7 Classic Rock Songs To Summarize 1971
Songs That Defined 1971
1971 is one of the most memorable years in rock ‘n roll. Sure, the Beatles have broken up a year before which signaled the end of an era but the early ’70s also saw a surge in new bands – promising acts that would go on to make their mark in music. From progressive rock to heavy metal – there was something for everyone. Not to mention that the solo efforts of each member of The Fab Four also charted.
And so we’re looking back at 1971 and revisiting 7 songs that define that year.
7. Led Zeppelin – “Black Dog”
1971 saw the release of Led Zeppelin’s magnum opus – their untitled fourth studio album. It’s one of those few records that was flawless from start to end. Black Dog opens the LP and it was John Paul Jones who wrote the main riff – he drew inspiration from Muddy Waters’ 1968 album Electric Mud. It’s a complex song and not easy to play especially in a live setting which is why it became a fan favorite in their concerts.
6. Elton John – “Tiny Dancer”
This originally appeared on Elton John’s fourth studio album Madman Across the Water released on November 5, 1971. It wasn’t until February 1972 when it was released as a single. He wrote this with longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin. It was inspired by Taupin’s first visit to America. Elton John said in a 1970 video that it was “about Bernie’s girlfriend” at the time, Maxine. Taupin, however, revealed that he was “trying to capture the spirit of that time, encapsulated by the women we met – especially at the clothes stores up and down the Strip in LA.”
5. Don McLean – “American Pie”
This song was a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic and also topped the charts in several countries. The iconic line “the day the music died” was a reference to the plane crash that resulted in the deaths of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens after. McLean was just only 13 years old when that happened. He explained in Songbook, “For some reason I wanted to write a big song about America and about politics, but I wanted to do it in a different way. As I was fiddling around, I started singing this thing about the Buddy Holly crash, the thing that came out (singing), ‘Long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile.'”
4. Janis Joplin – “Me And Bobby McGee”
Released posthumously, one of the writers Kris Kristofferson had no idea Janis Joplin recorded it until after her death. He told Performing Songwriter, “‘Bobby McGee’ was the song that made the difference for me. Every time I sing it, I still think of Janis.” This became Joplin’s only #1 single.
3. The Who – “Baba O’Riley”
The opening track to Who’s Next, it was originally written by Pete Townshend for the shelved project Lifehouse. He told Rolling Stone, “There is this moment of standing there just listening to this music and looking out to the audience and just thinking, ‘I f–king did that. I wrote that.’ I just hope that on my deathbed I don’t embarrass myself by asking someone, ‘Can you pass me my guitar? And will you run the backing tape of ‘Baba O’Riley’? I just want to do it one more time.”
2. John Lennon – “Imagine”
The definitive John Lennon song. It has been covered countless times and remains a popular anthem. He revealed in a 1980 interview, “The concept of positive prayer … If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion – not without religion but without this my God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing – then it can be true … the World Church called me once and asked, “Can we use the lyrics to ‘Imagine’ and just change it to ‘Imagine one religion’?” That showed [me] they didn’t understand it at all. It would defeat the whole purpose of the song, the whole idea.”
1. George Harrison – “My Sweet Lord”
Although it was originally released on George Harrison’s debut solo effort All Things Must Pass in 1970, My Sweet Lord was eventually released as a single the following year and it ended up becoming the biggest-selling single of 1971. Harrison explained in The Material World, “First, it’s simple. The thing about a mantra, you see… mantras are, well, they call it a mystical sound vibration encased in a syllable. It has this power within it. It’s just hypnotic.”