song of all time after observing thousands of volunteers subjects sing along to a thousand songs. It seems that “We Are The Champions” ticked off all the four key elements needed for a song to be “catchy”. These elements include: long and detailed musical phrases, multiple pitch changes in a song’s ‘hook’, male vocalists and higher male voices ala Freddie Mercury. That’s why it is so much fun to belt out the chorus of this song whenever we hear it, no matter where we are, or how old (or young) we get. The song is so successful, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and was voted the world’s favorite song in 2005.
One of The Beatles’ greatest songs of all time, “Let It Be” was the final single the fab four released as a band before Paul McCartney announced he was leaving the band for good. It can be thought of as The Beatles’ “break up song” if you may. Because the lyrics of the chorus just repeats the words of the title, the song as a whole isn’t hard to memorize. In addition to that, the meaning of the song not only reiterates an old Liverpudlian saying to simply “leave things alone” or “let things flow on its own”, it’s also resonant of the band’s fall out during the making of this record. Inspired by a dream McCartney had of his mother named Mary offering solace to him in his time of trouble, “Let It Be” would be the last song he would pen for the band. In times of trouble and anxiety, singing this song sure makes us feel that everything will turn out okay.
John Lennon’s best-selling single of his solo career “Imagine” is a song that’s already transcended its own popularity. It’s also one of the most iconic and meaningful lyrics of all time. Lennon encourages the listener to imagine a world without divisions, without barriers, without attachment to material possessions of the world. The strong political message has touched many audiences who were seeking the same peace for the world during a time of global political war and turmoil. In 2002, this came in #2 in a poll by Guinness World Records as Britain’s favorite single of all time. It lost to “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. As beautiful as the worlds and music of this song are, it was actually very controversial. Lennon, self-declared instinctive socialist, admitted that the song was “virtually a communist manifesto, even though I’m not a communist and do not belong to any movement.”
“Hotel California” is not only one of the most iconic rock songs of all time but also one of the most controversial in music history. If you had to listen to this song in secret when it was released in 1976, your parents were probably more on the conservative side considering that this track was notoriously known as “that weird devil-worshiping song.” Every radio station aired this song which sparked a mystery on what the lyrics really meant. The story of the lyrics speaks ominous lines such as “Kill the beast”, “Stab it with their steely knives,” and “You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave”. Rumors began circulating saying that the song was about Satanism but The Eagles clarified that the song is more about speaking out against the greed and hedonism of the music industry in the 1970s like the typical issues of drugs, money and sex. Don Henley adds that it’s more about “a journey from innocence to experience… that’s all…”
This beautiful and haunting James Taylor song definitely plucks a heart string or two every time it’s played. Released as a single from his second album in 1970, this song is somewhat an autobiography of Taylor chronicling his reaction to the suicide of his childhood friend Suzanne Schnerr, his struggles with depression, fame, and drug and alcohol abuse. Though many people falsely believe the line “Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground” is because of a plane wreck, it actually references Taylor’s previous band The Flying Machine and his regret at the fall out and disbandment of the group. In 2015, Taylor told host Stephen Colbert that he had updated the song saying,
“The thing is, I wrote that song in 1970, I just hadn’t seen that much back then, mostly fire and rain. So that’s why I keep saying it over and over again since then.”
Probably the most famous rock song of all time, it would be an embarrassment not to know at least the lyrics to the chorus to “Stairway To Heaven. Speaking of lyrics, lots of questions arose about the meaning of the song and Robert Plant who wrote the song was asked why the song was so popular, he answered, “depending on what day it is, I still interpret the song a different way – and I wrote the lyrics.” He added it was “a woman getting everything she wanted without giving anything back.” Still pretty vague but at least he somehow sort of cleared that up. “Stairway to Heaven” was placed at number 31 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. It was the most requested song on FM radio stations in the United States in the 1970s.
One of the most mysterious yet straightforwardly fascinating songs of all time, “Bohemian Rhapsody” has very peculiar words but still many people confidently sing along to the rock ballad opera masterpiece by Queen. Originally released in 1976, Freddie Mercury has written a complex string of words that has sparked lots of speculation with regards to its true meaning. The words tell a story that many people think is based on Mercury’s sexuality. Some think it’s a more of a philosophical and moral dive into questioning oneself. It’s a pioneering experimental track that has surpassed its initial eccentricity as it is widely known in the mainstream.
Mercury himself stated, “It’s one of those songs which has such a fantasy feel about it. I think people should just listen to it, think about it, and then make up their own minds as to what it says to them.”
