Five best songs of the 1970s

These songs will make your day better.
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The 1970s were a gem of a decade. The production was not quite as crisp as the new songs of today, but that somehow makes the tracks better. The songs seem more human.

Of course, lots of tracks get remastered, and sometimes a musical artist prefers to enhance a certain instrument to stand out more. That is a risk to take, however. Some who love the original might feel lied to as if what the artist first released was not what they meant to.

But the following songs won't work that way. These were perfection from the beginning. Sure, there were so many great tracks in the 1970s that another list of best songs might be completely different. The five that follow still have merit, though.

The five best songs of the 1970s

No. 5 - "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath (1970)

Dense, dark, and heavy. This is what every metal song should aspire to. There is also no happiness on the track at all. The song was a Vietnam War protest song that was too dark to sing at happier gatherings such as Woodstock. The track unleashes its doom from the start and not until almost a minute in does the iconic track sound vaguely familiar.

Black Sabbath guitarist Tommy Iommi seemed to play one power chord after another but there is a depth to the song that brings out the originality. A lot of tracks sound like "War Pigs" now, but none are as dangerously frightening. The song whispers fears too bleak to think about and a beauty that makes the whole thing more scary.

Plus, in the final stanza, Ozzy Osbourne wails like a country preacher, "Day of judgment, God is calling/On their knees, the war pigs crawling/Begging mercy for their sins/Satan laughing, spreads his wings".

No. 4 - "Search and Destroy" by the Stooges (1973)

There is likely no greater opening track to any album ever. "Search and Destroy" is the gut punch of punk that foretells everything you are about to hear on Raw Power. The adrenaline is real, the bombast of Iggy Pop's vocals infectious, and the rhythm section of the Asheton brothers does not go dark and deep into the words but just sets fire to it all. You will be breathless at the end of its 3-minute and 29-second run.

The original song was mixed and produced by David Bowie and the track somehow has a gleam while being lo-fi. This was exactly what Bowie's intent was. You want fun plus harder rock and roll? This is the song for you.

No. 3 - "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen (1975)

How can this song not be on the list? Sure, ever since Wayne's World maybe the song has been overplayed, but the track is so diverse that even if one gets a bit tired of part of the song they likely will find a new part to re-admire. It's baroque, heavy rock, and with some of the best vocals ever recorded. Freddie Mercury might be the star of the track, but the rest of the band is not far behind.

The song seems almost too gimmicky for its own good but remains so iconic due to the excellence of every member of the group. The song is obviously not the same without Mercury, but if guitarist Brian May did not supply such clear and biting work then the structure falls as well. This is indeed what it was designed to be: A piece of heavenly bubblegum opera.

Next. Overlooked 1980s. Overlooked albums from the 1980s. dark

No. 2 - "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin (1971)

How gifted was Led Zeppelin that perhaps their most well-known song (and one of the staples of rock music) is probably not even in the group's top-three best songs? "Stairway to Heaven" grows and builds as if the track were a child before becoming an adult with slight anger issues. Not as operatic as "Bohemian Rhapsody" but certainly as sprawling.

Even during the opening quieter moments, this song feels disturbing. Almost as if one knows they are listening to the lead-up to the scariest scene in a horror movie. But while the track never appears brittle, there is always just enough hope like a swimmer wearing a lifejacket that forces them to stay barely below water level. You know the ending will be brutal, but you want it all the same.

No. 1 - "Heroes" by David Bowie (1977)

No one encapsulates a moment in time like David Bowie who then molds that moment into a work of art. "Heroes" is a song of despair and longing in the darkness but somehow rages with hope. There are obvious references to the Berlin Wall. Bowie was living in Berlin when this track was made, but the greater meaning of the wall in the song is about those we create ourselves that keep us from happiness.

The best version of this song is the longer album version. Instead of a bit over three minutes, the album version is a bit over six minutes. The longer version lets the guitars hover a bit longer and one does not get a couple of verses before Bowie's vocals change to the pure ache of needing something to happen. The slower burn makes the payoff of the chorus greater.

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