The 30 best songs of 1970

12 October 2023, 12:02 | Updated: 18 January 2024, 10:43

The best songs of 1970
The best songs of 1970. Picture: Getty/The Beatles

By Tom Eames

The year 1970 was a remarkable one for music, as it witnessed the emergence of new genres, styles, and sounds that would shape the musical landscape for decades to come.

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From rock to pop, from soul to folk, from funk to country, the best songs of 1970 captured the diversity, creativity, and spirit of a turbulent era.

Whether you are a fan of classic hits or curious about the musical history of the '70s, you will find something to enjoy in this list of the best songs of 1970.

  1. Clarence Carter - 'Patches'

    Clarence Carter - Patches (High Quality)

    'Patches' is a soulful ballad by Clarence Carter, and was released in 1970. Written by General Norman Johnson and Ronald Dunbar, the song narrates the struggles of a young man named Patches, who works hard to support his family after his father passes away.

    The poignant lyrics and Carter's heartfelt delivery evoke deep empathy, making it a touching portrayal of resilience and responsibility.

    Upon its release, 'Patches' climbed the charts, reaching the top spot on the R&B chart and making a significant impact on the mainstream pop chart. The song's success earned Carter a Grammy Award nomination, solidifying his reputation as a soul and blues powerhouse.

  2. James Brown - 'Get Up'

    James Brown - Sex Machine (Part 1)

    'Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,' a funk anthem by James Brown, released in 1970, became a groundbreaking hit in the realm of soul and funk music.

    The song's infectious groove, energetic brass section, and Brown's electrifying vocal performance made it an instant classic. Its raw energy and provocative lyrics challenged societal norms, making it a cultural touchstone of the era.

    Notably, 'Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine' wasn't just a musical marvel; it also marked a significant shift in Brown's career. The track showcased a funkier sound, laying the groundwork for the funk music explosion in the 1970s. Brown's innovative approach to rhythm and his tight band, The J.B.'s, contributed to the song's influential status.

    The track's impact extended beyond its initial release, influencing generations of musicians and becoming a staple in hip-hop and dance music. Its iconic bassline and dynamic rhythm have been sampled and emulated in countless songs, cementing its legacy in the annals of music history.

  3. Mungo Jerry - 'In the Summertime'

    Mungo Jerry - In The Summertime ORIGINAL 1970

    'In the Summertime' by Mungo Jerry, released in 1970, is a cheerful anthem capturing the carefree spirit of summer. Written and composed by Ray Dorset, the song's infectious melody, combined with its playful lyrics and upbeat vibe, made it an instant hit.

    The track celebrates the joys of summer, with its memorable chorus and laid-back feel resonating with audiences around the world.

    Its success propelled Mungo Jerry to international fame and earned them widespread recognition. It continues to be a beloved feel-good anthem, capturing the essence of sunny days and carefree moments.

  4. Elvis Presley - 'The Wonder of You'

    Elvis Presley - The Wonder of You (Official Lyric Video)

    'The Wonder of You' by Elvis Presley is a soulful love ballad that showcases Presley's rich vocals and emotional depth. Written by Baker Knight, the song expresses the awe and reverence one feels in the presence of a loved one.

    The song became an instant hit, reaching high positions on various music charts. It was Presley's first live recording to achieve significant success. His charismatic performance and the song's timeless appeal endeared it to audiences, solidifying its status as one of Presley's iconic tracks.

  5. Norman Greenbaum - 'Spirit in the Sky'

    Spirit In The Sky - Norman Greenbaum (Official Lyric Video)

    'Spirit in the Sky' by Norman Greenbaum is a rock gospel anthem that achieved immense popularity in 1970. Greenbaum, drawing on his Jewish background, created a fusion of rock and religious themes, delivering a powerful, spiritual message.

    The song's distinctive guitar riff and infectious melody, coupled with its uplifting lyrics, resonated with listeners during the early 1970s.

    Upon its release, 'Spirit in the Sky' soared to the top of the charts, becoming a global hit. The song's popularity endured over the years, with numerous cover versions by different artists, including two more UK number ones from Doctor and the Medics and Gareth Gates.

  6. Joni Mitchell - 'Big Yellow Taxi'

    Joni Mitchell - Big Yellow Taxi (Official Lyric Video)

    'Big Yellow Taxi' by Joni Mitchell, released in 1970, is a folk-rock anthem that highlights environmental concerns and urban development. The song's catchy melody and Mitchell's distinctive voice deliver a poignant message about the impact of human activities on nature.