Stevie Nicks penned this acoustic country-esque ballad while she was in the mountains in Aspen, Colorado. It’s a heart warming track about a father-daughter relationship that was inspired by her own relationship with her father. Stevie, the musical genius legend that she is, wrote it on the guitar in just about five minutes saying she was thinking, “Wow, all this snow could just come tumbling down around me and there is nothing I can do about it.” First featured on the band’s self titled album in 1975, it was Stevie’s first contribution to the band. Over the years, “Landslide” has ripened into a timeless classic that just brings us home every time we sing it. It’s proven its value through time with successful covers from bands like The Dixie Chicks and The Smashing Pumpkins. It was also featured in the popular musical TV show “Glee”.
Perhaps ladies (or guys) who have ever had a self-absorbed jerk lover can relate to this song by Carly Simon the most. And anybody who’s had to experience such annoyance would know all the words to this 1972 hit. The original subject of the highly popular veiled hinting song has been obscured to the public until recently. For years and years, fans have speculated who among Carly Simon’s ex-boyfriends could have inspired the hit song. Simon has been coy about it in 1974 saying, “That song is about a lot of people. I mean I can think of a lot of people. The actual examples that I’ve used in the song are from my imagination, but the stimulus is directly from a couple of different sources. It’s not just about one particular person.” In 2008, she teased, “When I had the line ‘You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you,’ that was definitely about one person. The rest of the descriptions basically came from my relationship with that person.”
The biggest hit for Neil Young as a solo artist, “Heart of Gold” is a touching sentimental ballad that maybe a bit cliché but definitely a memorable heartfelt song. It is also surprisingly Young’s only U.S. No. 1 single but Young didn’t care about making hit records anyway. He cared for the message his songs were speaking out. This was written in 1971 when Young was recovering from a back injury that forced him to play acoustic instead of electric on his album Harvest from which “Heart of Gold” hails. You may also have heard this track from popular films such as the 1984 Ice Man and 2010’s Eat Pray Love. Another popular culture reference the song influenced is the name of the spaceship stolen by Zaphod Beeblebrox in Douglas Adams’ book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Cheap Trick’s most popular tune is definitely as song that’s not easy to forget, especially during the phases of life that goes through desperate unrequited love. Written by guitarist Rick Nielsen for Cheap Trick’s 1977 self-titled debut album the song actually did not make the cut at first. It was then included on their second album In Color, which was released later in the same year. The mid-tempo that’s a karaoke staple was meant to be a little campy sort of hokey pop on its first recording but it fell flat. Luckily the band went with their earnest rock roots and it worked, especially in Japan. Yes, this song was actually so big in Japan that Cheap Trick made a live album from their concerts released as the Live At Budokan album, This record captured Cheap Trick’s live energy and it was what made them hit in America selling over 3 million copies.
The official KISS anthem “Rock and Roll All Nite” is every teen’s party rock theme song that you just can’t help but jam to! Originally released in 1975 on their album Dress to Kill, it’s become the band’s signature song. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley wrote this track because they felt that they needed an anthem that could serve as the rallying cry for all their fans. And so it absolutely did. The song is usually played live as the last song in their encores, when fans just demand for it to be played. It peaked at number 68 on the Billboard singles chart and was even featured in the film Dazed and Confused.
You’ve heard it countless times on the radio, and maybe every time Forrest Gump comes on cable TV you’re brain is already expecting the guitar solo to rip in the background as you root for Jenny to step back from the ledge and live her life. You’ve probably attended enough graduations to memorize every bit of this song but you don’t get sick of it because secretly, you actually love it. The power ballad by Lynyrd Skynyrd is actually the most requested song in the history of rock music. You may even have contributed to that title by requesting at at least once in your life time! This song was written in a span of two years and is inspired by true events about a fight that went on between guitarist Allen Collins’ then-girlfriend, and later wife, Kathy. It was also dedicated to Duane Allman from the band Allman Brothers! How sweet!
The ultimate friendship song, “Lean on Me”, famously written and recorded by American singer-songwriter Bill Withers, has definitely become a timeless classic. It’s a feel good song that’s not only memorable but also comfortable. First released in 1972, it has been ranked number 205 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. It’s frequently played and sung at charity events symbolizing unity and camaraderie. It’s also one of the most covered songs recorded. A film starring Morgan Freeman in 1989 was named after and based on this very song and rightfully, the track was featured in the movie. Proof that everyone knows the lyrics to this iconic single was during the The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial when Mary J. Blige sang it. The next day, a crowd spontaneously began singing the song in the Purple Tunnel of Doom under the National Mall as they waited to gain entrance to the inauguration ceremonies.
