A Look Back at 7 Soft Rock Anthems
Most traditionalists have a love/hate relationship with soft rock. Rock is always seen as hard, heavy-hitting, and edgy. Steering towards the soft side of that seems like a huge contradiction. Besides, this subgenre appeals more to mainstream audience which is another reason why it might be frowned upon by those who grew up listening to the kind of songs their parents warned them about.
Nevertheless, there are numerous soft rock anthems that have stood the test of time. It came into its own in the ’70s and but in the ’80s, more and more artists explored and dabbled in it. Some may be cheesy, or leaning more towards pop, but the following tracks prove that even the softer side can be just as stellar.
7. The Doobie Brothers – “What A Fool Believes” (1979)
Recorded by Kenny Loggins in 1978, The Doobie Brothers’ version topped the US Billboard Hot 100 and even gave the band Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. Loggins co-wrote it with lead singer Michael McDonald because the two were good friends. They even released a live duet in 1993.
6. Stealers Wheel – “Stuck In The Middle With You” (1973)
It was “written as a parody to Bob Dylan’s paranoia” but surprisingly, it became an international hit – peaking at #6 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and #8 on the UK Singles Chart. It sold more than a million copies and they even performed it on BBC’s Top of the Pops in 1973. The song experienced a resurgence in popularity when it was used in Quentin Tarantino’s debut film Reservoir Dogs.
5. Ambrosia – “You’re The Only Woman” (1980)
A song off their album One Eighty, it became their fifth and final U.S. Top 40 hit. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but honestly, it’s difficult to resist the melodies and vocal performance. We can be all about the edgier and heavier kind of rock but still enjoy stuff like this.
4. Jim Croce – “Time in a Bottle” (1973)
Released a few weeks after Jim Croce’s death, he wrote this on the night he found out that his wife was pregnant. Producer Terry Cashman told SongFacts, “Jim and Maury got together and all of the sudden Jim started writing these great songs, and Maury came up with these really wonderful guitar parts – the two guitars were like an orchestra.”
3. America – “A Horse with No Name” (1971)
America’s first and most successful single, it dominated the charts in several countries including the US. Originally titled Desert Song, lead singer Dewey Bunnell wrote it when he was just 19 years old. When several critics pointed out that it sounded like a Neil Young song, Bunnell told Rolling Stone: “I try to use a different voice so that I won’t be branded as a rip-off. It’s such a drag, though, to have to not sound like someone when you can’t help it in the first place.”
2. Todd Rundgren – “Hello It’s Me” (1973)
Todd Rundgren’s band Nazz originally recorded it in 1968 but he recorded his solo version for his double album Something/Anything? in 1973. He said in a 2005 interview, “…the main influence for Hello It’s Me was an eight bar intro that Jimmy Smith played on a recording of When Johnny Comes Marching Home. He had this whole sort of block chord thing that he did to set up the intro of the song. I tried to capture those changes, and those changes became what are the changes underneath Hello It’s Me. I then had to come up with melody and words, but the changes are actually almost lifted literally from something that was, from Jimmy Smith’s standpoint, a throwaway.”
1. Little River Band – “Take It Easy on Me” (1981)
Produced by George Martin, it’s the ultimate soft rock anthem. It’s soulful, melodic, and it’s absolutely alright to fall in love with the song. It’s flawless from beginning to end.