    The lyrics famously lament the paving paradise and putting up a parking lot, symbolizing the destruction of natural beauty in the face of progress.

    Upon its release, 'Big Yellow Taxi' became one of Mitchell's most popular songs, reaching the charts in multiple countries. Its influence transcended music, becoming an environmental and cultural touchstone.

  7. Edison Lighthouse - 'Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)'

    Edison Lighthouse - Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) (Official Video)

    Written by Tony Macaulay and Barry Mason, this song features catchy melodies and upbeat lyrics, celebrating the joy of love and infatuation.

    The song's success was remarkable, reaching the number one spot on the UK Singles Chart and the top ten in several other countries. Its infectious charm and feel-good vibe made it a favourite among listeners during the early 1970s.

    The lead vocals for 'Love Grows' were performed by Tony Burrows, a renowned session singer. Despite the group's brief existence, the song became an enduring classic, representing the bubblegum pop sound of the era. 'Love Grows' remains a nostalgic gem, encapsulating the carefree spirit of the 1970s.

  8. Canned Heat - 'Let's Work Together'

    Canned Heat Let's Work Together TOTP 1970

    'Let's Work Together' by Canned Heat, released in 1970, is a blues-rock anthem that resonates with themes of unity and cooperation. Written by Wilbert Harrison, the song gained new life with Canned Heat's energetic rendition.

    The song's infectious groove made it a hit, reaching audiences worldwide and becoming an anthem for social change. Its timeless message of collaboration and harmony transcends generations, making it relevant in various contexts, from civil rights movements to community initiatives.

  9. T Rex - 'Ride a White Swan'

    Ride A White Swan

    'Ride a White Swan,' a seminal track by T Rex, marked a significant turning point in the evolution of glam rock. Released in 1970, the song was the band's first major hit and a precursor to the glam rock era of the early 1970s.

    Marc Bolan, the frontman and creative force behind T Rex, penned the song. Its catchy guitar riff, infectious melody, and Bolan's distinctive vocals embodied the glam rock spirit.

    The song's lyrics, a whimsical blend of fantasy and surreal imagery, contributed to its unique charm. 'Ride a White Swan' showcased Bolan's ability to create a new musical language that resonated with audiences, setting the stage for T Rex's subsequent success.

    'Ride a White Swan' not only catapulted T Rex to fame but also left an unforgettable mark on the music landscape, becoming a classic in the glam rock canon.

  10. Van Morrison - 'Moondance'

    Moondance (2013 Remaster)

    This song is a romantic and upbeat celebration of love and nature, with a catchy rhythm and blues / jazz melody. The lyrics describe a moonlit night, when Van Morrison invites his lover to dance with him under the stars.

    He expresses his joy and gratitude for the simple pleasures of life, such as the sound of the wind, the smell of the flowers, and the touch of his lover’s hand. He also compares their love to a dream and a symphony, and says that it is a "marvellous night for a moondance".

    It was not actually released as a single until 1977, seven years after the album came out.

    Moondance is also the title of Morrison’s third studio album, which marked a departure from his previous folk jazz style. The album contains more formally composed songs, influenced by soul, rock, pop, and Irish folk music.

  11. Edwin Starr - 'War'


    'War,' a powerful protest song performed by Edwin Starr, was released in 1970 during the height of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement in the United States. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, the song became an anthem against war and social injustice.

    Its bold lyrics, including the famous line "War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!" captured the sentiment of the era's anti-war protests and resonated deeply with audiences.

    Upon its release, 'War' became a massive hit, reaching the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US. Its compelling message and soulful delivery by Starr struck a chord with listeners, making it a symbol of resistance against the senseless violence of war.

  12. Freda Payne - 'Band of Gold'

    FREDA PAYNE-band of gold

    'Band of Gold' by Freda Payne is a soul classic that tells the heartbreaking tale of a woman whose marriage lacks emotional and physical intimacy.

    Written by Ron Dunbar and Edythe Wayne, the song's poignant lyrics, combined with Payne's soulful delivery, create a powerful narrative of unfulfilled expectations and shattered dreams.

    Upon its release, 'Band of Gold' became a major hit, reaching high positions on the charts in several countries. Its popularity was further fueled by Payne's emotional rendition, making it one of her most memorable performances.

  13. Bread - 'Make It With You'

    Bread - Make It with You

    'Make It with You,' a soft rock classic by Bread, was released in 1970 as the lead single from their album On the Waters. Written and sung by David Gates, the song's gentle melody and heartfelt lyrics became an instant hit.