Yeah, those are the real lyrics of the chorus of the all-time favorite “Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. It’s perhaps one of the most misheard lyrics in classic rock as most often than not people hear the lyrics “wrapped up like a douche into the rotor in the night” and wonder, Obviously, it’s the use of the how on earth does a douche get wrapped up and end up inside a rotor? Another trivia people might be surprised to find out about this song is that it was actually originally written and recorded by rock n roll super star Bruce Springsteen. The song first appeared on his 1973 album “Greetings” but failed to find commercial success.
This song’s intro guitar riff is probably more memorable than the words itself but no matter, the entire song is still very catchy and singable. English rock band Deep Purple first released this hit single in 1972 from their album Machine Head. The story behind the conception of this song is quite amusing. Deep Purple was in the audience of a Frank Zappa concert in Montreux, Switzerland in 1971 when a flare gun was fired and went straight to the ceiling. The whole place was set on ablaze. When the show was stopped immediately, the audience exited the concert venue. Deep Purple evacuated to a nearby restaurant as they watched the fire die down. Bassist Roger Glover had a eureka moment when he saw a layer of smoke from the fire cover Lake Geneva. That’s how one of the most popular rock songs came to be.
When the opening chords of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”comes on, you bet there’s gotta be at least one person who will belt out the lyrics to the famed chorus, and will eventually head bang and air guitar the night off! It’s no argument that “Highway to Hell” is one of AC/DC’s biggest hits to date. Even if non- AC/DC fans would at least be familiar with this song. The inspiration for it actually comes from a real highway in Australia called Canning Highway which ends near a pub called The Raffles, a drinking place where rock n’ roll was alive and booming in the early 70s. The said highway had a steep decline where speed limits cease to exist and speeding drivers most likely meet their deaths. So the myth that it’s a song for a sinner’s journey to hell has officially been debunked.
Janis Joplin popularized this hit song written by country singer Kris Kristofferson after she had died from a heroin overdose in 1970. It was released posthumously in 1971, a year after Joplin’s sudden death. The country-blues single reached the No. 1 spot in the U.S. singles charts as well as her album Pearl. That makes the song the second single to hit No. 1 in chart history after the artist had died. This road trip-perfect song tells of a story of a couple who hitched a ride from a truck driver and sing as they drive through the American south. As the couple reach California, they then part ways. The narrator on the song expresses his sadness after Bobby McGee’s departure.
The soundtrack to anything that has got to do with having dogged determination to get or achieve something has got to be Blondie’s “One Way Or Another”. In fact, it’s been used as a soundtrack in many films and TV shows to imply just that. However, the real meaning and inspiration of the song isn’t as pure as sheer motivation only. The song, penned by Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry, was inspired by one of her ex-boyfriends who scarily determinedly stalked her after their breakup. If you look into the lyrics deeper, it’s actually very dark and it reveals a story about a guy with some sinister agenda it’s just masked by the catchy and fun tune and beat of the song.
Who isn’t familiar with this Aerosmith anthem? It’s especially fun to belt out loud until your neighbors knock on your door to tell you to stop and that they get it, you want to follow your dreams. This was the first single Aerosmith released after Steven Tyler worked on it for about six years on and off. The iconic power ballad released in 1973 is a classic rock radio staple, and when it comes on, the head banging rock screamer in us comes out. Not only is it as legendary as it is now, this song is part of the The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list. It was also the single that saved Aerosmith from being dropped by Columbia records after their first album didn’t do so well. When “Dream On” went on to top the charts, even on the verge of being dropped, that was the beginning of Aerosmith’s dreams all coming true.
If even once in your life you thought that this song was called “Teenage Wasteland” played by Pearl Jam you are mistaken but you are not alone! “Baba O’Riley” is a single by the English rock band The Who. It is the opening track to the band’s studio album Who’s Next. Because of the catchy chorus that includes the most memorable lyrics of the song “it’s only teenage wasteland”, the title is very commonly mistaken. Many people also think that this song is by Pearl Jam because they regularly play a cover of it during their concerts. In fact, a poll in Rolling Stone magazine awarded Pearl Jam’s cover of “Baba O’ Riley” as the 8th greatest live cover songs. The unique title that doesn’t really have any connection to the lyrics of the entire song is actually a combination of the names of Pete Townshend’s two philosophical and musical influences, Meher Baba and Terry Riley. The Who’s front man Roger Daltrey sings most of the song except for the most sing-alongable line “Don’t cry/don’t raise your eye/it’s only teenage wasteland” sung by Townshend.