    Upon its release, 'Make It with You' quickly climbed the charts, reaching the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The song's success marked a turning point for Bread, propelling them to fame and establishing their reputation as masters of mellow, melodic rock.

  14. Matthews Southern Comfort - 'Woodstock'

    Matthews Southern Comfort - Woodstock (1970)

    'Woodstock' by Matthews Southern Comfort, released in 1970, is a folk-rock rendition of Joni Mitchell's iconic song. The cover, led by Ian Matthews, captures the essence of the 1969 Woodstock Festival, expressing the spirit of peace, love, and unity that defined the event.

    Matthews Southern Comfort's version, with its mellow sound and soulful vocals, resonated deeply with listeners during a time of social and political upheaval.

    Despite Joni Mitchell's original composition not being released as a single, Matthews Southern Comfort's cover became a commercial success. It reached the top of the charts in several countries, including the UK.

    'Woodstock' remains a timeless homage to the 1960s counterculture and the transformative power of music. Its enduring appeal lies in its ability to evoke the feelings of hope and togetherness that characterized the Woodstock era, making it a cherished classic in the folk-rock genre.

  15. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles - 'Tears of a Clown'

    Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - The Tears Of A Clown (Lyric Video)

    'Tears of a Clown' was first released in 1967 as a single by The Miracles, but wasn't a hit in the UK until 1970.

    The song seamlessly blends soulful melodies with poignant lyrics, depicting the facade of a happy clown concealing inner sadness. It became an instant hit, reaching the top of the charts in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

    Interestingly, the song's upbeat music contrasts with its melancholic theme, making it a powerful emotional statement. Smokey Robinson co-wrote the song with Stevie Wonder, who contributed to the track with his harmonica skills, adding a distinctive touch to its sound.

  16. Gordon Lightfoot - 'If You Could Read My Mind'

    If You Could Read My Mind

    'If You Could Read My Mind,' a poignant ballad by Gordon Lightfoot, was released in 1970 as the title track of his album. The song beautifully captures the complexity of relationships and the pain of heartbreak. Its introspective lyrics and gentle melody resonate with listeners, conveying the bittersweet emotions of love and loss.

    Inspired by Lightfoot's own divorce, the song explores the dissolution of a relationship with a rare depth of honesty and vulnerability. Its melancholic tone and profound storytelling struck a chord with audiences, propelling it to commercial success and critical acclaim.

    The song's universal themes and Lightfoot's evocative delivery continue to captivate listeners, making it a timeless classic in the folk music genre.

  17. Loretta Lynn - 'Coal Miner's Daughter'

    Loretta Lynn "Coal Miner's Daughter" on The Ed Sullivan Show

    'Coal Miner's Daughter' is a country classic performed by the legendary Loretta Lynn. Released in 1970, the song encapsulates Lynn's humble beginnings and her journey to stardom.

    Born to a coal miner in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, Lynn's upbringing was the epitome of rural simplicity. The song paints a vivid picture of her childhood, highlighting the challenges and joys of growing up in a coal mining community.

    What makes this song even more poignant is its autobiographical nature; Lynn wrote it herself, drawing from her own life experiences. The lyrics narrate her family's struggles, the hard work in the coal mines, and the deep love and unity within her family. 'Coal Miner's Daughter' struck a chord with listeners worldwide, not only for its heartfelt lyrics but also for Lynn's powerful, emotive delivery.

    The song's immense popularity led to a film adaptation of the same name in 1980, starring Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal.

  18. Black Sabbath - 'Paranoid'

    BLACK SABBATH - "Paranoid" (Official Video)

    'Paranoid' by Black Sabbath is a defining track in the heavy metal genre. Written by the band members, the song's aggressive riff, powerful vocals by Ozzy Osbourne, and intense lyrics established a new sound in rock music.

    The song encapsulates themes of fear, confusion, and mental instability, reflecting the anxieties of the time.

    'Paranoid' became the title track of Black Sabbath's second studio album and swiftly gained popularity, becoming a pivotal song in the band's repertoire. Its influence on heavy metal and hard rock is immeasurable, shaping the direction of the genre for decades. Despite its raw energy, the track's catchy structure made it accessible to a wide audience.

  19. The Kinks - 'Lola'

    The Kinks - Lola (Official Video)

    'Lola' by The Kinks, released in 1970, is a rock classic with a twist. The song, written by Ray Davies, tells the story of a young man's encounter with a transgender woman named Lola in a club.

    Its catchy melody and witty lyrics explore themes of gender identity and acceptance, making it a groundbreaking track for its time. Despite its controversial subject matter, 'Lola' became a commercial success, reaching the top of the charts in several countries.

    The song's popularity endured over the years, becoming one of The Kinks' signature tunes. 'Lola' not only showcased the band's musical prowess but also challenged societal norms, making it a significant cultural statement.

  20. The Temptations - 'Ball of Confusion'

    The Temptations - Ball Of Confusion (Live)

    'Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today),' a socially charged anthem by The Temptations, was released in 1970. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, the song encapsulates the tumultuous social and political climate of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

    Its powerful lyrics address a wide range of issues, including racism, war, poverty, and political corruption, painting a vivid picture of the challenges faced by society.

    The song's innovative use of psychedelic soul and its thought-provoking lyrics were a hit with listeners, making it one of The Temptations' most enduring tracks. It became an anthem for the counterculture movement, reflecting the frustrations and aspirations of a generation.

  21. Carpenters - 'We've Only Just Begun'

    Carpenters "We've Only Just Begun" on The Ed Sullivan Show

    'We've Only Just Begun' by Carpenters, released in 1970, is a romantic ballad that became a timeless love anthem. Written by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols, the song's tender lyrics and Karen Carpenter's emotive vocals exude a sense of hope and new beginnings.

    Originally featured in a TV commercial for a California bank, the song gained huge popularity after its release as a single.

    'We've Only Just Begun' remains a classic love song, celebrated for its timeless beauty and emotional resonance.

  22. Paul McCartney - 'Maybe I'm Amazed'

    Paul McCartney - Maybe I’m Amazed

    ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ is a song that expresses Paul McCartney's gratitude and love for his wife Linda, who helped him cope with the break-up of the Beatles in 1969.

    McCartney wrote and recorded the song entirely by himself at Abbey Road Studios, playing all the instruments and vocals. The song was released on his debut solo album McCartney in 1970, but was never issued as a single.

    The song is considered one of McCartney’s finest love songs, and reflect McCartney’s admiration and fear for Linda, who was his constant companion and inspiration.

  23. The Beatles - 'The Long and Winding Road'

    The Beatles - The Long And Winding Road (Official Video)

    'The Long and Winding Road,' a soulful ballad by The Beatles, was released in 1970 on the album Let It Be. Written by Paul McCartney, the song reflects the emotional turbulence within the band during their final years together. McCartney's heartfelt lyrics, combined with the orchestral arrangement by producer Phil Spector, create a sense of longing and introspection.

    Originally, McCartney intended the song to have a simple arrangement, in line with the band's earlier style. However, Spector added orchestral overdubs without McCartney's approval, leading to tension among the band members and contributing to the eventual breakup of The Beatles.

    Despite the internal conflicts, 'The Long and Winding Road' became a commercial success. Its emotional depth and McCartney's soulful vocals resonated with audiences, making it one of The Beatles' most iconic songs.

    In 2003, McCartney released a remixed version of the song, closer to his original vision, as part of the album Let It Be... Naked. This version allowed listeners to experience the song as McCartney had intended, showcasing the beauty of his songwriting and emphasizing the melancholic beauty of 'The Long and Winding Road.'

  24. James Taylor - 'Fire and Rain'

    James Taylor - Fire And Rain (BBC In Concert, 11/16/1970)

    'Fire and Rain' is a poignant folk-rock ballad by James Taylor, released in 1970 on his album Sweet Baby James. The song is a deeply personal reflection on Taylor's struggles with depression, addiction, and the loss of a close friend.

    Its haunting melody and introspective lyrics struck a chord with listeners, making it one of Taylor's most iconic and enduring works. The song's verses chronicle Taylor's experiences, including his time in psychiatric institutions and the suicide of his friend Suzanne Schnerr.

    James Taylor's soulful delivery and introspective songwriting make 'Fire and Rain' a timeless masterpiece, offering solace and understanding to listeners dealing with their own struggles. Its legacy endures, reminding us of the power of music to express and heal the human spirit.

  25. George Harrison - 'My Sweet Lord'

    George Harrison - My Sweet Lord

    'My Sweet Lord' is a timeless classic by George Harrison, released in 1970 as the lead single from his triple album All Things Must Pass.

    The song is a spiritual hymn that blends Harrison's devotion to Eastern philosophy with his musical prowess. It features the iconic slide guitar riff that has become synonymous with Harrison's style. The lyrics express a universal longing for connection with the divine, reflecting Harrison's deep spirituality.

    The song's composition was influenced by Harrison's association with the Hare Krishna movement, and its repetitive chanting of "Hallelujah" and "Hare Krishna" contributes to its meditative quality.

    "My Sweet Lord" was a massive commercial success, reaching the top of the charts in many countries and becoming the first solo single by a member of The Beatles to achieve such widespread acclaim.

    However, the song also faced legal challenges. In 1976, Harrison was found guilty of subconscious plagiarism, as the song's melody was deemed similar to the Chiffons' hit 'He's So Fine'.

  26. Free - 'All Right Now'

    Free - All Right Now (Doing Their Thing, 1970) Official Live Video

    'All Right Now' by Free, released in 1970, is a rock anthem that epitomizes the spirit of freedom and youthful exuberance. Written by band members Andy Fraser and Paul Rodgers, the song's electrifying guitar riff and catchy chorus became iconic elements of the classic rock era.

    'All Right Now' is celebrated for its raw energy and dynamic performance, making it a staple on rock playlists and a favourite among music enthusiasts.

    'All Right Now''s appeal lies in its infectious optimism and timeless rock 'n' roll spirit, making it a cherished classic that continues to captivate audiences around the globe.

  27. Derek and the Dominos - 'Layla'


    'Layla', a rock masterpiece by Derek and the Dominos, led by Eric Clapton, was released in 1970 on their album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs'.

    The song, inspired by a Persian love story, showcases Clapton's exceptional guitar skills and heartfelt vocals. Its iconic guitar riff, emotional intensity, and passionate lyrics have made it one of the greatest rock songs of all time.

    The song's backstory adds to its allure. Clapton wrote 'Layla' about his unrequited love for Pattie Boyd, who was married to George Harrison at the time. The name 'Layla' references a character from a 12th-century Persian poem, symbolizing forbidden love and heartache. Duane Allman's slide guitar work on the track is legendary, contributing to the song's enduring appeal.

    Initially, 'Layla' received modest attention upon its release. However, it gained immense popularity over the years, becoming a classic rock anthem. Clapton's live performances of 'Layla,' often featuring extended guitar solos, captivated audiences worldwide, emphasizing its place in music history.

  28. The Beatles - 'Let It Be'

    The Beatles - Let It Be (Official Video)

    'Let It Be,' a soul-soothing ballad by The Beatles, was released in 1970 as the title track of their final studio album. Written by Paul McCartney, the song's lyrics convey a message of comfort and acceptance, drawing inspiration from a dream about his late mother, Mary, who passed away when he was 14.

    The song's timeless melody and heartfelt lyrics resonated deeply with listeners, making it one of The Beatles' most beloved tracks.

    'Let It Be' holds historical significance due to its context within the band's discography. It was recorded in early 1969, a period of internal strife for The Beatles. The sessions were initially tense, but the song's uplifting message served as a unifying force. Released after the band's breakup in April 1970, it became an emblem of closure for fans worldwide.

  29. Elton John - 'Your Song'

    Elton John - Your Song (Top Of The Pops 1971)

    'Your Song' is a classic ballad by Elton John, released in 1970 on his self-titled album. Written by Elton John and his longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin, the song is celebrated for its heartfelt lyrics and Elton's soulful performance. The track's simplicity and sincerity have endeared it to audiences for decades.

    The songwriting process for 'Your Song' was unique; Taupin wrote the heartfelt lyrics in just 20 minutes, and John composed the melody in under 10 minutes. This rapid creation process contributed to the song's raw emotion and authenticity.

    'Your Song' marked the beginning of a prolific partnership between John and Taupin, setting the stage for many more iconic compositions.

  30. Simon & Garfunkel - 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'

    Simon & Garfunkel - Bridge over Troubled Water (from The Concert in Central Park)

    'Bridge Over Troubled Water' by Simon & Garfunkel stands as one of the duo's most iconic and emotionally resonant tracks. Written by Paul Simon, the song features Art Garfunkel's heartfelt vocals and Simon's deeply introspective lyrics.

    The song conveys a message of friendship and support, offering solace during difficult times.

    It topped the charts in multiple countries and won several Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Its popularity endured, becoming a symbol of hope and unity during times of adversity.

    The song's impact extended beyond the music charts, with numerous artists covering it over the years. Its timeless beauty and universal themes have solidified its status as a classic.